Enemy Kitchen

Public Art

Enemy Kitchen

Using recipes gathered with his mother, Michael Rakowitz led a series of Iraqi cooking workshops with high-school in Chelsea, some of whom had relatives in the US Army stationed in Iraq, many of whom had conflicting views of the war. In preparing and consuming the food, an environment was forged in which the word “Iraq” and all of its associations could be openly discussed.
Michael Rakowitz



Hudson Guild Community Center, New York, and the Miami Art Space, Art Basel Miami Beach.

Michael Rakowitz, Enemy Kitchen. Hudson Guild Community Center, New York, 2007.
  • Project description
  • About the artist

The artist cooked Iraqi cuisine with a group of middle school and high school students who live in Chelsea and participated in after-school and summer programs at the Hudson Guild Community Center. Some had relatives in the US Army stationed in Iraq. In preparing and consuming the food, an environment was forged in which the word ‘Iraq’ could be openly discussed—in this case, the food was a cultural symbol different than the stream of distant images shown on CNN. The project functioned as a social sculpture: while cooking and eating, the students engaged each other on the topic of the war and drew parallels to their own lives, at times making comparisons with bullies in relation to how they perceive the conflict.

Some of the discussions were profound. One day, a girl who had attended a few classes came in frustrated and said, “Why do we have to cook this nasty food? They blow up our soldiers every day and they knocked down the Twin Towers!” Another student spoke up and said, “The Iraqis didn’t knock down the Twin Towers, it was Bin Laden.” Then, it went further.

“It was incredible to see all this unfold week after week. The students were not really discussing it in school because many teachers regarded it as too touchy an issue. But in this space of cooking and eating I really started to see how an important segment of the US population that I do not often have the opportunity to interact with feels about the world since 2001. And when you think about someone of middle school or high school age, at least half of their living years have been during wartime.” — Rakowitz

For the artist, the most gratifying moment of that project was when, after eight weekly sessions learning how to cook Iraqi food, the students at the Community Center began to syncretize Iraqi cuisine with their own cultural recipes. One of the students, Hyasheem, taught Michael how to do a shake-n-bake batter, and they used all the spices and herbs they’d learned about: cumin, sumac, a little tumeric, etc. to invent Iraqi fried chicken!

For this exhibition, Michael Rakowitz presented the history and documentation of the project; Iraqi food was served at opening night. The project also included the publication of a group of Iraqi recipe cards telling the story of the project.



This project was produced as part of Art Creates Communities: Project in Chelsea, one of More Art’s founding programs. Artists showing in the Chelsea galleries were connected via More Art to the local community, encouraging a dialogue, and seeking to create a strong link with the young people who live in the neighborhood and attend the local public schools. The goal of Art Creates Communities was for everybody to partake of the creative energy galvanizing the Chelsea neighborhood. The strategy was to show the younger generation how to tap its own budding creativity and convey the message that in life they should never be passive spectators but actively grasp challenges and changes.

Artists were invited to collaborate with teenagers from the Clinton Middle School for Writers and Artists (MS260), engaging them in the different media of modern artistic expression, including photography, video, painting, and performance art. The final projects were important works in their own right.



Michael Rakowitz

Michael Rakowitz is an Iraqi-American artist working at the intersection of problem-solving and troublemaking. His work has appeared in venues worldwide including dOCUMENTA (13), P.S.1, MoMA, MassMOCA, Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Palais de Tokyo, the 16th Biennale of Sydney, the 10th and 14th Istanbul Biennials, Sharjah Biennial 8, Tirana Biennale, National Design Triennial at the Cooper-Hewitt, Transmediale 05, FRONT Triennial in Cleveland, and CURRENT:LA Public Art Triennial. He has had solo projects and exhibitions with Creative Time, Tate Modern in London, The Wellin Museum of Art, MCA Chicago, Lombard Freid Gallery and Jane Lombard Gallery in New York, SITE Santa Fe, Galerie Barbara Wien in Berlin, Rhona Hoffman Gallery in Chicago, Malmö Konsthall, Tensta Konsthall, and Kunstraum Innsbruck, and Waterfronts - England’s Creative Coast. He is the recipient of the 2020 Nasher Prize; the 2018 Herb Alpert Award in the Arts; a 2012 Tiffany Foundation Award; a 2008 Creative Capital Grant; a Sharjah Biennial Jury Award; a 2006 New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship Grant in Architecture and Environmental Structures; the 2003 Dena Foundation Award, and the 2002 Design 21 Grand Prix from UNESCO. He was awarded the 2018-2020 Fourth Plinth commission in London’s Trafalgar Square. From 2019-2020, a survey of Rakowitz’s work traveled from Whitechapel Gallery in London, to Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea in Torino, to the Jameel Arts Centre in Dubai. Rakowitz is represented by Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago; Jane Lombard Gallery, New York; and Barbara Wien Galerie, Berlin; Pi Artworks, Istanbul; and Green Art Gallery, Dubai. He lives and works in Chicago.