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Yours, KOW

Pin-Down, 2017

video installation

Hiwa K, Pin Down, 2017, 3 channel HD video installation, 16:9, color, sound with English language, 34:12 min, film still, commisioned by De Appel
Hiwa K, Pin Down, 2017, 3 channel HD video installation, 16:9, color, sound with English language, 34:12 min, film still, commisioned by De Appel
Hiwa K, Pin Down, 2017, 3 channel HD video installation, 16:9, color, sound with English language, 34:12 min, film still, commisioned by De Appel
Hiwa K, Pin Down, 2017, 3 channel HD video installation, 16:9, color, sound with English language, 34:12 min, film still, commisioned by De Appel

Pin Down
Hiwa K and Bakir Ali in Conversation

Bakir Ali: If the coming of refugees is a result of the Western countries and their interventions, this end result in itself becomes an act. In Western societies a politico-moral split has caused a growing awareness, which in turn creates radical political parties. An anti-humanist sentiment is born. And on an ideological level, identity and cultural questions emerge on the scale of cultural wars. Cultural wars spill onto the street. That is why clashes took place between the refugees and others in Germany, France, and Belgium. What has come to be known as terrorism is another aspect of this act.


Hiwa K: In wrestling, when your opponent tries to make your back touch the floor, he/she wants you to lose continuity. There is an analogy here with how people want to create a nation state, but you, as effectively a stateless person, do not let it happen, you need to keep moving, to keep walking, so to speak. The issue of being a Kurd is the same in my view. You need to keep moving.


Bakir Ali: Without looking at each other’s facial expressions … all the symbols …

Hiwa K: Did your back hit the ground?

Bakir Ali: No! Did I beat you?

Hiwa K: No! In my opinion, it has much to do with violating borders and boundaries. The case of being a Kurd is a case in which the borders, instead of being on the margins, are within you. You do not have a national entity. You do not have an official entity. Kurds are in the phase of stretching …

Bakir Ali: It is not spreading?

Hiwa K: … like between two musical notes. For instance, between B and E notes — those two notes are official like a nation state. But there are intervals that stretch and decide — you can knock me to the ground — on the creation of the two official notes. That is why when D is played in Sulaymaniyah, you hear F in Diyarbakir. Do you understand me?

Bakir Ali: Yes, it is good analysis.

Hiwa K: There is an article titled ”Live and Let Die”…

Bakir Ali:s … by Urs Willmann?

Hiwa K: Yes. According to him in the next one hundred years, eighty percent of languages will disappear. He says that one of the languages that will survive is Kurdish. In my view the reason that the Kurdish language has a strong immune system is because many attempts at its destruction were made throughout history, but it keeps getting stronger. It has not stayed as a swamp, it has been in constant movement. Because it is four parts … Have you surrendered?

Bakir Ali: No

Hiwa K: I think Kurds are in the Echoic stage. As an issue, it has the form (shape) of an ear. And ears have the form of a valley. Those sounds generated from the mountains create a resonance. Like a slave who creates a force… a Narcissist… he sees himself too much. What do you call that in Kurdish?

Bakir Ali: Excessive self-viewing?

Hiwa K: Yes… that’s what kills Narcissus. Because Iraq, Turkey, Iran, and Syria have all lost their quality as rivers, and they turned into dams.

Bakir Ali: I see it like that as well… being a Kurd is an acoustic phenomenon. Kurds — we have more of a voice than an image.Sometimes the Kurds appeared passive but they managed to transfer being passive into being active to survive. The same way animals play dead — some animals play dead when they are about to be attacked. This is a way to survive. Going inwards to avoid the danger and threat.

Hiwa K: You mean Scheintot.

Bakir Ali: Yes! Appearing dead, that is exactly what it is.

Hiwa K: But in the case of…


Bakir Ali: Being a Kurd is like the sphere of sound also known as the “sonosphere”. How have you used sound in your works?

Hiwa K: Melody is going (walking or moving). In a melody you play a note or two. But when it becomes three notes at the same time, it becomes a chord — it becomes a conspiracy. That is why during Saddam’s time, we were only allowed to gather in pairs, but a gathering of three people was banned. Do you remember?

Bakir Ali: That is true.

Hiwa K: Three is a conspiracy like a chord, but two notes are intervals. But intervals are more dangerous because they are in constant movement… stretching. In rock music, an interval is considered a chord. That is not the case in classical music. But rock music has labelled it as a power chord… Did I hurt you?

Bakir Ali: I don’t know.


Hiwa K: When you work there you have a form that is its own content. In the body of the artwork, the function of the skin is not to cover the flesh, but the skin is an external flesh.


Then I slowly laid down on my back. My breath was very cold because I was surrounded by snow. It was December in Amsterdam West. After the incident, they all ran away and I was lying under the bridge. I was looking at the underside of the bridge for the last time. My lungs were very cold, but blood was dripping down into my lungs. Each drop would warm my lungs. It was very pleasant. It reminded me of my girlfriend who used to say how pleasant it was “to come inside of me”.

Bakir Ali: The people of Halabja, they experienced lack of air when they were attacked with chemical weapons. Those who were in Halabja had experienced the pre-death moment. The poisoning of the air… breathing… they were the only ones who knew that staying alive was to keep breathing. Whenever you are deprived of breathing, you are deprived of life. Those of Halabja; those of Auschwitz… those… And your condition… when you were attacked with a knife… the injuring of your lungs… the mixing of blood and breath, that was an existential experience of knowing air and its value.

Hiwa K: Do you want to run away with me?


Bakir Ali: Humans are not only an ontological being, but an ecological one as well.


Between anthropology and ontology, I will make out of you a split phenomenology!


In your works, there is one thing that is narrative, and that is stories without trace, without dimension.

