These installations resemble ‘camps’ constructed out of waste materials, such as medicine packaging and discarded books. The ‘tents’ are marked with Kourbaj’s distinctive black lines, based on Arabic calligraphy and traditional mourning ribbons, and encircled with a ‘fence’ of used matches. On the first day of the festival, there will be 1,579 matches in every ‘fence’, and another match will be added for every day of the exhibition, resulting in a total of 1593 matches by the end of two weeks on display. Each match represents a day lost since the beginning of the Syrian uprising.
The sites are scattered around London, mapping out and loosely reflecting the geographic pattern of refugee presence outside the borders of Syria. The installations at Goethe-Institut London and St. James’s Church, Piccadilly, roughly relate to the locations of camps along Syria’s southern border; Central Books in East London correlates to the cities of northern Iraq; 10 Golborne Road represents Lebanon; and Heath Street Church, Hampstead, approximates the location of camps in Turkey.
- St. James’s Church, Piccadilly | Mon – Sat: 9am – 6pm, Sun: 1pm – 6pm
- Central Books | Mon – Fri: 9am – 5pm
- Heath Street Baptist Church | Mon – Sun: 10am – 6pm
- 10 Golborne Road | Mon – Sun: 10am – 6pm
- Goethe-Institut London | Mon – Fri: 8.30am – 7pm, Sun: 8.30am – 5pm
Issam Kourbaj in conversation with curator Louisa Macmillan: 22 July | 6.30pm | St James’s Church
Supported by Goethe-Institut London and UNHCR
Issam Kourbaj trained at the Institute of Fine Arts, Damascus. Since 1990, he has lived in Cambridge and is Christ’s College Artist in Residence. His work has been widely exhibited and, in 2008, a collection of his sketches Sound Palimpsest (some inspired by the Epic of Gilgamesh and others by language, war and memory) was acquired by the British Museum and exhibited in their Iraq’s Past Speaks to the Present exhibition, run in parallel with their major 2008-2009 exhibition Babylon: Myth and Reality. The Museum also featured Issam’s work in their 2011exhibition: Modern Syrian art at the British Museum.