Moore College of Art and Design

Social & Studio Conversations: Michael Rakowitz

Posted on March 7, 2016

Presented by Graduate Studies at Moore’s Social & Studio Practices program in collaboration with The City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program. This event is part of Mural Arts’ ongoing muraLAB event series. For more information, visit and


Over the years, Michael Rakowitz has re-opened his grandfather’s import/export business, remade artifacts stolen from the Iraqi National Museum, opened the first Iraqi-Jewish restaurant in the Arab world, served dinner to New York diners on Saddam Hussein’s own china, staged an homage to the Beatles’ farewell concert on a roof in Jerusalem, and is now bringing the “Walter Cronkite of Iraq” back to the airwaves after decades of absence. If those things have the air of myth and legend to them, it is no accident. “As an artistic gesture I try to make an unlikely thing happen, and the impossible becomes possible,” Rakowitz has said about his work. “It’s art because it’s impossible for this to exist in the world.”

Much of the artist’s work in the past decade has dealt with Iraq, the country his grandparents fled in 1946 and that the United States invaded in 2003. Plumbing Iraq’s rich cultural and intellectual history, Rakowitz poetically frames discussions about U.S.-Iraqi relations and the production and aftermaths of war, as well as the role of cultural production (among them food, artifacts, popular culture, music, and other media) in the formation and perpetuation of identity. His latest project, A Desert Home Companion, produced with The City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, uses a similar strategy of narrative collusion and allegorical realism. Realized in Philadelphia, the project will bring the broadcaster Bahjat Abdulawahed together with other Iraqi refugees and Iraq War veterans in the production of a large-scale performance on Independence Mall, and a serialized radio program to be broadcast and podcast internationally. Rakowitz will reflect on the trajectory of his work, and be joined by various collaborators—individual performers, as well members of local agencies and nonprofits that work on refugee and veteran issues—to speak about the development of this multivalent participatory project.

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