Wednesday, November 28, 2018

A moving Middle Eastern myth in Thunderbird at Bureau

Named for the Sumerian god Ningirsu, the show Thunderbird offers a contemporary take on ancient Middle Eastern history by the artist Christine Rebet. In the exhibition, Rebet recounts the story of a temple commissioned by the Sumerian ruler Gudea for the god Ningirsu, whose avatar is a thunderbird. Through this narrative, Rebet explores the Middle East’s struggle in preserving their heritage, in terms of both historical sites and shared mythologies, in the wake of contemporary destruction and racism.
  Working with Dr. Sebastien Rey, an archaeologist conducting fieldwork at the temple site in Iraq, Rebet lends weight to her pieces with historical scholarship. Dr. Rey contributed writing to the first series of drawings in the exhibition which are loosely-rendered illustrations depicting symbols related to Ningirsu’s temple. Dr. Rey’s captions provide background on motifs seen throughout the rest of the works, giving viewers a base knowledge to understand the exhibition.
The narrative of the Ningirsu’s temple is presented in Rebet’s animated film, which elaborates on the temple's origins in Gudea’s prophetic dream and emphasizes the Sumerians’ connection to their land by showing rain-soaked earth being used to create mud-bricks for the temple’s construction. This animation is the highlight of the show. Including 2,500 hand-inked drawings, it entirely incorporates Rebet’s conceptual, historical, and stylistic elements of Thunderbird. Projected on a large wall in the back of the gallery, one becomes engrossed watching the drawings seen throughout the gallery transformed into active images. The animation also has a historical context, referencing narrative images on ancient tablets and ceramics. This is alluded to in a small series of paintings which depict the Uruk Vase, an important Sumerian vessel in the National Museum of Iraq. In the paintings, the subtleties of Rebet’s technique become apparent, namely her delicate layering of thinned acrylic and ink line drawings. Engaging both visually and historically, Thunderbird is a distinctly contemporary translation of Middle Eastern mythology, expounding on universal connections to the earth and narrative traditions. 

1 comment:

  1. There is so much great information packed into your piece that explains the historical background behind the Thunderbird show. You provide visual details here and there about specific pieces in the show but if you were to delve deeper in the description for the highlight of the show, the animation, then I would really get that it's the star. Maybe something about the specific colors Rebet uses and the seamless transitions in the animation could add something. Racism is brought up once in your first paragraph and that is such a big topic that you could explain.