ZKM | Museum of Contemporary Art, 09|17|2011 – 02|05|2012
Rasheed Araeen
* 1935 in Karachi (PK), lives and works in London (UK)

Golden Calf, 1987

After his pioneering role in Minimal art, Rasheed Araeen has continued the practice of integrating the serial arrangement of panels into his work. However, in the Golden Calf and Green Painting series that followed, the artist has taken the further step of contrasting monochrome green panels with silk-screen images distributed through mass media and traditional Arabic ornament.
The Golden Calf, an early example from 1987, is an arrangement of four Andy Warhol portraits of Marilyn Monroe and panels of silk-screen photographs detailing what appears to be a crowd of mourning women in the remaining four corner sections. The Marilyn panels are arranged around and face the center of the nine-panel piece. This dramatically highlights the center panel taken up entirely by a single photograph of a fallen Iranian soldier. The close-up shows him lying in a pool of his own blood. The photograph is a document of the Iran–Iraq war, which raged throughout the 1980s. Originally published in conjunction with an Iranian newspaper article lambasting Iraq, Iran’s erstwhile enemy, it was also a critique of the American imperialistic involvement in global politics.
Placing an image of Marilyn Monroe – icon of American mass media and celebrity culture – against the backdrop of the dark realities of a political warzone might initially seem to imply an indifference of the art world towards such treacherous political realities. The Monroe portraits, however, comprise part of Warhol’s recurring leitmotif of death. Here, Western art fetishes are contrasted with the stark realities of the contemporary world. Araeen employs the serial repetition of images, whereby each additional image adds a new layer of meaning culminating in the image of the fallen soldier. The West’s idolization and worship of dead movie stars is contrasted with the veneration of fallen Iranian war heroes by masses of mourning women. Both of the chief subjects represented became posthumous idols. (AMB)

The Reading Room, 1979–2011, 2011

The Reading Room introduces exhibition visitors to the art magazine Third Text, which is rarely available in German libraries. Third Text was founded in London in 1987 by the artist Rasheed Araeen. As the editor of this journal, which initially offered a “Third World” perspective (the magazine’s subtitle was Third World Perspectives on Contemporary Art & Culture), Araeen has had an enduring influence on the global discourse and has created a forum for writers who were previously excluded by the Western art scene. In its Special Issues the magazine, of which more than a hundred numbers have been published to date, presents a rich spectrum of today’s art world. With its “critical perspective,” to which the subtitle used since 1999 refers (Critical Perspectives on Contemporary Art & Culture), the journal also puts questions about art’s future tasks up for discussion. The exhibition space at the ZKM was designed by Araeen to show that taking charge of the intellectual practice of steering the discourse on art is in itself a new form of artistic practice. (AB)


Golden Calf
, 1987

The Reading Room

The Reading Room, 1979–2011
, 2011