August 24, 2022

Hiwa K at Power Plant, Toronto @ Hyperallergic

TORONTO — The lynchpin of Hiwa K’s Do you remember what you are burning? at the Power Plant is a giant copper bell, mounted onto a wooden frame and equipped with a rope so visitors can ring it. Though the Iraqi Kurdish artist’s retrospective, his first solo exhibition in Canada, spans two floors and several galleries, the work feels like the axis around which all else rotates — evoking the history of bells as calls to gather and unify.

A different history of bells — especially the large bronze ones ornamenting places of worship in Europe — was their seizure by governments hungry for metal to feed World War I machines. K’s bell has undergone a reverse transfiguration from those melted down to create munitions. The bell was forged from copper salvaged by a Kurdish scrapyard owner named Nazhad, who sifts through abandoned battlefields to reclaim fragments of discarded weaponry and land mines, and melts them down for repurposing. The artist collaborated with the Bell Project in Italy to create bells using the same method as those that were sacrificed to war. This one is adorned with reliefs, including the Mesopotamian deity Ismassu, that make direct reference to the looted antiquities that have funded militant jihadist groups in West Asia.

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