• International Modern & Contemp auction at Christies

    Sale 7893

    International Modern & Contemporary Art, Including Masterpieces from The Collection of Dr. Mohammed Said Farsi

    27 April 2010, Jumeirah Emirates Towers Hotel

  • Lot 91

    Halim Al-Karim (Iraqi, b. 1963)

    Witness From Baghdad 1

    Price Realised  

    Halim Al-Karim (Iraqi, b. 1963)
    Witness From Baghdad 1
    signed, dated and numbered (on the reverse)
    Lambda print; triptych
    Each 59 x 39 3/8in. (150 x 100cm.); Overall 59 x 118 1/8 in. (150 x 300 cm.)
    Executed in 2008, this work is number two from an edition of three plus two artist proof. (3)


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    Al-Karim claims that he is concerned with ongoing and unresolved issues especially as they relate to violence. He challenges these political issues in his series of works known as the Witness Archive, by looking at how leading politicians sometime deceive people in times of war through un-kept promises of freedom. Political leaders tend to move these witnesses of war away from the idea of peace, in which case there becomes no such thing as a silent witness but rather a reactive citizen. In Witness from Baghdad, Hali Al-Karim plays on various levels of reality to prove the non-existence of a passive witness in certain circumstances. The three figures appear immaterial with Al-Karims recognizable out-of-focus technique; it is hard to say whether these portraits represent real people or figures from the artists imagination. The striking, almost threatening three pairs of eyes stare provocatively at the viewer and coerce him to feel uncomfortable and to engage a conversation with the three figures. The life-like eyes are the proof that these quiet intangible faces are alive and well aware of what is happening around them.
    Through those eyes, Al-Karim seems to also refer to one of the earliest civilizations on earth, the Sumerians, who settled at the intersection of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, in what would now be the artists native land, Iraq. Sumerian civilization and art intrigued Al-Karim and his Witnesses from Baghdad echo the globular intimidating eyes often present in Sumerian sculptures. Like the Sumerians, Al-Karims ephemeral characters witness the evolving mentality of urban society in Iraq almost five to six thousand years later.

    Pre-Lot Text

    My works dwell on the evolving mentality of urban society. I am concerned with ongoing and unresolved issues especially as they relate to violence. I search through the layers of collective memory and my personal experience in that context. In this process the main challenge for me is to identify and stay clear of the historical and contemporary elements of brainwashing. Through these works I try to visualize an urban society free of violence. These techniques, which have become the hallmark of my work, are means to overcome the effects of politics of deception and, in turn, transform me and the camera into a single entity seeking a greater truth.
    Halim Al-Karim.