[artinfo] Khalil Rabah at Kunsthaus Hamburg

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Sat Sep 12 10:24:57 CEST 2015

Khalil Rabah
Scale Models
8 September-1 November 2015

Khalil Rabah has founded a museum, an airline and a branding agency 
(PDF-Palestinian Design Force). Moreover, he is the initiator of the 
Riwaq Biennale, co-founder of the Al-Ma'mal Foundation for the 
Promotion of Contemporary Art in Jerusalem, and decisively gets 
involved in projects for the preservation and restoration of 
Palestine's cultural heritage. That the latter projects are real, 
while the former by contrast are artistic claims, pertains to one of 
the most important conceptual approaches in Khalil Rabah's work. In a 
practical and ideal interaction of political involvement, cultural 
search for identity, and conceptual art, he develops a new and 
consistent space of action and thought.

Khalil Rabah was born in Jerusalem in 1961, and studied Architecture 
and Fine Arts at the University of Texas, USA. With numerous solo 
exhibitions and Biennale contributions, the Ramallah-based artist was 
already internationally represented. In Europe, by contrast, there 
have not yet been many opportunities to become comprehensively 
acquainted with his work. Thus, the Kunsthaus Hamburg, with the 
exhibition Scale Models, is pleased to be able to display a 
representative institutional solo exhibition of the Palestinian 
artist in Germany. For the occasion, Rabah is developing a re-staging 
of three important groups of work from the past ten years for the 
rooms of the Kunsthaus.

In 2003, Khalil Rabah initiated the Palestinian Museum of Natural 
History and Humankind as an artistic concept. The departments of the 
museum comprise, among other things, Geology, Paleontology and 
Botany. With this project, Rabah coins the identity question of a 
"nation in a state-of-emergency" into an autonomous narrative, one 
which eludes the resigned perspective on the political context of 
Palestine via the detour of the natural sciences. Laid out as an 
ongoing project, according to the exhibition's circumstances and 
location, the museum finds new forms of presentation, exhibits, and 
groups of themes. In terms of content, the museum takes on ever new 
formats, from installation and painting to sculpture, through 
discussions about a "New Geopolitical Knowledge," or even by 
demanding civil rights for olive trees.

Characteristic of Rabah's method of working is the adaption of 
institutional representation through brochures, invitation cards, 
photographs or display models, which he captures or redesigns in his 
installations in the form of models, reproductions or paintings. With 
this means he makes use of the fact that structures such as a 
biennale, a museum, and even an airline or cultural foundation not 
only have meaning in the form of their real existence (buildings, 
staff, tickets), but that the way they "communicate" (catalogues, 
photos, news reports) adopts an equally important part of the 
effective power of these institutions. In this sense he creates 
"scale models," and thus manifests the imaginative force of 
institutions, which in a political context like Palestine lie at the 
mercy of impossibility. 

Alongside parts of his fictive museum, amongst others, the piece 
Another geography (2009-12) is on show in the exhibition. It consists 
of picture postcards of historic Palestinian buildings threatened by 
decay. The 50 varying motifs are stacked up in piles of different 
sizes so that they evoke a jagged landscape architecture. Since the 
visitors can take the postcards with them, the piles are 
ever-diminishing over the course of the exhibition, mirroring the 
erosion and successive disappearance of historical architecture. The 
topic of artistic and cultural historical registration of the 
Palestinian culture, and thus the latent topicalized question about 
the possibility of a proper history and identity beyond the conflict, 
is a recurring motif in the artist's works.

Curator: Katja Schroeder

Kunsthaus Hamburg
Klosterwall 15
20095 Hamburg
Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 11am-6pm


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