Abu Ghraib’s photo exhibition caused outrage at the Berlin Biennale

At the end of July, artist Rijin Sahakian published an open letter in art forum to condemn the Berlin Biennale’s decision to exhibit Poison solublean installation by the artist Jean-Jacques Lebel (pictured above), in the last Biennale exhibition.

Lebel’s labyrinthine facility, Sahakian writes, surrounds viewers with images of detainees being humiliated – “the charred skin, limbs and hooded faces of the Iraqi men who were abused and murdered in Abu Ghraib prison” in Iraq.

In response to Sahakian’s letter, the Biennale released an apologetic statement on Monday, art news reports.

“I can see the white female soldier grinning over the array of stacked bodies, and I’m eye to eye with a faceless person forced to hold their genitals,” wrote Sahakian, who also funded an Iraqi art initiative called Sada, of the installation in art forum. “I see a corpse, the dead are still waiting. They’re still waiting to give their permission the first time, the thousandth time, and this time is no exception. I am compelled to watch them again just to see the second half of Abbas’ fragmented work.” The Daily Beast reached out to Sahikian for comment.

In response to Sahakian’s letter, more than 340 people signed a letter in support of Iraqi artists, including Sajjad Abbas, Raed Mutar and Layth Kareem, who asked that their art not be shown near the offensive installation at the Biennial. Kareem’s 2014 video is called The City Limits and Mutar’s painting is called Untitled (2012).

Sahakian refers to Abbas’ I can see you, a 2013 photograph showing the artist’s view of the “Turkish Building” in Baghdad, facing the Green Zone, which served as the government center for the Coalition Provisional Authority during the American occupation of Iraq. The photo was also on display at the Biennale alongside Lebel’s installation. The Daily Beast asked Abbas to comment on the Berlin Biennale.

The Biennale confirmed in its statement that the work of the above artists will now be shown at a different location at the Biennale, as well as the photograph of Sajjad Abbas, whose work Sahakian also mentions in his letter.

“We apologize that the placement of the works of the Iraqi artists concerned in close proximity to the works of Jean-Jacques Lebel has caused them great pain,” reads part of the statement of the Biennial. “We underestimated the sensitivity of the situation. We also apologize for not discussing the placement with you in advance in this particular case.”

The Daily Beast asked the Berlin Biennale for comment and was referred to the quoted statement.

https://www.thedailybeast.com/abu-ghraib-photo-exhibit-causes-outrage-at-berlin-biennale?source=articles&via=rss Abu Ghraib’s photo exhibition caused outrage at the Berlin Biennale


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