The Guardian has selected political artist Michael Rakowitz as their artist of the week. Although this American of Iraqi-Jewish heritage has drawn inspiration from sources as diverse as Arab newspapers and eBay, Guardian arts writer Skye Sherwin is drawn to Rakowitz’s constructive solutions to public problems, such as ParaSITE, his custom built homeless shelters.
Often he has devised practical, creative ways to get discussion going at ground level: public art projects that directly involve people. Begun in 2004, a project he called Return saw Rakowitz relaunch in Brooklyn a version of his grandfather’s import/export business; the local Iraqi community were invited to send items to Iraq for free, testing channels of communication at a time when there was almost no postal infrastructure. For another of Rakowitz’s projects, Enemy Kitchen (2006), cooking classes became a way to broach cultural boundaries, teaching school kids family recipes with the help of his mother in workshops staged in California and New York.
Rakowitz’s latest exhibition, The Worst Condition Is to Pass Under a Sword Which Is Not One’s Own, is at Tate Modern until May 3.