About the Performance
This performance by the Syrian-born and Cambridge-based artist Issam Kourbaj was created to mark one decade of the Syrian uprising. It was performed and livestreamed on 15 March 2021 – the tenth anniversary of the first day of unrest. Filmed during the second COVID-19 lockdown at The Howard Theatre at Downing College, Cambridge, it was watched live across the world. In collaboration with the composer Richard Causton and the soprano Jessica Summers, as well as Kettle’s Yard, The Heong Gallery and The Fitzwilliam Museum, the original performance also coincided with the artist’s display of 366 eye idols created from Aleppo soap (Don’t Wash Your Hands: Neither Light Agrees To Enter The Eyes Nor Air The Lungs, 2020) at the Fitzwilliam Museum (2 December 2020–5 September 2021).
In March 2021, Kourbaj said:
“To mark the tenth anniversary of the Syrian uprising, which was sparked by teenage graffiti in March 2011, this drawing performance will pay homage to those young people who dared to speak their mind, the masses who protested publicly, as well as the many Syrian eyes that were, in the last ten years, burnt and brutally closed forever.”
About Issam Kourbaj
Issam Kourbaj was born in Syria and trained at the Institute of Fine Arts in Damascus, the Repin Institute of Fine Arts & Architecture in Leningrad (St Petersburg) and at Wimbledon School of Art (London). Since 1990, he has lived and worked in Cambridge, becoming an Artist-in-Residence, a Bye-Fellow (2007–11) and a Lector in art at Christ’s College, University of Cambridge. Kourbaj’s work spans many disciplines – his interests stem from his wide-ranging background in fine art, architecture and theatre design. His artwork include paintings, works on paper, sculptures, film and performance pieces, and he frequently collaborates across the creative sciences and humanities. It has been exhibited and collected widely; for example, a collection of his sketches, Sound Palimpsest, was acquired by the British Museum in 2008 and exhibited in their display Iraq’s Past Speaks to the Present. Kourbaj’s piece Dark Water, Burning World, is currently touring several museums in the UK and is in the collection of Pergamon Museum and the British Museum. It became object 101 in ‘A History of The World in 100 Objects’ when former Director of the British Museum Neil MacGregor was asked which object would best encapsulate our modern age. Kourbaj created new performances for the exhibition Actions. The Image of the World can be Different at Kettle’s Yard in 2018, and has been dedicated to raising awareness and funds for projects and aid in Syria through several exhibitions, installations and performances in the UK and abroad. In 2021, he was invited to curate and create work for a large-scale art installation called Fleeing the Dark in response to and inspired by objects from the collection of the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam. Kettle’s Yard and The Heong Gallery (University of Cambridge) are collaborating with the artist on a major two-venue exhibition of the artist’s work in 2024. www.issamkourbaj.co.uk