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Northwestern University

Jeremiah S. and Helen James Lecture

Michael Rakowitz

Ghosts, Hosts, Monuments, Admonishments, and Substitutes

The 2021 Jeremiah S. and Helen James Lecture in Assyrian Civilization and Culture was delivered by Northwestern Professor and Artist Michael Rakowitz on Thursday, May 27, 2021.

Watch the lecture below:

About Michael Rakowitz
Michael Rakowitz is an artist living and working in Chicago. Rakowitz’s work is informed by his Iraqi-Jewish heritage and extensive research on cultural objects and events. His creations critique colonization and underline the relevance of artifacts that have been lost, looted, or destroyed and the stories of people who have suffered from ongoing violence.

His work has appeared in venues worldwide including dOCUMENTA (13), P.S.1, MoMA, MassMOCA, Castello di Rivoli, 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.

Rakowitz 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 Fourth Plinth commission in London’s Trafalgar Square, on view through 2020. A survey of his work traveled from Whitechapel Gallery in London, to Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea in Torino, and is currently on view at The Jameel Arts Centre in Dubai.

Rakowitz is Professor of Art Theory and Practice at Northwestern University, and is represented by Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago; Jane Lombard Gallery, New York; and Barbara Wien Galerie, Berlin.

Thanks to the generosity of the James family, this annual lecture serves to promote understanding and scholarship of both ancient and modern Assyrian culture.

About the Jeremiah S. and Helen James Lectureship

The Jeremiah S. and Helen James Lectureship on Assyrian Civilization and Culture was established in 1999 by the late Helen James Schwarten, a prominent and active member of the Assyrian community. The Lectureship was conceived with the purpose of promoting understanding and scholarship of both ancient and modern Assyrian culture.

Mrs. Schwarten’s gift to Northwestern University was just one of the ways in which she expressed her commitment to the Assyrian community. She sponsored educational and cultural events for adults, endowed hundreds of college scholarships for young people, formed a library and museum, and helped countless immigrants make new lives for themselves in America. She was also a longstanding board member of the Presbyterian Homes and the McCormickTheological Seminary. As a young girl, Mrs. Schwarten fled Iran with her family and after three years arrived in the United States. A devout Presbyterian, she met her first husband, Jeremiah (Jerry) Sargis James at church.

Mr. James –also an Assyrian immigrant–came to the United States while a teenager. In 1950 he founded J.S. James & Company, a building management firm, and later the James Investment Company. He also served as a trustee of the McCormick Theological Seminary and the Evans Scholars Foundation. Jeremiah and Helen James raised two sons, Edward and Kenneth, who have followed in their parents’ footsteps of philanthropy and devotion to the Assyrian community. Northwestern University is honored to perpetuate the educational tradition of the late Jeremiah S. James and Helen James Schwarten with this lecture series.

For additional information, contact Weinberg College Events at

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