Thursday, October 29, 2009
I'm one of the speakers at this show. I will be at the MCA Sunday November 8, from 1:30 to 4:30.
It’s hard to look away from the car—or rather, what used to be a car—lying in a first-floor gallery at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), where “Jeremy Deller: It Is What It Is: Conversations About Iraq” brings together Iraqi émigrés, American soldiers, schoolkids and surprised tourists six days a week.
Caught in a March 2007 bombing in Baghdad, the car is now a rusted, twisted hunk of metal. It could be mistaken for an abstract sculpture if not for the photographs surrounding it: One shows Al Mutanabbi, the street where the bombing took place, some time before the incident—when it was thronged with booksellers. Another photo captures the street just after the bombing: Two rescue workers scream for help amid heaps of charred rubble.
Deller’s counterpoint to the car is a set of cushy white chairs surrounding a low table. The English artist, who implemented this project at museums in New York and Los Angeles earlier this year, wants experts on Iraq to engage museum visitors in a dialogue about the region. The MCA’s Tricia Van Eck and Diana Nawi coordinated an impressive roster of local presenters, including Donny George Youkhanna, former director of the Iraq National Museum in Baghdad, and Maj. Tammy Duckworth, an official in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs who served in Iraq and ran for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2008.
When we attended “It Is What It Is,” curatorial staff served tea and Middle Eastern sesame-seed cookies while facilitating discussions with the experts and visitors. Some people hover briefly but don’t sit down; others stay for hours. “One of our speakers, [Iraqi-American filmmaker] Usama Alshaibi, says this is the Iraqi thing to do,” Nawi explains. “You invite someone to share sweets and tea with you.”
Article by By Lauren Weinberg. Read more: http://chicago.timeout.com/articles/art-design/79969/jeremy-deller-it-is-what-it-is#ixzz0VMckd0qO
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Nice Bombs (from Chicago Reader Blog)
Posted by Ed M. Koziarski on Thu, Oct 15, 2009 at 1:03 PM
Way back in the early days of the Iraq War, when many Iraqis and Americans were still optimistic about the outcome, Usama Alshaibi returned to his native Baghdad. It had been 24 years since his family fled Iraq for Jordan and later Iowa, where Alshaibi spent his teens before studying film at Columbia College.
Alshaibi went back to Baghdad with his father, a retired math professor, and his wife and producer Kristie. Alshaibi's film Nice Bombs captures the moment when euphoria over the overthrow of Saddam Hussein was turning to dread, when the power vacuum in Iraq was growing evident, when the American military was making its uneasy transition from liberators to occupiers.
Nice Bombs has two free screenings Friday 10/16 at the Portage Theater in celebration of its 10/27 DVD release from Libertyville-based Cinema Obscura.
In September, Alshaibi was awarded the first Kartemquin Diversity Fellowship to develop a documentary adaptation of Toufic El Rassi’s autobiographical graphic novel Arab in America, about a Lebanese boy growing up in Chicago.
He's also at work on the fiction film Profane, about a Muslim pro dominatrix. "The very word 'Islam' means submission and 'Muslim' means one who submits," Alshaibi told Vice Magazine. "So I found this very interesting in that the main character, Muna, plays a pro-Domme, who has slaves submit to her, but she submits in prayer to Allah."
Nice Bombs screens Friday 10/16 at 8 and 10 PM at the Portage Theater, 4050 N. Milwaukee.