Events & Exhibitions / GAM
The Caliph Seeks Asylum, 2019
Site-Specific Installation for the GAM Sculpture Garden
October 29th 2019 – January 19th 2020
GAM Sculpture Garden
Fondazione Torino Musei, in the occasion of Artissima - International Fair of Contemporary Art and the new project for the 2019 edition “Hub Middle East” that will host important representatives of foundations, museums and galleries, as well as collectors, critics, curators, and artists of the Middle East in Turin presents, for the first time in an Italian Museum, a site-specific installation by Saudi artist Muhannad Shono (Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 1977) titled “The Caliph seeks Asylum”, in the GAM Sculpture Garden.
The installation made of about 3,500 PVC pipes erect on a makeshift camp site and is intended to appear “outside the context of time and place”. This installation is part of Muhannad Shono’s remapping, reforming and reshaping of a revisionist history of the Arab psyche.
Baghdad was constructed in 762 AD as the capital city of the Abbasid Caliphate and was devastated by the Mongol invasion in 1258. At that time, the city was a brilliant intellectual centre in the world and its Bayt al-Hikma library, “the House of Wisdom”, was the heart of excellence in the transmission of knowledge. This Islamic Golden Age was a period of cultural, economic and scientific flourishing in the history of Islam. Scholars, philosophers, scientists, and other thinkers all gathered in what was called Madinat al-Salaam or City of Peace to cultivate the Arts and sciences.
The sack of Baghdad was a traumatic event: the looting continued for 40 days and the Tigris river was said to run red with the blood of the intellectuals that were killed, and black from the ink of all the literature that was drowned in the waters.
Muhannad Shono is revisiting the historical record as it was taught to him in the classroom and its impact on his and the collective Arab psyche – he rejects the idea that glory comes from power and victory on the battlefield - and suspends that lesson in time. The artist instead embarks on a remapping and reimagining of an unwritten historical timeline. Shono suggests a return to the ancient glory, that of the Golden Age of Baghdad, not through the resurrecting of caliphates, but through the seeking of knowledge, the liberation of the freethinking mind and the rebuilding of Arab Houses of Wisdom.
The project was specifically conceived for the GAM Museum and is realized in collaboration with Athr Gallery, Jeddah and thanks to the support of Leading Law Notai e Avvocati, Turin.
The opening will be held in presence of Muhannad Shono, representatives of the Athr Gallery and Saudi authorities on October, Tuesday 29th and will be open to the public, in its impressive and obscure magnificence, until January, 19th, 2020.