It is What it Is: Conversations About Iraq
Artist Jeremy Deller’s It Is What It Is: Conversations About Iraq was a multifaceted artistic project, consisting of exhibitions, a road trip, and conversations, involving a multitude of organizations, participants and visitors. The goal of the project was to encourage conversation about the war and about the country of Iraq, and to establish US contact with, and awareness about, Iraqi civilians. It Is What It Is took place over the course of nine months and was hosted by prime organizations across the United States. The project started at the New Museum in New York, where Deller invited journalists, Iraqi refugees, soldiers, and scholars to share their knowledge and memories of the last decade in and out of Iraq. Museum visitors could participate in one-on-one conversations, exchanging information, thoughts, and sentiments about Iraq from many points of view. After the initial exhibition period, It Is What It Is traveled across the country. The main sculptural element of the exhibition, a car destroyed in a suicide bomb attack in Baghdad, traveled to thirteen public sites along the way. Sergeant Jonathan Harvey, an American veteran of the Iraq War, and Esam Pasha, an Iraqi citizen, engaged in conversations with occasional passers-by and interested audience members, using the car as an entry point for the dialogues. Artist Jeremy Deller, curator Nato Thompson, and a camera crew traveled aboard an RV to document the journey, conversations, and encounters. After the road trip, expanded exhibition versions of It Is What It Is took place at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. It Is What It Is staged discussions, conversations, and exchanges that were open-ended, defying easy categorization that would classify these encounters as either being “for” or “against.” The project didn’t intend to solve problems between the U.S. and Iraq, but to open discussion and raise awareness about a whole range of political and social issues with a diverse group of participants. Key organizing institutions include Creative Time (New York, NY) and New Museum (New York, NY). It Is What It Is was exhibited at The Hammer Museum (Los Angeles, CA), The Museum of Contemporary Art (Chicago, IL), and New Museum (New York, NY), as well as other hosting institutions across the United States.