b. 1975, Sulaymaniyah, Iraqi Kurdistan; lives in Berlin, Germany
Bergen Assembly 2019 core group member Hiwa K’s sculptures, videos and performances draw on personal memories to explore the tension between the individual and the collective and to tell stories of ongoing global crises: war, migration and the effects of neoliberalism and colonialism. His work often involves participatory dimensions and collaborations with a wide cast of players.
Recent solo exhibitions include S.M.A.K. Museum of Contemporary Art, Ghent and Kunstverein Hannover (both 2018), KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin (2017), De Appel, Amsterdam (2017), Konsthall C, Stockholm (2015) and Serpentine Gallery, London (2010). Hiwa K’s works have been included in major group exhibitions at documenta 14 in Athens and Kassel (2017), the 56th Venice Biennale (2015), New Museum, New York (2013) and Manifesta 7 in Bolzano (2008), among others. In 2016, he received the Schering Stiftung Art Award, as well as the city of Kassel’s Arnold-Bode-Preis.
“When I was eight years old we lived near a military base with very high walls. They were probably about ten metres high or so, but as I was a child they seemed higher. Our house was built not very far away – a few metres – from these walls and, in 1980, when this happened, the Iran-Iraq War had just started (1980–88). It was then that I saw an Iranian plane for the first time. I was on the roof of our house around noontime when I saw it. There is a strategy in flying low: the Iraqi radars cannot locate the plane so it hits its target before the alarm goes out over the city. The plane was moving faster than its sound, so I saw it first and heard it later when the sound had caught up with it. The thing I remember most clearly is how, as the plane passed by overhead, the entire roof became dark for a split second and then light again. I can still remember the physicality, the materiality of that shadow, of that shape, and the feeling of being safe in it.
I did not see a bomb drop from the plane but a split second after it went over, a huge dust cloud went up into the air from inside the military base. But I still felt safe – for some reason, I felt saved by the beautiful, crisp shape of the shadow. That may seem absurd but the first time you see something – such as a fighter jet – and then hear the sound that follows it, seconds later, everything seems slightly out of sync and it is all overwhelming. You also feel safe because there is a big wall between you and the military base, and the danger behind it. A part of me actually enjoyed it, although I was also scared witless.”
Pre-Image (Porto), 2014
Video, one-channel, FullHD, colour, sound, 6’34”
Courtesy of the artist, Prometeo Gallery di Ida Pisani,
Milan and Lucca, and KOW, Berlin and Madrid
Pre-Image documents a performance in Porto, Gdansk and Vienna, among others, and between Greece and Rome along the way. On his forehead Hiwa K balances a bar on which motorbike mirrors are mounted. The DIY navigation instrument reflects the environment in which he is walking. The balancing act and the fragmented image in the mirrors compel the artist to err on the side of caution. The vertical gaze that he uses to move forward horizontally is fragmented, distorted, unreliable. This allows him to re-experience the lack of stability in the midst of his constant state of movement during his migration. The title Pre-Image refers to the difference between how we imagine the places we want to reach, their possibilities before they become images, and how they are in reality; the contrast between vertically imagined places and the horizontal reality in which we experience places on the ground. The performance shows Hiwa K’s first impressions of the cities he discovers on his escape route. Interpreted as a reconstruction of his migratory past, of which he has no photographs, the performance could also be called a ‘post-image’.
Chicago Boys, 2010–ongoing
Ongoing rehearsal session/concert with participants from the community of
Arna, Norway, in collaboration with Alwynne Pritchard and Vergard Bolstad
Co-produced by Bergen Assembly 2019
For Bergen Assembly 2019, Hiwa K initiates a new constellation of the open band and study group Chicago Boys with participants from Arna, a district of Bergen. The process is based on research that sheds light on the beginnings of neoliberalism in the various countries of origin of its participants. Recalling the music of the period, the group compiles a playlist that is then orchestrated and performed. The regular rehearsing sessions follow a method developed by Hiwa K to simplify the learning of musical instruments.
Moon Calendar, Iraq, 2007 (video, 12:16’, on view within Introduction Days, 5.4.2019)
The rehearsals for an unrealised dance performance took place during a visit to Amna Souraka, The Red Security Building, in northern Iraq. This building complex used to be one of the infamous jails where Saddam Hussein detained political prisoners and today it hosts the Iraqi National Museum of War Crimes. Hiwa K tap-dances in the premises of Amna Souraka to the rhythm of his own heartbeat, which he follows by listening through a stethoscope. As the intensity of the dance increases, the speed of the feet and the heart lose simultaneity and chase each other in a beat and counter-beat discordant pulsation. The rhythm of the heart isolates the artist from the surroundings thus creating a private and hidden space for his own thoughts. The ludic dimension of the dance allows for a state of denial that makes trauma absent while still being present in the place.