Theater of Operations: The Gulf Wars 1991–2011

Theater of Operations: The Gulf Wars 1991–2011

MoMA PS1 presents a large-scale group exhibition examining the legacies of American-led military engagement in Iraq beginning with the Gulf War in 1991. Through more than 250 works, Theater of Operations: The Gulf Wars 1991-2011 explores the effects of these wars on artists based in Iraq and its diasporas, as well as those responding to the war from the West. Featuring the work of over 80 artists and collectives, Theater of Operations will be on view across the entire MoMA PS1 building from November 3, 2019 through March 1, 2020.

American-led military engagement in Iraq over the last 30 years has had an indelible impact on contemporary culture and the work of artists around the world. While brief, the 1991 Gulf War marked the start of a prolonged conflict with Iraq that led to more than a decade of sanctions and the 2003 Iraq War. These wars and their aftermaths have had devastating impacts on Iraq and its people, contributing to the destabilization of the broader Middle East. Conflict with Iraq has also become an enduring part of American life, influencing culture, politics, and identity.

Thuraya Al-Baqsami. The Last Shot. 1991. Pastel and acrylic on paper, 19 11/16 x 23 5/8” (50 x 60 cm). Courtesy the artist

The artists in Theater of Operations were also impacted by significant cultural change during this period—including the advent of the 24-hour news cycle, the Internet, and new media and military technologies. The wide range of perspectives included in this exhibition also attests to the rich artistic traditions of contemporary Iraq, with artists working under conditions of war, embargo, and occupation placed in conversation with those responding to these wars from afar.

Hanaa Malallah. Baghdad City: US Map. 2007. Mixed media (ink, collage, burning, and tape on wood) 20 7/8 × 21 5/8″ (53 × 55 cm). Courtesy the artist and Azzawi Collection, London. Photo: Anthony Dawton

Theater of Operations includes work by 82 artists and collectives: Sherko Abbas, Ghaith Abdulahad, Afifa Aleiby, Sadik Kwaish Alfraji, Himat M. Ali, Francis Alÿs, Jananne Al-Ani, Rasheed Araeen, Cory Arcangel, Layla Al-Attar, Michel Auder, Dia al-Azzawi, Thuraya AlBaqsami, Wafaa Bilal, Dara Birnbaum, Fernando Botero, Roger Brown, Paul Chan, Sue Coe, Tony Cokes, Susan Crile, Verne Dawson, Deep Dish TV, Melvin Edwards, Ali Eyal, Alia Farid, Harun Farocki, Ismail Fattah, Karen Finley, Rainer Ganahl, Ghassan Ghaib, Tarek AlGhoussein, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Guerrilla Girls, Richard Hamilton, Mona Hatoum, Wally Hedrick, Thomas Hirschhorn, Jenny Holzer, Hiwa K, Mary Kelly, Jon Kessler, Rachel Khedoori, Louise Lawler, An-My Lê, Hanaa Malallah, Susan Meiselas, Robert Morris, JeanLuc Moulène, Mohammed Muhraddin, Steve Mumford, Rafa Nasiri, Mahmoud Obaidi, Jamal Penjweny, Monira Al Qadiri, Khalifa Qattan, Nuha al-Radi, Michael Rakowitz, Oday Rasheed, Ali Rashid, Miguel Angel Ríos, Kareem Risan, Sophie Ristelhueber, Martha Rosler, Judith Joy Ross, Shakir Hassan, Samir, Allan Sekula, Richard Serra, Delair Shaker, Mohammed Al Shammarey, Urok Shirhan, Sean Snyder, Deborah Stratman, Sturtevant, Elia Suleiman, Ali Talib, Jalal Toufic, Luc Tuymans, Nazar Yahya, Ali Yass, and Ala Younis.

Martha Rosler. Lounging Woman from House Beautiful: Bringing the War Home, New Series. 2004. Photomontage. 24 × 20″ (60.9 × 50.8 cm). Courtesy the artist and Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York

Over the course of the exhibition, more than 20 films that span both mainstream and independent filmmaking throughout the Gulf War (1991) and the Iraq War (2003-2011) are screened in the cinema. The series features films that are rarely shown in the US, many of which were directed and produced by Iraqis, as well as award-winning Hollywood movies. These films complicate mainstream news media narratives around the wars, offering key insights and perspectives while at times presenting misleading or dated depictions. Also included are documentaries that depict the situations American troops faced on the ground as well as those focused on the realities of daily life for Iraqis. See the full schedule at

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