As ISIS carries out its reign of terror in Syria and Iraq, many diplomats probably wouldn’t mind rolling the calendar back to 2003 — to what now look like simpler times. If you’re feeling strangely nostalgic for the Saddam era, you’ll want to check out videos from “Three Love Songs,” an art installation staged in Doha (2010) and London (2013) by the Iraqi visual artist Adel Abidin. Here is how he describes the exhibition:
This piece examines terror and love, and how façades are played through song, specifically Iraqi songs that were commissioned by Saddam Hussein, used to glorify the regime during the decades of his rule. The installation syncs three stylized music videos (lounge, jazz and pop) that each features an archetypal western chanteuse: young, blonde, and seductive. Each video’s dramatic “look” creates a different atmosphere but the songs dedicated to Saddam Hussein tie them together. The lyrics are sung by the performers in Arabic (Iraqi dialect) and are subtitled in English and Arabic. The singers do not know what they are singing about, but they are directed to perform (though voice and gesture) as though the songs were traditional, passionate love songs. It is this uncomfortable juxtaposition — between the lush visual romanticism and the harsh meaning of the lyrics, between the seduction of the performer and comprehension of the viewer — that forms the main conceptual element of this work.
Above and below, you can see outtakes from the video installations in “Three Love Songs.” You’ve got your lounge tune up top. Jazz and Pop below.