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April 10 2009 6 10 /04 /April /2009 11:38

From April 10 to June 14, the REDCAT in Los Angeles exhibits a project by the Lebanese artist Walid Raad (b.1967). This exhibition is the first presentation of a research on the development of cultural infrastructures in the Arab world. Consequently, it also studies the impact of the war and other conflicts on the cultural background and tradition of those countries. Mixed media such as photography, texts, sculptures and installations are gathered to give us an idea upon the link between war and tradition, and how the look on our own countries modifies following its political evolution.

This project is in fact an extension of a first one, established in 1999 through The Atlas Group. The aim was to collect information about the contemporary history of Lebanon, with a special focus on the Lebanese war, between 1975 and 1991. The Atlas Group Archives gathered a lot of information, and quite deranging by its strong preciseness. Photographic archives, testimonies, documents, the whole classified and indexed, with for instance, this note: 3641 cars, 4386 dead. We could interpret this strange quantification and recollection of documents as a Walid Raad’s personnal way of dealing with past horrors. We should not be mistaken about those number, they are not the expression of a distant objectivity, it is on the contrary a dive into his intimacy.

In 2007, the artist extends his interest in exploring, this time in the whole Arab world he consequences, material and immaterial, of the wars in the culture and the tradition. He founds his researches on a concept elaborated by Jalal Toufic, a Lebanese writer and filmmaker : "the withdrawal of tradition past a surpassing disaster".
Toufic explains: "the surpassing disaster leads to the withdrawal not of everything, but of tradition, and touches not everyone, but a community, with the caveat that this community is reciprocally defined by it as the community of those affected by it, and this tradition is defined by it as that which withdraws as a result of the surpassing disaster…and it is thinkers, writers, artists, filmmakers, musicians, and dancers who can 'take care,' by resurrecting it, of what has withdrawn as a result of the surpassing disaster."
So, “Scratching on Things I Could Disavow: A History of Art in the Arab World /Part 1_Volume 1_Chapter 1 (Beirut: 1992-2005)”, is an example of how Raad highlights through art the way some violent events provokes in a society a withdrawal of its identity: Indeed, culture and tradition are a fundamental part of the definition of a country, and if they decrease, it would simply cause a process of disappearance.

This exhibition calls our mind and emotions to a hidden face of the war with innovation and accuracy. It touches our sensitivity differently than a normal report of the chain of damages of violent events, and it could be because this time, it deals with the disapearance of ideals, ways of expression, creativity... immaterials things which brings us, in a our everyday life, an escape from a sometimes too strong reality.

Walid Raad is also  an associate Professor of Art in the Cooper Union of New York, and a member of the Arab Image Foundotion. His  works have been shown at Documenta 11 (Kassel), the 50th Venice Biennale (Venice), The Hamburger Bahnhof (Berlin), The Museum of Modern Art (New York), Homeworks (Beirut) and numerous other museums and venues throughout Europe, the Middle East, and North America. Raad is also the recipient of the Alpert Award in Visual Arts (2007), the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize (2007), and the Camera Austria Award (2005).

[Visual :Walid Raad, Part I_Chapter 1_Section 79: On Walid Sadek's Love Is Blind (Modern Art Oxford, UK, 2006), (detail), 2009, dimensions variable, mixed media. Courtesy the artist. © Walid Raad.]

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