Working in various mediums, Raed Ibrahim is interested in socially and politically engaged artistic practices. In his 2020 exhibition at Darat al Funun, A Camel in the Room he makes us reflect on major issues that are not discussed or acknowledged. Set in three rooms, Ibrahim’s work aims to provoke the viewer by using irony, thereby shedding light and generating debate on taboo subjects.
The eponymous camel is the unavoidable element confronting the viewer upon entering the Blue House. Derived from an early 19th century Russian fable, made proverbial by Dostoevsky in his novel Demons, the ‘elephant in the room’ has been transformed by Ibrahim into a grand scaled-up version of the pink plush toy camels found in souvenir shops downtown, reminding us to directly confront the pressing issues of our here and now.
He connects “‘monument, miniature, metaphor and memory’ with four different architectural and allegorical models of the World Trade Center's iconic towers. These cigarette towers stand as a three-dimensional Roy Lichtenstein-esque pop art piece, simultaneously humorous and horrifying.
Then, perhaps the boldest piece in the exhibit comes into view: two black-painted stainless steel towers, one mounted with a gold automated model airplane circling the top. Another identical structure is crowned with a gold band clearly referencing the kiswah, the traditional cloth that covers the Kaaba in Mecca, the site of Muslims’ pilgrimage.
In a small adjacent gallery, Ibrahim has installed a set of six framed late 19th/early 20th century cast iron house locks. Keys are a ubiquitous motif in Palestinian art, a symbol of the Nakba, or the "catastrophe" caused by the 1948 founding of the Israeli state and the displacement of Palestinians, and a defiant, hopeful symbol of their aspiration to return home.”
Raed Ibrahim is an artist and teaches Fine Arts at the University of Jordan. He participated in Darat al Funun's Summer Academy in 2000, 2001, and 2003, and artist-in-residence exchange program between Darat al Funun and ProHelvetia, in Aarau, Switzerland in 2009. His work has been part of several exhibitions at Darat al Funun since then, including A Camel in the Room in 2020.
Excerpts from Jordanian artist taps absurd for Camel in the Room, Al Monitor, by Jacob Wirtschafter, 2020.