Negar Azimi

View of “Welcome to Iraq,” 2013, Iraqi pavilion, Venice. On left wall: Kadhim Nwir, Untitled, 2011. On right wall: Kadhim Nwir, Untitled, 2011. Photo: Kate Lacey.

ONE OF THE WORKS IN THIS YEAR’S IRAQI PAVILION features a simple ink caricature of two men scrambling to capture a falling missile with what appears to be a stretcher. It is absurd and heartbreaking, and in many ways it perfectly captures the spirit and ethos of a country still deeply mired in the legacy of a war that began a decade ago. In the setting of a breathtaking sixteenth-century palazzo on Venice’s Grand Canal, however, it makes for a strangely sublimated encounter with Iraq. Marked by dozens of resource books about the region in Arabic and English, homemade Iraqi cookies and oversweet Iraqi tea, along with poufy sofas and colorful carpets, the pavilion goes to great lengths to live up to the exhibition’s happy title: “Welcome to Iraq.”

After taking multiple trips to the country, traveling (by armored convoy no less) to Baghdad, Babylon, Kurdistan, and Basra, British

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