Jean-Jacques Lebel lives and works in Paris, FR

 

When the US Army invaded Iraq during the administration of President George W. Bush, it took over the infamous Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad, where the opponents of Saddam Hussein’s tyrannical regime had been detained and tortured—often to death. In 2003, the wheel of history turned a few degrees and it was now the turn of Saddam’s partisans to be incarcerated there and subjected to torture, rape, and all forms of sexual abuse and abject humiliation at the hands of uniformed US military personnel and CIA operatives. The only novel component of this seemingly eternal tragedy is the trove of photographs taken by the American torturers themselves—providing proof of their criminal behavior—which they proudly posted on the internet for all to see. These authentic historical documents, still readily available online, form the basis of my labyrinthine installation.

 

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Jean-Jacques Lebel, Poison soluble. Scènes de l’occupation américaine à Bagdad [Solvable Poison. Scenes from the American Occupation in Baghdad], 2013, 44 color inkjet prints on fabric, 2 b/w prints on paper glued to the wall, color prints each 200 × 140 cm; b/w prints each 200 × 1120 cm, installation view, MAMCO, Geneva, 2013, photo: Ilmari Kalkkinen  © Jean-Jacques Lebel / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022, photo: © Musée d’art moderne et contemporain (MAMCO), Geneva

I have printed and enlarged the color snapshots taken by the torturers, interspersing them with black-and-white press images of Iraqi towns devastated or completely obliterated by the US Air Force (no inhabitants survived these bombings—George W. Bush declared Operation Iraqi Freedom a success before a giant banner that read “Mission Accomplished.”) The aim of this project is to provoke the viewer to meditate on the consequences of colonialism.

Jean-Jacques Lebel

Exhibitions

L’Outrepasseur, 2018, Le centre national d’art et de culture Georges-Pompidou, Paris (FR) (solo)

L’Un et l’Autre, 2018, Palais de Tokyo, Paris (FR) (solo)

Itinéraires, 2017, Musée d’arts de Nantes, Nantes (FR) (solo)

Jean-Jacques Lebel. The Highest of All the Arts is Insurrection, 2014, ZKM | Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe (DE) (solo)

Recycler, Détourner, 2012, Galerie Louis Carré & Cie, Paris (FR)

Manifesto Marathon, 2008, Serpentine Gallery, London (UK)