How can history be told and preserved if it intrinsically eludes the Western idea of nation-statehood? Working with conflicting Kurdish and Western narratives and perspectives, Jala Wahid explores the enduring effects of longstanding colonial occupation and British and US imperialism on Kurdish art practices and archaeology.
The site-specific jailed bull sculptural installation housed in the Kunstverein exhibition space refers to the Kurdish performance of Mîrmîran. Involving the election of a mock king instating mandatory laws, Mîrmîran was considered politically subversive by British occupation forces and subsequently banned in 1922. In the gallery above, the work Metaphysical Reunification (2023) is presented. It’s a deck of aluminium-cast playing cards that respond directly to the equivalent deck created by the Department of Defense, encouraging the U.S. army’s preservation of archaeology during the Iraq invasion. Artefacts from Mesopotamia, and modern-day Greater Kurdistan, now on display in London or Paris or still missing after the US military invasion of Iraq, are some of those that Wahid now re-collects and expands upon in direct opposition to the illegal excavations and looting of archaeological finds.
Both an early form of Kurdish art performance and artefacts from former Mesopotamia serve as starting points for Wahid to counter-draft Western historical narratives and, in doing so, reflect on theatrical and performative forms of political subversion. Which media might aid in criticising and ridiculing colonial power relations, or what’s more, distorting, inverting and temporarily suspending them? What potentials are offered by carnivalesque aesthetics, play and dance, parody and humour? And what happens when political and theatrical action can no longer be clearly distinguished?
In the context of political, geographical and linguistic fragmentation and unresolved questions of belonging and permanence, Wahid takes on the contradictions, diffuseness and complexity of diasporic reality and develops alternate techniques of remembering and preserving that can be transformative and playful, that testify to resilience and self-positioning.
Mock Kings is Wahid’s first institutional solo exhibition in Germany.
Curator: Theresa Roessler
Press release from Kunstverein Freiburg.