Day 28 of Art Around the World! We’re almost to the end! Today, we are headed to Iraq to study a sculpture installation by artist Hanaa Malallah. The artist, who signs her work with a series of numbers representing letters in the Arabic alphabet, creates compelling and thought-provoking works of contemporary art.
Click over to Hanaa Malallah’s website to view this artwork. Read the blurb about it while you are there if you’d like.
I picked this artwork because I felt like any average person could see it and interpret it for themselves. It has imagery that makes sense and can help us think about ourselves and our place in the world. I love art that helps us be introspective. “The unexamined life is not worth living” (Socrates) and all that jazz.
In the artist’s blurb about this on her website (from the link above), she describes the title Barzakh (Obstacle). She says it “is an Arabic word denoting an in-between state separating the corporeal and spiritual worlds.” [Source: Hanaa Malallah]. She compares it to an isthmus which is a body of freshwater meeting a body of saltwater. You can read more about the meaning of this word here. It has a strong spiritual connection, but the artist says it can be explored in both spiritual and secular ways.
There are many ways to connect to this idea personally in many areas of life, and I invite you to explore this artwork and think about this artwork within the context of your own life.
I know that by choosing an artwork and artist from Iraq that you may expect me to talk about their history, war, and politics, but we can’t always tie an artwork to such things. Artists’ work can stand alone outside of those things (or inside of those things), and I think this work, in particular, is more global and can be understood and valued on its own merits without an expectation to be political or make some sort of global statement.
Am I making sense? I have a really bad cold at the moment, and I can’t believe I am even sitting up to do this. I better proofread this in a few days just to be sure. 🙂
Art Discussion Questions
- What’s going on in this artwork? What do you see that makes you say that?
- Where does this ladder going?
- What will happen when you try to climb this ladder?
- What do the broken rails and green lights mean?
- What is the artist trying to say? What is the meaning of this artwork?
- How can you connect this artwork and this concept with your own life?
Art Learning Activities
Here are some learning activity ideas for this artwork.
- Journal about the artwork.
- Have students write stories about themselves or write a fictional story inspired by the artwork.
- Have students carry cameras and document areas of their world/lives that could represent this in-between place illustrated in the artwork.
- Website of the Artist, explore more work by her.
- Biography on the artist (Click “Biography”)
- Interview with the Artist