Born in 1967 in (Lebanon)
Lives and works in (Lebanon ) and in (United States )
Walid Raad’s work consists of texts, photography, multimedia installations, video and performances, all of which articulate an exploration of the possible representations of the war in
Having started in 1975, the Lebanese war engendered physical and psychological destruction of the country and its capital,
This vast archival project grants us access to the history of the Lebanese war in the form of personal narratives and singular stories. Walid Raad questions the nature of collective and individual history, as well as the creation of accepted historical narratives, as well as the frontiers between artistic and historical representation. Thusly Walid Raad collects documents and organizes them in order to manipulate them and write a fictional history of the Lebanese war.
In one of the group’s projects entitled My Neck is Thinner than a Hair: A History of the Car Bomb in the 1975-1991 Lebanese War, Walid Raad elaborates a metaphor comparing car bombs to stolen images. This piece seeks to write a story about the 3,614 attacks by the militias in
The spectator who is confronted by events he sees on his television is led to question his responsibility, his critical distance. How do we stop being just consumers and spectators and become active participants of events? Walid Raad’s project allows us to have a larger vision of the war in
In presenting his fictional material as real archives, Raad explores the shift between history and fiction. He transforms imaginary memories into historical archives in order to question the distinction we make between these two narrative structures.
A multimedia performance/conference entitles The Loudest Muttering is Over: Case Studies From The Atlas Group Archive, created in 2000 and redone in 2007 showcases the artist’s projects. Each subject documents one aspect of the civil war, with the help of personal journals, videos, photographs all fictional or manipulated but presented as the artist’s real archives. The piece deals with the private and the public, where each project brings together personal archives and renders them public by the Atlas Group.
The first work presented in the context of this performance deals with Dri’s notebooks. We imagine he would have been an important Lebanese historian who left his notebooks to the Atlas Group which contain the results of his and his colleagues’ horse race bets during the war that were in accordance with the balance between the denominational separations of Lebanese government: the Marxists and Muslims would bet on races numbered 1 to 7, the Maronites and the Socialists on races from 8 to 15. Raad criticizes the denominational system established by the country. In fact the Lebanese constitution stipulated that a fixed number of national assembly seats are allocated to each religious community: 64 Christians (including both Maronites and Orthodox), 64 Muslims (with Sunnis and Shiites), and the Druze (socialists). Likewise the President had to be Maronite, the Prime Minister Sunni and the speaker of the party Shiite. These notebooks detail the length of the races, including photographs of the winning horses and they contain brief descriptions of the historians. “It is important to realize that Dr. Fakhouri’s notebooks entitled ‘Missing Lebanese Wars’, deal with troubling questions about the possibilities and limits of writing a history of the recent civil war in Lebanon. The notebook compiles the history of the Lebanese historians who bet on the races depending on their political position in
Walid Raad by means of this work, questions the idea of an official and impartial source of information. Indeed during the war, the various religious and political groups took the media hostage in order to push their propaganda. He also criticizes the denominational system established in the country. With Dr. Fakhouri’s story as a point of departure Raad highlights the difficulty of writing
The second subject is a six-minute video entitled I Think it Would Be Better If I could Weep (2002) that would have been sent anonymously to the Atlas Group. The video shows a series of sunsets filmed from the Corniche, a fashionable promenade in
The third element of the performance is a video entitled Hostage: The Bachar Tapes, that relates the experience of a Lebanese hostage detained during the Western hostage crisis in
The “documents” used by Raad in his works do not show what actually happened since they were created under the guise of art, but in presenting them as archives the artist invites us to consider his idea as a “theoretical reverie” on the subject of history and memory. Transforming fiction into historical narrative Raad nullifies any opposition between these two forms. By blurring the line between history and fiction he sublimates the importance of both the process of memory and memory itself in the elaboration of all forms of narration. Through his work Raad explores the way we think about the reconstitution of historical events and more specifically the traumatic experiences in
Translated by Silvia Sabino
[i] Interview in the review, Dits, winter 2005