1. Michael Rakowitz's in front of his new work: The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist, on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square.

A visible friend of Iraq

Standing defiantly on the Fourth Plinth in London's Trafalgar Square is Michael Rakowitz's new work The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist which the artist began in 2006. In it, Rakowitz (right) attempts to recreate one of more than 7000 objects looted from the Iraq Museum in 2003, or destroyed at sites across the country after the Iraq War.

The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist takes the form of a Lamassu, a winged bull and protective deity that stood at the entrance to the Nergal Gate of Nineveh (near modern-day Mosul) from circa 700 BC, until it was destroyed by so-called Islamic State in 2015.

This is the 12th work to appear on the Fourth Plinth since the commissioning programme began (the first was Marc Quinn's Alison Lapper Pregnant) and it will remain there until March 2020.

The Lamassu is made from recycled metal, which echoes the reliefs at the base of Nelson's Column made from canons salvaged from the wreck of HMS Royal George. It is built from 10,500 empty Iraqi date syrup cans, representing a once renowned industry that was destroyed by the Iraq Wars.

'This work is unveiled in Trafalgar Square at a time when we are witnessing a massive migration of people fleeing Iraq and Syria,' said Michael Rakowitz. 'I see this work as a ghost of the original... a placeholder for those human lives that cannot be recourthnstructed, that are still searching for sanctuary.'

Rakowitz is also creating a limited-edition artwork using date syrup tins sourced from Karbala in Iraq. Each one is accompanied by a book of date syrup recipes, with contributions from Claudia Roden, Middle Eastern restaurant Honey & Co and the artist's mother, Yvonne Rakowitz. There is also range of related products (tote bags, wooden spoons and aprons, all the items featuring the Arabic proverb A House With A Date Palm Will Never Starve) from the design company Plinth (www.plinth.uk.com).

Born in New York in 1973, Michael Rakowitz lives and works in Chicago, where he is a professor at Northwestern University. His first museum survey, Backstroke of the West was held at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago in 2017/18. His work explores global issues and invites conversations in public projects, installations and events.

Lindsay Fulcher

 



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