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© Ali Assaf


Artist: Ali Assaf (Born in Al Basrah, Iraq, 1950)
Culture: Iraqi, Italian
Date: 2010
Medium: Video (color, silent)
12:50 minute loop
State: 1
Edition: 3
Classification: Video
Credit Line: Museum purchase
Label Text:In this video, the artist adopted the costume and pose of Caravaggio's painting Narcissus (1594-96), which he happened to see in reproduction on a recent visit to his native Iraq. The Caravaggio painting led him to reflect upon what a modern-day Narcissus would see in today's polluted water of Al Basrah, Iraq, the artist's hometown. The video begins with Assaf dressed as Caravaggio's Narcissus looking at his own reflection in water, but with time, objects begin to float by, first old photographs of his family, now all dead, then a head scarf, followed by a discarded water bottle and other refuse, until eventually his reflection is completely blocked by the garbage.

This video was created for the Iraq pavilion in the 2011 Venice Biennale exhibition. The theme of the exhibition was "Wounded Water." The artist's hometown Al Basrah was once called the Venice of the Middle East because of its many canals and similar architecture. Like most of the artists of his generation, Assaf left Iraq to study abroad and only recently returned. When it was safe enough for him to visit Iraq in 2010, he was shocked to see that the once-beautiful Al Basrah had been ruined by war, embargo and lack of water: the canals of Basrah had dried up, and were used to deposit trash.

Object number: 2011.14.1
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