Scratching on things I could disavow: Appendix XVIII: Plate 091_A History of a Dissertation, 2009

Photo: Courtesy the artist | Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Hamburg & Beirut

Inkjet print on archival paper
164 x 132 x 4.2 cm (framed)

In 2007 Walid Raad initiated the art project Scratching on Things I Could Disavow about the history of art in the "Arab World", which leans on the recent emergence of a large new infrastructure for the visual arts in the "Arab World". These developments, when viewed alongside the geopolitical, economic, social, and military conflicts that have consumed the region in the past few decades, shape a rich yet thorny ground for creative work. With Scratching on Things I Could Disavow, Raad heeds the constraints and possibilities of this ground. A History of Modern and Contemporary Arab Art. Part 1_Chapter 1 Section 271: Appendix XVIII: is part of this project.

The Lebanese wars of the past three decades affected Lebanon's residents physically and psychologically: from the hundred thousand plus who were killed; to the two hundred thousand plus who were wounded; to the million-plus who were displaced; to the even more who were psychologically traumatized. Needless to say, the wars also affected Lebanese cities, buildings, and institutions. It is clear to me today that these wars also affected colors, lines, shapes, and forms. Some of these are affected in a material way and, like burned books or razed monuments, are physically destroyed and lost forever; others, like looted treasure or politically compromised artworks, remain physically intact but are removed from view, possibly never to be seen again. And yet other colors, lines, shapes, and forms, sensing the forthcoming danger deploy defensive measures: they hide, take refuge, hibernate, camouflage, and/or dissimulate. I expected them to do so in the artworks of past 'artists'. I thought their paintings, sculptures, films, photographs, and drawings would be their most hospitable hosts. I was wrong. Instead, colors, lines, shapes, and forms took refuge in unexpected places: they hid in Roman and Arabic letters and numbers; in circles, rectangles, and squares; in yellow, blue, and green. They dissimulated as fonts, covers, titles, and indices; as the graphic lines and footnotes of books; they camouflaged as letters, price lists, dissertations, and catalogs; as diagrams and budgets. They hibernated not in but around 'artworks'. These are the colors, lines, shapes, and forms that compose the plates displayed on this wall. – the artist, 2011

Walid Raad (Ra'ad) (Arabic: وليد رعد) (born 1967 in Chbanieh, Lebanon) is a contemporary media artist. The Atlas Group is a fictional collective, the work of which is produced by Walid Raad. He lives and works in New York, where he is currently an associate professor at the School of Art at the Cooper Union School of Art.

His works to date include film, photography, multimedia installations, and accompanying public performances. All, in one way or another, deal with the contemporary history of Lebanon with particular emphasis on the Lebanese Civil War of 1975–90. The work is also often concerned with the representation of traumatic events of collective historical dimensions; and the ways film, video, and photography function as documents of physical and psychological violence.[1] He is also a member of the Arab Image Foundation.[2]

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