Nada Shabout

Contemporary Trajectories: Iraqi Art in Context
November 3, 2017

Contemporaneity as a condition necessitates an engagement with the now. As such, contemporary artists are expected to engage with current issues of concern, socially, culturally, politically and/or historically. Contemporary art as a term, however, implies more than the present as it is the term under which art production from the postmodern until now is loosely categorized. The term, thus, carries a number of other implications than the simple art of the now. Collectively, however, the art of the contemporary is qualified as more socially conscious than previous periods, and in today’s world, engaged with global issues.

How do we then think of contemporary artists with connections to Iraq? The situation for Iraq is further complicated by various shifts that drastically changed the dynamics and structure of the country and its people: the sanctions of the 1990s, the 2003 US-led invasion, and the instability of the governments that followed. The 20th century had marked very mature developments in modern movements and aesthetic experiments in Baghdad with a goal of explicating a unique Iraqi identity. While the notion of identity in relation to place has been further complicated in the 21st century, Iraqi artists have been forced to specifically negotiate exile and diaspora as refugees and migrants.

This presentation contextualizes the contemporary production by “Iraqi” artists around the world, with the aim of theorizing threads and trajectories, as well as locating their production within the wider imagination for the contemporary development of the region.