07/05 2014

Michael Rakowitz: the Sumerians, the Beatles, and Israel

As an engagé artist, the American deals with the dramatic, somewhere between geopolitics and pop culture.

Right to the Point #3/Artist’s Soapbox Series: A Meeting with Michael Rakowitz

Facsimiles of old books which did not survive the allied bombing in Germany, carved by Afghan sculptors in slivers of stone from the Bamiyan Buddhas, after their destruction in 2001 by the Taliban, and presented in display cases. Resolutely involved with the political, the social, and the destruction and survival of cultures, the American Michael Rakowitz, like this installation shown at the last Kassel Documenta, was the third guest of the Right to the Point lectures given at le Point Perché to introduce the sources of his works—installations, sculptures, performances and drawings--, influenced as much by ancient cultures as by Hollywood and the major political goings-on of the last few decades.

The Fab Four in Jerusalem

Rakowitz, who is a staunch surfer on Ebay, a cultural archaeologist and champion of a militant art, also finds in his own DNA the fruit of his inspiration—he is an American Jew of Iraqi origin. So his project The Breakup, where he sets up a parallel between the separation of the Beatles and the Middle East conflict, juxtaposes a stone from the Wailing Wall and another coming from the famous Cavern Club in Liverpool, where the group played on many occasions, while on a map of Jerusalem, Paul represents Israel, John Egypt, Ringo Jordan and George Iraq.

Saddam Hussein and Darth Vador

From Leonard Cohen playing for Israeli troops at the height of the Yom Kippur war to the female translator of a Ukrainian television station who refused, during the Orange Revolution, to officialize the election of Viktor Janukovych, deemed fraudulent, in sign language , from Gordon Matta-Clark to the supposed influence of Darth Vader on Saddan Hussein, Michael Rakowitz weaves an extremely interesting link between geopolitics and pop culture.

Copyright :William DeShazer, Chicago Tribune