by Rebeen Faraj Hamafariq from Sulaymaniah
Are We Addicted?
Rebeen Faraj was born in the city of Sulaymaniyah. He studied at the Institute of Fine Arts and the University of Sulaymaniyah, obtaining a BA in painting. He also obtained a postgraduate degree in Creative and Cultural Industries as well as an MA in Fine Arts from Goldsmiths University in London. At the present, he works for the Ministry of Culture while practicing his art.
Rebeen strives to bring art to the public and relate it to larger societal problems. It is with this goal in mind that his project Are We Addicted? was conceived. It invites us to critically examine all human activities, including those of artists who would seem to run away from their own artwork. Rebeen aims to show how this conflict might be owing to the fact that dogmatic art itself leads artists to addiction, creating a distance between the artist and his/her art.
In Rebeen’s view, there is a problem plaguing artists who work within the realm of art and cultural production: they feel as though they lose their sense of taste. This is a condition that, according to Rebeen, is visible in Kurdistan among artists who are distanced from art and culture. Working within the confines of dogmatic limitations on their production results in artists not being able to truly enjoy their own work. In other words, although they perform their work in the hope of enjoying it, they are unable to, resulting in a loss of taste for art.
For this project, Rebeen chose the old Tobacco Factory in Sulaymaniyah, which is a symbol for this particular concept because tobacco, like art and culture, promises us joy and taste. Holding a cigarette, for example, gives us the illusion of sex appeal, as promised by advertisements by the tobacco industry. There is a similar appeal in the case of art, resulting in a form of ‘addiction’ for both.
The old Tobacco Factory is in the process of becoming a cultural and arts centre with the financial help of the Kurdistan Regional Government. This transformation lends itself to the question of addiction as it relates both to cigarettes and to art, a question Rebeen seeks to explore through his project. One of his main aims is to prevent the activities hosted within the new cultural centre from becoming dogmatic, thus preventing a sort of ‘addiction’ to the new memories produced by the artwork therein.
He plans to host workshops each Thursday to discuss the theme of addiction. He also would like to host debates and other exhibitions for a month or so, taking inspiration from the ideas that come out of the workshops. The whole project would last for one year. The goal is to host five exhibitions in total.
The objective of the project is to motivate participants to debate artistic ideas. The most salient points to emerge from the workshops will be the core of the exhibitions that follow. The aim is to find a link between thoughts, culture and art that would transform art into ‘people’s art’ and provide the chance for new readings on familiar subjects. By transforming art from a thing of privilege to something accessible to all, Rebeen hopes to create a space to discuss important societal issues. He aims to cover several themes, without imposing anything in particular on the participants. One of the themes currently being worked on is that of maps as they relate to occupation. Rebeen wishes to explore this concept, going beyond the mentality of the occupier. The idea is built on the concept of power and exploitation. When power occupies a place, taking the best for itself, how does this affect its mentality? What is the result of occupation over citizens?
The workshops are advertised through social media and shared with other contacts who also have ideas for debates. In the near future, the plan is to draw in more diverse people who are interested in debating these ideas.