The Power of Art #47 Issam Kourbaj 'Fleeing the Dark'


The Syrian-born artist combined his own artworks with objects from the museum collections, to reflect on the crisis in Syria. His intervention marks ten years since the beginning of the Syrian civil war and the refugee crisis.

Part of the exhibition is the site-specific installation Scaling the Dark: seeds, sands, moons, consisting of 4381 miniature boats that extend diagonally across the Lichtal, counting the number of days, weeks and months since the beginning of the Syrian crisis. Each boat for the number of days contains a seed, symbolizing renewal and hope even in the darkest of times.

The BBC podcast “A History of the World in 100 Objects” recently named Scaling the Dark the 101st object for its unique ability to encapsulate the past decade.

Kourbaj 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, and became Artist in Residence at Christ’s College, a Bye-Fellow (2007-2011) and a Lector in Art.

In collaboration with the Research Center for Material Culture on 14 June, 6pm - 7:15pm, join Kourbaj, curator #SarahJohnson, and Content Director #WayneModest for a Zoom conversation around Syria, and the universal themes of war, migration and home.


For the Exhibition:

For the Event:


Image: Issam Kourbaj, Scaling the Dark: Seeds, Sands, Moons, 2021, dimensions variable.  


Courtesy and ©Issam Kourbaj, Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam,  Research Center for Material Culture. Sarah Johnson, Wyne Modest, Renée Pfister Art & Gallery Consultancy

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