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Raad [Ra’ad], Walidlocked

(b Chbanieh, June 15, 1967).
  • Mitra Monir Abbaspour

Lebanese conceptual artist, photographer, video and performance artist active also in America. Raad received his BFA in photography from the Rochester Institute of Technology in 1989, and completed his MA and PhD in Cultural and Visual Studies at the University of Rochester in 1993 and 1996, respectively, and in 2002 became an associate professor at the Cooper Union School in New York. History and its representation, narration, and memory are the central themes of Raad’s work. His experience of the Lebanese wars between 1975 and 1991 and their ongoing effects inform his inquiries into the methods of historical documents.

Raad began contending with narratives of the Lebanese wars in a series of short video documentaries that included Up to the South (1993)–a collaboration with Lebanese artist Jayce Salloum (b 1958)—and Missing Lebanese Wars (1996). Characteristic of his later practice, these videos critically employ a genre (documentary film) associated with factual reportage, foregrounding the relationship between subject and method of the work.

Raad’s best known series is The Atlas Group Archive (1989–2004), a project launched in 1999 that encompassed photographs, prints, videos, installations, a website, and lecture-style performances. Each of the files in the Archive presents a specific meditation on the Lebanese wars that has been meticulously crafted by Raad himself, yet is attributed to a fictional author, historical context, and set of circumstances. The original documents, which often include found photographs culled from outside archives, are never exhibited; instead, Raad digitally reproduces them in various media. Many of the Archive’s files have a diaristic nature, and Raad plays on the tension between the quotidian experience of war and its more profound psychic and physical trauma.

In two ongoing series, Sweet Talk: Commissions (Beirut) (1987–) and Scratching on Things I Could Disavow: A History of Art in the Arab World (2007–), Raad continues to explore the problematic of representation in a post-traumatic state. In this inquiry, he draws on the ideas of his contemporary, Lebanese philosopher Jalal Toufic (b 1962). Raad explores potential manifestations of Toufic’s concept of ‘surpassing disaster’, an event that forever alters the possibility of perception, by employing extremes of scale and cropping as visual strategies.

Raad is part of an interconnected community of Lebanese artists and intellectuals who came of age during the wars of 1975–91. Of this generational group, he is arguably the best known within international art circles. The Atlas Group series is a hallmark of the widespread fascination with conceptual archives that characterized artistic production in the first decade of the 2000s. Early exhibitions of The Atlas Group project include the 2000 Whitney Biennial and Documenta XI (2002). Raad’s work is held in the collections of major museums, including the Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim Museum, both in New York, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, MN, the Kunsthaus Zürich, the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, and others.

Writings

  • The Truth Will Be Known When the Last Witness Is Dead: Documents from the Fakhouri File in The Atlas Group Archive, vol. 1 (Cologne, 2004)
  • My Neck Is Thinner Than a Hair: Documents from the Atlas Group Archive, vol. 2 (Cologne, 2005)
  • Let’s Be Honest, the Weather Helped: Documents from the Atlas Group Archive, vol. 3 (exh. cat., Cologne, Walther König; Seattle, Henry Art Gallery; Arles, Rencontres d’Arles; 2007)
  • Scratching on Things I Could Disavow: Some Essays from the Atlas Group Project (Lisbon, Cologne, and New York, 2007)
  • Walid Raad: I Might Die Before I Get a Rifle: Hasselblad Award 2011 (exh. cat. Gothenburg, 2011)

Bibliography

  • C. David, ed.: Tamass: 1 Beirut (Barcelona, 2002)
  • S. Kolbowski, W. Raad, and A. Cesarco: Between Artists (New York, 2006)
  • The Atlas Group (1984–2004): A Project by Walid Raad (exh. cat. by K. Nakas and B. Schmitz, Berlin, Hamburg. Bahnhof, 2007)
  • Miraculous Beginnings: Walid Raad (exh. cat., essay by A. Borchardt-Hume, London, Whitechapel A. G., 2010)
  • The Atlas Group Archive: http://www.theatlasgroup.org (accessed 27 Sept 2012)