.Extra Muros | Invisible Beauty - Pavilion of Iraq - La Biennale di Venezia 2015

09.05 until 22.11.2015

The Ruya Foundation (Ruya) commissioned 'Invisible Beauty', the exhibition for the Iraq Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale, curated by Philippe Van Cauteren, Artistic Director of S.M.A.K., Ghent. 'Invisible Beauty' features five contemporary artists from across Iraq and the diaspora: two generations of Iraqi photographers, in the shape of Latif Al Ani and Akam Shex Hadi, visual artist Rabab Ghazoul, ceramicist and sculptor Salam Atta Sabri and painter Haider Jabbar. This selection was chosen by Van Cauteren following a journey to Iraq that was organised and facilitated by Ruya and carried out in company with Tamara Chalabi, the Foundation’s Chair and Co-founder. Van Cauteren and Chalabi also visited Iraqi artists working in the US, Turkey, Belgium and the UK.

'Invisible Beauty' refers both to the unusual or unexpected subjects in the works that will be on display and to the invisibility of Iraqi artists on the international stage. The relationship of art to survival, record-keeping, therapy and beauty are among the themes raised by the exhibition. It reveals art generated by a country that has been subjected to war, genocide, violations of human rights and, in the last year, the rise of Isis.

Curator Philippe Van Cauteren: ‘Invisible Beauty' is like a fragile membrane that registers the oscillations of an artistic practice permeated by the current condition of the country and the state of the arts.’

The systematic demolition of the cultural heritage of Iraq by Isis, has made it more important than ever to focus on artists continuing to work in Iraq. Van Cauteren made his selection following a journey to Iraq that was organised and facilitated by RUYA and carried out in company with Tamara Chalabi, the Foundation’s Chair and Co-founder. To coincide with the exhibition Ruya is also producing a publication in collaboration with Mousse Publishing on the theme of ‘Invisible Beauty’. The publication will include specially commissioned new writing as well as texts about the Pavilion artists.


TRACES OF SURVIVAL: drawings by Refugees in Iraq, selected by Ai Weiwei

The exhibition is accompanied by a display of drawings made by refugees in northern Iraq. In December 2014 Ruya launched a campaign to provide drawing materials to adult men and women in refugee camps. Tamara Chalabi from Ruya and Philippe Van Cauteren visited Camp Shariya, Camp Baharka and Mar Elia Camp and over five days the Foundation collected 546 submissions, including drawings, poetry and prose, all of which are on display. A number of these images have been selected by Ai Weiwei for the publication 'TRACES OF SURVIVAL'.

The submissions present incredibly powerful responses to life within the refugee camps. A depiction of tanks and aircraft returning fire on each other was drawn by a forty-year-old man carrying the caption, ‘our people have only lived amongst wars and destruction’, whilst another image depicts an isolated figure in a flooded refugee camp who petitions, ‘save us from drowning. I am Iraqi’. By contrast, other drawings depict life before the refugee crisis, including a shining depiction of Mosul before Isis took control and a depiction of a traditional Yazidi festival. Proceeds from the book will go back to those who provided the content.

This exhibition will travel to S.M.A.K. in spring 2016.


Practical - 'Invisible Beauty' - Pavilion of Iraq - La Biennale di Venezia 2015

  • 09.05... 22.11.2015
  • from Tuesday until Sunday, from 10 am until 6 pm
  • Ca’ Dandolo, Canal Grande, San Polo 2879, Venice
  • Vaporetto stop: San Tomà
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