press release

Michael Rakowitz works as a cultural archaeologist, uncovering an unexpected network of connections between historical fact and fantasy. The worst condition is to pass under a sword which is not one's own traces links between western science fiction and military-industrial activities in Iraq during and after Saddam Hussein's regime.

Through a series of interwoven narratives this project addresses, among other things, the Iraqi leader's fascination with the iconography of Jules Verne's novels and the Star Wars films, and the World Wrestling Federation's unique take on Gulf War politics.

The project centres on the Swords of Qādisiyyah monument in central Baghdad. This triumphal arch, otherwise known as the Hands of Victory, was inaugurated on 8 August 1989. The invitation card for the opening ceremony featured the heroic proclamation, "The worst condition is for a person to pass under a sword that is not his own or to be forced down a road that is not willed by him." Rakowitz explores the multiple references and resonances of the Victory Arch, from the history of its design to its use as a backdrop for military posturing.

In this and other aspects of the project the artist explores how powerful contemporary mythologies derived from popular culture have informed the collective unconscious. Fictional characters from Darth Vader to Sgt. Slaughter coexist with historical figures in Rakowitz's symbolic universe, in which warrior fantasies transcend the alleged divide between east and west.

Michael Rakowitz talks about recent projects including The worst condition is to pass under a sword which is not one's own in his Artist's Talk on Friday 22 January.

Michael Rakowitz was born in Great Neck, New York, in 1973. He lives and works in Chicago.

The worst condition is to pass under a sword which is not one's own is curated by Ann Coxon and Rachel Taylor.

The Level 2 Gallery is conceived and led by Tate Modern's Assistant Curators, in dialogue with Mark Godfrey, Curator. The Level 2 Gallery programme has been made possible with the generous support of Catherine Petitgas

Michael Rakowitz
The worst condition is to pass under a sword which is not one's own
Kuratoren: Ann Coxon, Rachel Taylor