The Ruya Foundation is pleased to announce that works from Jamal Penjweny’s photography series ‘Saddam is Here’ are part of ‘Age of Terror: Art since 9/11’ a new exhibition at the Imperial War Museum, London. ‘Saddam is Here’ premiered at the Iraq Pavilion at the 54th Venice Biennale in 2013, which was commissioned by Ruya.

‘Age of Terror: Art Since 9/11’ is the UK’s first major exhibition to consider artists’ responses to war and conflict since 9/11. Staged in IWM’s centenary year, the exhibition features more than 40 international contemporary artists, including Ai Weiwei, Grayson Perry, Gerhard Richter, Jenny Holzer, Mona Hatoum, Alfredo Jaar, Coco Fusco and Jake & Dinos Chapman. The exhibition is presented through four key themes: artists’ direct or immediate responses to the events of 9/11; issues of state surveillance and security; our complex relationship with firearms, bombs and drones and the destruction caused by conflict on landscape, architecture and people.

‘Saddam is Here’ was first shown at ‘Welcome to Iraq,’ (2013) the Iraq Pavilion at the 54th Venice Biennale, which was commissioned by the Ruya Foundation and curated by Jonathan Watkins. The series consists of twelve images of Iraqi people in familiar surroundings, each holding a life-size picture of Saddam Hussein’s face in front of their own. Saddam’s likeness becomes a mask obscuring any expression of emotion, any gaze, or possibility of sure identification and individuality. It is ludicrous, hilarious and at the same time absolutely ominous, pointing up the insidious influence of a dictator. Of the work, Penjweny commented, “Iraqi society can not forget Saddam even after his death because some of us still love him and the rest are still afraid of him. His shadow is still following Iraqi society everywhere.”

Jamal Penjweny and his work at the Iraq Pavilion, 2013. Photo: Enrico Bottoni.

As a result of his participation in the Iraq Pavilion, Penjweny presented the series in his first solo show ‘Saddam is Here’ (2014) at the Ikon Gallery, Birmingham. The series was also presented at a restaging of ‘Welcome to Iraq’ (2014) at the South London Gallery, London; ‘Here and Elsewhere: Art from the Middle East’ (2014) at the New Museum, New York; White – Lest We Forget (2014), at the Limerick City Gallery of Art, Limerick, among others.

‘The Age of Terror’ opened on 26 October at the Imperial War Museum, London and runs until 28 May 2018.