Rijin Sahakian

You Don’t Make it Public: On Selection and Severance

10 May 2023

Discussion around exhibitions and artist-led boycotts in recent years has focused on the plausible deniability of curators, debates over degrees of political culpability, and/or the limits of representation. These questions often obfuscate and by-pass the mechanisms by which cultural productions are and are not supported long before exhibitions are planned or open for display, as well as the role of exhibitions as part of institutional or governmental apparatus’ of control as purveyors of discourse – historical, political, representational. The shifting web of international funding, advanced degree programs, and personal relationships in contemporary art ride alongside the ebbs and flows of markets, militarism, ideological power, acts of protest and mobility. At times, the convergence is strikingly visible, in artworks, the spaces and organizing logics they reside within, their reception. 

Required Reading:

Rijin Sahakian, Beyond Repair: Regarding torture at the Berlin Biennale Artforum July 29, 2022 

M. Neelika Jayawardane, Art and the Limits of Awareness Politics, Art Review, November 11 2022

Mostafa Heddaya and Rijin Sahakian, Recolonize This Place, e-flux issue 107, March 2020

Rijin Sahakian (b.1978) uses writing, teaching and art-making to examine critically the relationship of contemporary art and culture to coalition wars in Iraq. She founded Sada, an arts education initiative for Baghdad-based students, operating from 2010-15. Sahakian curated Iraq: Reframe (Montalvo Arts Center), Sajjad Abbas and Laith K. Daer: City Limits (VCU Qatar), and Shangri La: Imagined Cities (City of Los Angeles Dept of Cultural Affairs). She has taught at California Institute of the Arts and published in Warscapes, e-flux journal, n+1, Hyperallergic, Camera Austria,The Derivative, and Artforum, as well as contributed to various catalogs, book and art projects. She most recently created an anthology film with former members of Sada for documenta fifteen.