Less than a week after President Mubarak of Egypt fell from power, the shockwaves of the Arab Spring swept across the levant and fomented what would become a tumultuous 60 days of continuous protest in Iraq. While endless news cycles were devoted to the uprisings in Egypt, Syria and Libya, those facing the security forces in the mainly Kurdish region in the north of Iraq were largely invisible. Mainly self-organized, these protests included a diversity of individuals that cut across social and religious divisions. Among those in the street were a number of artists contributing both body and voice as citizens and artistic practice to the heterogenous movement.
This screening and discussion of new work Hiwa K, Reben Majeed and Rozghar Mahmood Mustafa, curated by Jason Waite, looks at the various aesthetic strategies employed during the protests in the north of Iraq, how they obscure the distinction between art and activism, as well as form a critical position within the space of dissent.
Iraqi-born artist Hiwa K performances and moving images focus on alternative forms of sharing knowledge and music. His work has been exhibited in a number spaces including Mannifesta 7, Italy; United Nations Plaza, Berlin; MuHKA, Antwerp; 7th Mercosur Biennial, Porto Alegre; and Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane. In 2010, Hiwa K collaborated with Serpentine Gallery's Edgeware Road project, where he began Chicago Boys: while we were singing, they were dreaming a cover band of 1970s middle eastern songs and study group of neo-liberalism and has since travelled to CASCO, Utrech; Nottingham Contemporary; and Kunstverien Munich. He is co-curator of the Estrangement project with Aneta Szylak which took place at the Showroom, London and at Wyspa Institute of Art, Gdansk as a part of Alternativa 2010-2012.
Rozghar Mahmood Mustafa
Rozghar Mahmood Mustafa graduated from the College of Fine Arts at the University of Sulaymaniyah, Iraq and is pursuing an MA at Camberwell College of Art, London. Her practice encompasses different media and centers around feminist discourses and public space. She has been in residence at Wyspa Institute of Art, Gdansk where she had a solo show in 2009, and has participated in many other exhibitions in Iraq and internationally including the National Gallery, Sulaymaniyah; The Cornerhouse, Manchester; IM International, New York; and Fellows of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. She also writes for local magazines on art and women's issues.
Reben Majeed is a conceptual performance and installation artist born in Sulaymaniyah, Iraq. He graduated from the College of Fine Arts at the University of Sulaymaniyah, Iraq and currently enrolled in an MA course at Kingston University, London. He has participated in a number of shows including Estrangement project at Showroom, London; International Orange Photo Festival, China; Eternal Network News, MAK Center, Los Angeles; and Navigating the Aftermath, Regis Center for Art, Minneapolis which is presently touring in the US. In 2008, Majeed was artist-in-residence with Live Art Development Agency, London in a collaboration with ArtRole, Arts Admin, and Yorkshire Sculpture Center. He was previously Artistic Director of Hanar Magazine and also curated, Dado:Transform Project which took place in an government administration building under renovation in Sulaymaniyah.
Jason Waite is an independent curator and graduated from Goldsmiths College with an MA in Art and Politics. He was the co-curator of the 4th Biennial of Young Artists in Bucharest and founded the peripatetic International Guerrilla Video Festival that works with moving image and the urban/social environment with its multiplicity of conflicting histories. The recent research project Trip to Iraq detailed a series of discussions with artists, curators and writers in the north of Iraq. Waite has contributed to a number of catalogues and magazines as well as the recent publication Critical Cities Vol. 2 (2010) and the forthcoming Curatorís Handbook (2011).