Exhibition view: Michael Rakowitz: Backstroke of the West, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (16 September 2017-4 March 2018). Courtesy Hyperallergic. Photo: Claire Voon.
In 2006, the artist Michael Rakowitz took on a complicated, seemingly impossible task. He opened a store in Brooklyn to sell dates, with the chief goal of importing the sweet fruit directly from Iraq, and packaged in boxes that advertised their true origin. Some Iraqi companies had successfully circumvented the United Nations-imposed sanctions and smuggled date syrup out of their country, but the labels of their final products on the shelves of foreign stores were typically tweaked. Rakowitz's goods would be the first imports labeled 'Product of Iraq' to enter the United States in over 25 years.