Elizabeth Rauh, History of Art, University of Michigan, received a TAARII US Research Fellowship for 2015 for her project Weapons of Creation: Art Practice and Production in the Contemporary Middle East.
Elizabeth Rauh’s dissertation project examines how artists in the contemporary Middle East harness material violence into productive and creative art practices, which often interrogate historical art methods and materials. Rather than historicize modern art in the Arab World and Iran as derivative or “hybrid” styles and aesthetics, Rauh will explore the material and visual elements of art objects through close formal analysis to unpack the artistic processes of modernity in the region. One of her primary case studies is Iraqi artist Hanaa Malallah (b. 1958). Malallah’s monochromatic paintings (1980s–today) transform the destructive process of burning into an additive process on the canvas plane, thus revealing and reveling in the destructive aspects of art modernism and its colonial imbrications. Malallah’s art career attests to the dynamic Baghdad art scene while reflecting that art world’s dispersal due to ongoing warfare. Rauh will study Malallah’s artistic method collaboratively with the artist in London, while gathering vital information from her personal documents as well as herself as a living archive of the Iraqi art community and Institute of Fine Arts operating under Saddam Hussein and later foreign invasions. Rauh’s project will contribute to scholarship on Iraqi art history by locating art objects and practices in their specific regional contexts, while simultaneously positioning these art works as catalysts that complicate and upend discourses and interpretations of modern art on a global scale.