Hiwa K graduated from secondary school in Iraq and continued education in the self-educational circles of his home country with other visual artists, intellectuals, musicians and theatre artists. The major fields of these informal and non-systematic studies were European literature and philosophy, learnt from available books translated into Arabic. Since 1985, he has practiced painting – also in the public space. He abandoned the discipline around 1998 and completed flamenco guitar studies with the master Paco Peña, which led to working for several years in that field. Subsequently, he returned to visual arts and graduated in the Akademie der Bildende Kunst in Mainz, Germany and was guest student at Städelschule Frankfurt with Simon Starling. The practice of music has a strong influence on his visual arts projects.
His projects appear to be a continuous critique of art education, the professionalization of art practice, of staging and visibility as well as the myth of the individual artist. Many of his works are forms and outcomes of collaborations and have to do with the process of teaching and learning and insist rather on getting to know as everyday practice than knowledge as a formalized discipline.
Tensions, immediacies, and improvisations are the striking features of his works that escape normative aesthetics but give a possibility of another vibration to vernacular forms, oral histories, modes of encounter and political situations. 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.
Selected for the sixth, non-realized edition of Manifesta, he later took part in “The Rest of Now” exhibition curated by Raqs Media Collective for Manifesta 7. In 2007 “Cooking with Mama”, one of the performances that brought him acclaim, was included in the United Nations Plaza project in Berlin. In 2009 his video “Moon Calendar / Iraq” was featured in the exhibition “All that is Solid Melts into Air” curated by Bart de Baere for art festival organized by MuHKa. Soon after, his completed residency at the Serpentine Gallery’s The Centre of Possible Studies in London resulted in the project “Chicago Boys while we were singing they were dreaming” – a neoliberal study group and 1970s revival band. Recently he also took part in the exhibition “Estrangement” in The Showroom in London. This year Hiwa is contributing both as artist and co-curator in the Alternativa International Visual Arts Festival – the first edition of a new recurrent art event in Gdansk. He was invited by Okwui Enwezor to the 56th Venice Biennale with the work “The Bell”.