As part of the Three Museum Project, the New Museum and Creative Time present It Is What It Is: Conversations About Iraq, a new commission by British artist Jeremy Deller. In an effort to encourage the public to discuss the present circumstances in Iraq, a revolving cast of participants including veterans, journalists, scholars, and Iraqi nationals who have expertise in a particular aspect of the region and/or first-hand experience of Iraq have been invited to take up residence in the New Museum’s gallery space with the express purpose of encouraging discussion with visitors to the Museum. The exhibition will be at the New Museum from February 11 through March 22, 2009. This project will extend past the New Museum’s walls into towns and cities across the United States during a three-week road trip and will then travel to the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, as part of the Three Museum partnership.
Objects meant to stimulate discussion will share the gallery with the resident guest experts. The first and most significant artifact that will be on display is the remnant of a car that was destroyed in March of 2007 by an explosion on Al-Mutanabbi, a street in Baghdad. This tragedy killed over thirty people, and has taken on added significance because the street, named after a well-known Iraqi poet, was the site of numerous book markets and cafés, and was considered the nexus of Baghdadi cultural and intellectual life. Evidence of the violence continuing to take place in Iraq, the car is meant to ground conversation in the facts, figures, and eyewitness descriptions that have been so lacking in most information about the Iraq war made available to the public. The second is a handmade banner by artist Ed Hall, who has collaborated with Deller in the past and is known for his work for trade unions and other interest groups. The last is a wall graphic juxtaposing two maps—one of Iraq and one of the United States. This visual representation serves as a reminder of the disconnect between two countries that are intimately involved politically and economically, though geographically distanced. However urgently the project encourages discussion about a painful, ongoing situation, this endeavor is nonpartisan, and will be unscripted and free form, and as formal or informal as each guest expert desires.
In March, Deller will travel aboard an RV with two selected Iraq experts and a writer, who will document the journey from New York to Los Angeles. The RV will stop at various cultural institutions and community centers along the way to continue the conversation on a national scale. The exploded car, first seen at the New Museum, will be placed on a flatbed trailer hitched to the RV. This traveling portion of the exhibition is co-organized by public arts presenter Creative Time, and will enable the project to be seen by many communities beyond the art world.
It Is What Is: Conversations About Iraq is curated for the New Museum by Laura Hoptman, Kraus Family Senior Curator, and Amy Mackie, Curatorial Assistant; for Creative Time by Nato Thompson, Curator.
The research team includes: Shane Brennan, Sarah Demeuse, Ozge Ersoy, Jazmin Garcia, Martha Kirszenbaum, Cloé Perrone, and Terri C. Smith.
It Is What It Is: Conversations About Iraq is part of The Three M Project, a series organized by the New Museum, New York; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; and the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, to commission, organize and co-present new works of art.
ABOUT “NEW COMMISSIONS” AND THE THREE MUSEUM (Three M) PROJECT In 2004, The Three M Project was conceived and developed together with the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, and the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, to jointly commission, exhibit, and acquire important works of contemporary art by artists whose work has not yet received significant recognition. All three museums share a collaborative vision and entrepreneurial spirit, and the belief that ambitious projects on a national scale can be produced through efficiency, knowledge, and resource sharing. The partnership, now in its second cycle, involves four new commissions by Jeremy Deller, Daria Martin, Mathias Poledna, and Urban China. Together, these exhibitions will be presented simultaneously in “New Commissions” at the New Museum. The Three M project is directed by leading curators from each museum: Laura Hoptman, Kraus Family Senior Curator, New Museum; Elizabeth Smith, James W. Alsdorf Chief Curator, with Dominic Molon, Curator, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; and Ali Subotnick, Curator, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles.