Michael Rakowitz’s art is deeply political and focuses mostly on the Middle East namely Iraq which is where his family fled from. His artwork expresses a need and a want to discuss issues and make them more relatable. In one project he reopens his grandfather’s import and export business. The company initially functioned as a drop box. In 2005 it became a packaging center and sorting facility. Members of the Iraqi diaspora community and interested citizens were invited to send things to be shipped free of charge to recipients in Iraq. Rakowitz also wanted to explore the possibility of importing things clearly labeled Product of Iraq, he choose dates which were legendary in Iraq, with a yield of over 600 varieties. The first batch he tried to ship died in Syria but the second made its way all the way through different nations and different customs, the dates became a representative for an Iraq refugee traveling to a new life.When they finally made it to Brooklyn there people were eager to try them, this fruit that caused so many problems to get there asked questions and brought up memories.
One of his more notable projects is Enemy Kitchen. The Project began in 2004 in it Rakowitz complies Baghdad recipes with the help of his mother and then teaches them to public audiences. The first time this project was performed was with students who lived in Chelsea and went to the Hudson Guild Community Center. With the project in cooking and eating the food, it opens up the lines of communication allowing in this case the students to attach the word Iraq to food as a representative of culture and discuss it. The students discussed the war and compare it to their own lives. Later this project also included a food truck that roamed around Chicago. The food truck itself gives home to the Iraqi expat community and is another way of bring art down to a level that involves and interacts with people. Rakowitz says, "I see the truck as a potentially healing gesture, not that it has to be. I don't have delusions that it will perform the hard work of healing traumas. I do believe there can be an aesthetic of good intentions, but I'm leery of saying what those are. No, I'm not going to tell anyone it's art."
Rakowitz about how he sees his art: "As an artistic gesture I try to make an unlikely thing happen, and the impossible becomes possible. It's art because it's impossible for this to exist in the world."
For George Mason University’s Gallery Rakowitz will contribute:
The invisible enemy should not exist that unfolds as an intricate narrative about artifacts stolen from the National Museum of Iraq, Baghdad, in the aftermath of the US invasion of April 2003; the current status of their whereabouts; and the series of events surrounding the invasion, the plundering and related protagonists. The centerpiece of the project is an ongoing series of sculptures that represent an attempt to reconstruct the looted archeological artifacts.
The exhibition’s name comes from the direct translation of Aj-ibur-shapu, the ancient Babylonian processional way that ran through the Ishtar Gate. Drawings tell how the gate was excavated in Iraq in 1902-14 by German archeologist Robert Koldewey and then put on permanent display at the Pergamon Museum, Berlin. In the 1950s, the Iraqi government rebuilt the gate; nearby stands a reconstruction of ancient Babylon, created by Saddam Hussein as a monument to his sovereignty. Today the reconstructed Ishtar Gate is the site most frequently photographed by US servicemen in Iraq.
Reconstructions are made from the packaging of Middle Eastern foodstuffs and local Arabic newspapers, moments of cultural visibility found in cities across the US. The objects were created with assistants using the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute database and Interpol’s website. This exhibition begins a commitment to recuperate the 7,000+ objects whose whereabouts remain unknown. Beside each reconstruction a museum label lists factual details about the lost object. They sit on a long continuous table whose shape derives from the Processional Way.