Hiwa K: You mean Spurloßigkeit?

Bakir Ali: Yes, tracelessness. Sometimes people follow the real side of arts, that is a search for a trace. In my opinion it is tracelessness that matters to you. That place that is not seen, you bring into sight. That place that has been concealed in a fold, you unfold it.

Hiwa K: It is true. When you start without an art history, you are obliged to take another path that is non-existent in the history of arts. They are concealed.


The beauty of football is in the fact that you cannot use your hands. Because hands have been for millions of years superior to other parts of the body. The other parts of the body are the minorities. They have not been as used as the hands, but had they been used as much as the hands, they would have been able to do so much more. In the work Pre-Image, you utilize all of your body, but you do not use the hands as much as the nose, legs, feet, and the rest of the body.


Bakir Ali: The Bell Project — tell me more about it.

Hiwa K: Nazhad is the person who smelts… the iron… he melts the iron and unfolds it into time. Those original weapons have a spatial status.


That is why you need those sets of eyes, you need that superior technique, you need an airplane, you need a vista.

Bakir Ali: Or the institutions.

Hiwa K: True. You need all these when you come from the fake Ishtar in Babylon to be able to see the original Ishtar in Berlin. For the sake of the overall form, the overview.


Bakir Ali: That is like a form of cultural confiscation through colonialism. The other comes and confiscates the things of the self. But the self then goes looking for them and tries to view them through the eye of the other.


That is why your work is an attempt to criticize the larger body which is capitalism, through its limbs.


Do you not think that Kurdishness is being divided as it is said that whenever there is sound, there is an echo. Do you think that Kurds have four ears? And whatever sound may come, goes into four ear canals/channels? The way you talk about valleys. Is not this a situation where we have not entered the valley?

Hiwa K: No, we are ourselves the valley.

Hiwa K: My mother used to know a nice poem by Kanie. It said: To divide the inheritance after the death of their father, a man tells his younger brother, “I will take from the ground to the roof, and you take from the roof to the sky.” He takes whatever is worldly for himself and gives the skies to his younger brother who does not understand the concept.

Bakir Ali: We have gotten from the roof to the skies, no?

Hiwa K: Ya!


Do you know why I am mad at you? I was young, and you were one of those who were called an existentialist. You were reading books in the Awqaf Library all the time. You never saw me. You were my senior by some four to five years. I wanted to join the group of existentialists. I used to come and sit next to you and read Sartre. You still did not notice me. I would bring a book by Camus, you still would not notice me. I finally brought One Hundred Years of Solitude by Márquez and I read it next to you. That was true loneliness!


Bakir Ali: The fact that Eastern cultures play a major role in Western culture is hidden in European history and its advancements.


Hiwa K: In all those places that I go with these mirrors, it is a kind of remembering; not remembering, but longing.
Like a person with dementia, when I pass that place, I have a sense that I had passed by here before. Although it is the first time to physically pass by this place, but I had passed them by for centuries past. Then… it is your turn to go under; my finger, ouch, my fingers.

Bakir Ali: Why do you want to look down from above?

Hiwa K: Ouch, my balls!

Bakir Ali: You cannot see yourself from down below?

Hiwa K: Let me take a breath first. You must go to a place where there is a dominant eye residing. I waited aimlessly for five years without any residence permit because I described my city horizontally, contrary to what the judge saw.


Tarzan goes deaf in an episode called “Deadly Silence”. Men are waiting for him in the jungle with guns to kill him. Tarzan resorts to holding a deer in his arms because deers have sensitive ears. The deer hears for him. It moves when it detects the slightest movement, then Tarzan would know there is something.

Bakir Ali: The Gods send an enchantress to Odysseus and tell him that he has to learn a trick so that the Siren cannot take away your companions.


Hiwa K: Because in the state of affairs with knowledge … Ouch! Do not break my fingers … No tickling … Because in the latter issue, you are not the official man of the house. You are not allowed to enter through the front door.

Bakir Ali: I am making you surrender. Take your last breath.


Hiwa K: You have to go from the backyard…

Bakir Ali: No face to face…

Hiwa K: No, from the back… You must train your body to enter from the window. Therefore you need a new shape to be able to enter from the window.


Hiwa K

Hiwa K was born in Kurdistan-Northern Iraq in 1975. His informal studies in his home town Sulaymaniyah were focused on European literature and philosophy, learnt from available books translated into Arabic. After moving to Europe in 2002, Hiwa K studied music as a pupil of the Flamenco master Paco Peña in Rotterdam, and subsequently settled in Germany. His works escape normative aesthetics but give a possibility of another vibration to vernacular forms, oral histories (Chicago boys, 2010), modes of encounter (Cooking with Mama, 2006) and political situations (This lemon tastes of apple, 2011). The repository of his references consists of stories told by family members and friends, found situations as well as everyday forms that are the products of pragmatics and necessity. He continthuously critiques the art education system and the professionalization of art practice, as well as the myth of the individual artist. Many of his works have a strong collective and participatory dimension, and express the concept of obtaining knowledge from everyday experience rather than doctrine. Hiwa K participated in various group shows such as Manifesta 7, Trient (2008), La Triennale, Intense Proximity, Paris (2012), the “Edgware Road Project” at the Serpentine Gallery, London (2012), the Venice Biennale (2015) and documenta14, Kassel/Athens (2017). A selection of recent solo shows include the New Museum, NYC (2018), S.M.A.K., Ghent (2018), Kunstverein Hannover (2018), Jameel Arts Center Dubai (2020), Museum Abteiberg (2021) and The Power Plant (Toronto (2022). He has recieved several prizes such as in 2016 the Arnold Bode Prize and the Schering Stiftung Art Award and the latest being the Hector Prize in 2019.

Full Biography