Raad’s archival practice follows this idea of fictionalisation and raises questions about what is fact and what is fiction when looking at archives and records of past events. Born in Lebanon, Raad’s practice often focuses on the Lebanese Civil War (1975–1990), and is a good example of how a creative practice can archive an event. Raad often presents his work as ‘research projects’ by ‘The Atlas Group’, and the work often adopts the form of documentary film and photography, literary artefacts, conference presentations or lectures, and archival dossiers. All of Raad’s work is rich with examples of how a creative practice might use or invent archival material.OCA website
Walid Raad often makes work concerned with the representation of traumatic events. Base don his past of growing up in Lebanon and having to move to the USA in 1983 due to conflict in Beirut.
The Atlas Group is a fictional foundation that he created to accommodate and contextualise his growing output of works documenting the civil wars. It addresses issues around infrastructure, and societal and psychic devastation wrought by the wars, which he then re-dates and attributes to an array of invented figures. All of his work is processed digitally.
His work blurs the lines between fiction and reality. He often says different things at different times about the collective. Sometimes saying they were formed in 1967, other times in 1999. To build on this idea of fiction v reality.
My Neck is Thinner than a Hair (2001)
My neck is thinner than a hair: Engines explores some of the thousands of car bomb explosions that occurred in Lebanon during its wars. Raad presents photographs from newspaper archives of the engines that were blasted out of the exploded cars. Though the engines rarely served as evidence in investigations of the violence, he notes that politicians often posed next to them to suggest that they were doing everything in their power to solve the crimes. In probing some of the lesser-explored aspects of the wars in Lebanon, he highlights our readiness to accept as facts the photographs and official narratives that are presented to us.
Let’s Be Honest, The Weather Helped (1998)
In Let’s be honest, the weather helped, he shares his perceptive, critical, politically engaged, and often playful perspective of the complexities of the Lebanese wars and the current boom of contemporary art in the Middle East. Raad works in a wide variety of visual media, complemented by performances and essays.
What I really like about Walid Raad’s approach that I want to use in my own archive is that he takes a real event like the Lebanese War and tells the story in a thought-provoking way but uses fiction and creativity to do so. We are left questioning, what is real and what is added on. Is the reality better or worse than the vision Raad shows us. It asks us to look at news reports in a critical way as particularly during wars they are fictionalised too to promote the propaganda of whichever perspective they are telling the story from.
Grrr.nl (2019). Walid Raad – Let’s be honest, the weather helped. [online] http://www.stedelijk.nl. Available at: https://www.stedelijk.nl/en/news/lets-be-honest-weather-helped.
MoMA (n.d.). MoMA | The Atlas Group/Walid Raad. My Neck Is Thinner Than a Hair: Engines. 1996–2004. [online] http://www.moma.org. Available at: https://www.moma.org/learn/moma_learning/walid-raad-my-neck-is-thinner-than-a-hair-engines-1996-2004/ [Accessed 9 Oct. 2022].