RETURN (2004–ongoing)

Michael Rakowitz
Single-channel video
19 minutes 46 seconds
Courtesy of the artist


Shaped by his Iraqi-Jewish heritage, Michael Rakowitz’s work braids together seemingly disparate elements of cultural history, mythic symbolism, contemporary geopolitics, Pop culture, food and looted artefacts. RETURN (2004–ongoing) is a video work chronicling the revival of his family’s import-export business. The artist’s grandfather, an Iraqi Jew, was exiled in 1946 and settled in New York, where his formerly thriving company shuttered in the 1960s. In 2004, the artist reopened it, hoping to facilitate shipments to Iraq for the diaspora against the logistical hurdles of the war. Shortly after sanctions that had made direct export from Iraq to much of the west impossible were lifted, Rakowitz also explored the feasibility of importing something clearly labelled ‘Product of Iraq’ to the USA. His research culminated in the import of dates sourced from an Iraqi company.