September 21, 2016
History repeats itself in similar cycles no matter how long those cycles are, whether they are days, years, decades, centuries, or even millenniums. We may not notice these repetitions as they occur because of the changes in time or the new pattern that they may take; yet we only notice them once they become part of history. This installation attempts to relate what is happening now in the Middle East to what was happening in the past. In particular, this installation emphasizes the similarities between the current events in the Middle East and the events in Europe during the dark ages.
During the dark ages Catholic priests had the ultimate power. They preyed on the trust of the common man, which was hindered by the spread of illiteracy. Priests promised sinners salvation for a levy. In a similar fashion, some groups are misusing the name of religion in the Middle East, where poverty and paucity of good education are also ubiquitous.
In this installation the similarity between both periods are underscored. In particular, the video highlights the dark ritual elements in a suicide bomber’s preparation. Furthermore, the insertion of elements from a catholic sacramental service underlines the twisted notion that religion can be used to justify the commitment of cruel actions.
The suicide vests are the contemporary equivalent to the indulgences from the dark ages. Both are utilized by the so-called religious men and marketed as the key to salvation and god’s forgiveness. Moreover, this installation can be seen in two perspectives. First it’s explains to non-Muslims that the current violence is the fruit of abusing religion and following a false path and in some ways it’s a revival of the indulgences. Second it’s warns Muslims that they are living in their own dark age and they need an awakening.
About the Installation
The installation consists of three parts; rows of thin steel vests, half of a scaffolding octagonal structure, and a video screen. The first part contains several rows of vests, where the audiences walk through them and not pass them. The second part of the installation is called “the gate of heaven”. The gate of heaven is built out of old fashion wood scaffolding to reflect the fragility and unsophisticated of the group. The octagonal layout of the structure mirrors popular structures in both Christian and Islamic architecture. Those parts of installation are corresponding scene of the holy war in the middle ages; rows of armors in front of a fortress. Rows of thin steel sheet vests that represent bombing vests are contemporary equivalent to medieval armors. While the scaffolding structure is equivalent to stone fortress. This war, which is so-called Jihad, is a reductive of holy war. The scaffolding structure has no past nor future it only exists in the present, while the thin sheet steel vest does not protect who wears it. The installation is aimed to discomfort the audience through a fragile scene, which mirrors the nature of Islamic groups despite their unsophisticated they succeeded in spreading terror. The third part is the video screening, which comes after the audiences enter the gate of heaven. Inside the structure, they will see a preparation ritual of the suicide bomber before his mission.
Mohammad Al-Hemd is a Kuwaiti artist who earned a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Colorado and a BA in Graphic Design from the American University of Kuwait. Al-Hemd’s keen interest in art fully manifested in his first solo exhibition entitled Indulgences: Reborn, where he challenged religious notions through installation, performance and visual direction. His work stems from the conceptual, transforming into elegant illusions, as he tackles controversial yet pressing current themes compelling his audience to reflect on contemporary ideas. He continues to push the boundaries of his work, evolving his artistic practice and scope.