My concept for this body of works consists in the exchange of ideas and opinions about the Iraq crisis with a group of Iraqi expatriates and/or refugees living in Europe. Conceptually, this project is similar to an ongoing dialog I try to maintain with people from Afghanistan/Pakistan as well as it resembles also other projects for which I try to create a dialog platform to express other peoples thinking and feelings about politics as well as about their personal and collective history.
The operating idea for my Iraq dialogs is the following: As a first step Im creating My own personal war archive with dominant U.S. TV news material concerning the current Iraq crisis. Second: Im isolating logos, titles, subtitles and other interface elements from this footage. Third: I am looking for Iraqi people who are willing to participate in this work asking them to respond to this materials - NEXT TARGET? , HEAVY BOMBING, OPERATION FREEDOM IRAQ etc. Forth: the results are painted on ceramic tiles after some preparatory work is done. Some of the graphic elements are done by me, others are painted with the help of assistants trained in graphic illustration. The Arabic calligraphy is prepared by computer and/or by the calligraphic hands of my dialog partners. Firing completes the dirty production process of the tiles.
Tiles are often used in public places in the Arab world. They are indefinitely durable and don't fade though at the same time, they are very fragile and can be easily broken. They also are the site of early writings. They are similar to stones and carry as such meaning in the current Middle East conflict. Last but not least the glazes of tiles have the slick and shiny look and the hard consistency as TV-monitor glass.
So far, I have been working with various Iraqi born inhabitants living in Vienna, Utrecht, Bremen and Düsseldorf. A new series, entitled Arab Dialog is in preparation for September which will be realized in Sassuolo, near Modena, in Northern Italy in a tile factory. this region is the center of Europeans industrial tile production with a large Arab immigrant labor force. Each person participating in the dialog is asked to give his/her own response, opinion and position seeing these media fragments usually associated with US-news reporting. Encouraging my partners to express themselves in regards to politics and its relationship to powerful media interfaces is the main part of my conceptual goal.
These graphic and textual info-landscapes characterizing U.S. news-broadcasting are often very confrontational, aggressive, opinionated if not even cynical, arrogant and scary: NEXT TARGET, SHOWDOWN IRAQ, WOULD U.S. USE NUKES? etc. These elements seem to be selling, branding, justifying, authenticating and even cheerleading news content and in this case the war with Iraq. Therefore, I am interested in recontextualizing this T material differently. This idiosyncratic opinion polllilng is done wiht people who are directly affected by this confrontation and gives them the possibility to write back.
Tiles are often used in public places in the Arab world. They are indefinitely durable and don't fade though at the same time, they are very fragile and can be easily broken. They also are the site of early writings. They are similar to stones and carry as such meaning in the current Middle East conflict.
The presentation of these works vary. In the Case of Utrecht and Vienna the pieces are displayed in a gallery context. The tiles are resting horrizontally on a wooden panels with a slightly green surface. In Bremen and Modena, the works will be displayed directly on the wall and in public spaces. There size of these is going to be considerable and most likely up to 4 meters large.
All the sentences written in Arabic are entirely conceived by my dialog partners and don't show any input by me. In now way did I try to influence or censor these responses. They are entirely their views and statements.
I WOULD LIKE TO MAKE IT CLEAR THAT THE OPINIONS EXPRESSED BY MY DIALOG PARTNERS ARE NOT AUTOMATICALLY SHARED BY ME. I DO NOT TAKE ANY RESPONSIBILITY FOR WHAT MY DIALOG PARTNERS EXPRESS. THIS WORK IS NOT INTENDED TO BE A PLATTFORM FOR ANTI-AMERICANISM OR ANTI-SEMITISM BUT FOR DIALOG AND OPPOSING VIEWS EXPRESSED BY PEOPLE MOST CONCERNED ABOUT IT.
Rainer Ganahl, New York, May 2003
I START TO RECOGNIZE THAT ANTI-AMERICANISM PREDOMINANT IN EUROPE IS MORE AND MORE UNDERGOING A FATAL TRANSFORMATION: IT START TO BE DIRECTLY OR INDIRECTLY BE LINKED TO A NEW FORM OF ANTI-SEMITISM. BUT INSTEAD OF BEING SHARED BY OLD FASCISTS OR OLD STYLE RIGHT WING, IT IS NOW COMING FROM THE CENTER AND FROM THE LEFT. I AM QUITE AMAZED HOW ANTI-GLOBALISATION PROTESTERS - young nice people who speak out against right wing expressions of anti-Semitism - AND EVEN LEFTIST INTELLECTUALS AND ARTISTS ARE OPENLY EXPRESSING THAT THE USA ARE CONTROLLED BY JEWISH INTERESTS ETC. IT IS ALARMING TO ME AND I CAN SEE THAT THE OLD ANTI-SEMITIC STEREOTYPES ARE REWORKED IN THE COURSE OF DISCUSSIONS.
GIVEN THE FACT THAT MALAYSIA'S PRIME MINISTER WAS UTTERING THE SAME CONSPIRACY THEORY ONLY RECENTLY TO A WORLD PUBLIC THINGS ARE GETTING ALARMING AND IT IS BECOMING VERY DIFFICULT TO CRITICIZE AGGRESSIVE POLITICS OF BUSH AND SHARON WITHOUT BEING ASSOCIATED OR REINTERPRETED WITH THESE NEW FORMS OF ANTI-SEMITISM.
SOME OF THE REPLIES I GOT FROM SOME OF THE PARTICIPANTS TOO OPENLY EXPRESS THESE ANTI-SEMITIC AND ANTI-AMERICAN VIEWS IN A DIRECT WAY. EVEN THOUGHT THAT VERY UNDIFFERENTIATED AND HATEFUL RESPONSES HAVE NOT BEEN NOT BEEN PAINTED OR EVEN INCLUDED ON MY WEB SITE, SOME GRAFFITI DO ILLUSTRATE MY CONCERNS.
Ghazi Al Delaimi - Düsseldorf / Albisola Italy
anonymous - Holland
Amer Abbas - Vienna
Ahmet Baban and Binan Finjan - Bremen
Arab Dialogs -SASSUOLO, MODENA, IItaly
DRAWINGS drawings - a selection of working drawings