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Michael Rakowitz

Backstroke of the West



Acclaimed Iraqi-American artist Michael Rakowitz (b. 1973) is a natural storyteller who combines personal experiences with extensive research to create contextual, illustrated objects, installations, and interventions. Based in Chicago, the artist explores contested social, cultural, and political histories in his work, inviting viewers to consider their complicit relationship to the world around them.

This lavishly illustrated catalogue accompanies the artist's first museum survey and delves into ten of the artist's best-known works as well as one new project created for the MCA's exhibition. Illuminating texts by Omar Kholeif, Shumon Basar, and Ella Shohat address the narrative elements and historical contexts of Rakowitz's work. Plates run throughout the publication, illustrating major projects featured in the exhibition, including Enemy Kitchen(2003), a pop-up food truck that serves Iraqi-Jewish dishes made from recipes Rakowitz and his mother collected and served on paper plate replicas of Saddam Hussein's china; The invisible enemy should not exist (2007–ongoing), a lifelong project to fabricate to scale every single item looted from the Iraqi National Museum; and What Dust Will Rise?, Rakowitz's commission for Documenta 13, for which he worked with stone carvers to recreate items from the State Library of Hesse-Kassel that were lost in the 1941 fire of the Fridericianum, using stone quarried from the ruins of sixth-century sandstone Buddhas destroyed by the Taliban in 2001.

Michael Rakowitz: Backstroke of the West is the newest in the MCA's Ascendant Artist monograph series and the first major publication on the artist's work. Softcover, laminated, with a black foil stamp, 144 pages, published by the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.