'April is the Cruellest Month' Learning Resource
Michael Rakowitz is an artist and professor living and working in Chicago, USA. He uses art to talk about history, current events and issues that affect people around the world. He is interested in making connections between people and places from different times and countries, inviting us to ask questions and learn from one another.
Rakowitz’s artwork takes many forms including sculpture, installation, public events and projects. His new artwork ’April is the cruellest month’ is a life size sculpture that can be seen in Margate on the seafront, next to another sculpture, the Surfboat Memorial.
April is the cruellest month
The sculpture is of a British soldier named Daniel Taylor, who served in Iraq during a war in 2003.
It is made from a mix of concrete, calcite (a rock mineral), sand and earth from Basra in Iraq and chalk from Margate. Michael Rakowitz invited people in Kent and members of a charity Veterans for Peace UK to donate a personal object that related to war or conflict. These objects are now inside the sculpture.
What objects can you see? How might they relate to the themes of war or conflict?
Look at the pose the soldier has been modelled in. What do you think he is trying to say?
The artist wants his sculpture to stand as a symbol of peace and has described it as an “anti-war memorial”. Design your own sculpture for peace; what does it look like?
Rakowitz’s own Iraqi-Jewish heritage plays an important role in his work. He grew up in New York but realised early on that Iraqi culture was not visible beyond conversations about war and oil. In 2003, he decided to collaborate with his mother on a new project called “Enemy Kitchen”, inviting groups to cook and eat Iraqi food to celebrate Iraqi culture, and to reframe how people spoke about Iraq.
“Enemy Kitchen” is now a mobile food truck staffed by Iraqi chefs. The sous chefs and servers are American combat veterans that served in Iraq during a war. Their stories are shared through preparing and serving food to members of the public.
In one of his earlier projects, Rakowitz worked with people experiencing homelessness to design a series of inflatable outdoor homes. The inflatable structures attach to vents on the outside of buildings so hot air can blow into them, creating an instant warm shelter. These homes are now constructed and distributed every year in Chicago.
- Can art be an event or activity?
- How might you bring people together to discuss an important topic? Could you host an event, activity or experience?
- How would you use food in a new artwork?
- Think of an issue that is important to you. Who could interview for more information?
- Who do you admire? What materials could would you use to make a sculpture of them? How would you ask them to pose?