Walid Raad
Lebanon, 1967
Walid Raad (Chbanieh, Lebanon) uses his work to analyse and explore the armed conflicts that have shaped the recent history of Lebanon in particular and the Arab world in general. When Israel invaded Lebanon in the early eighties, Raad immigrated to the United States. He briefly studied medicine at Boston University, before moving to Rochester, NY, where he studied art and did a PhD in visual and cultural studies at the University of Rochester. He has had shows at leading contemporary art events and museums in Europe, America and the Middle East, including the Whitney Biennial and MoMA in New York, Documenta in Kassel and the Venice Biennale. His work uses texts and images to create a new historiography of the violent events that have marked the life of Lebanon, especially during the civil war that devastated the country between 1975 and 1991. Raad rescues and creates audio, visual and text documents from the period and gives them a new narrative that questions the official construction of history. His work blurs this history—often fabricated because of ideological and/or political interests—by stressing other, non-dominant focuses and alternative ways of managing the traumatic experience of the war. His readings draw from the disastrous consequences of the civil war and he fashions a complex representation of this drama from both a psychological and physical perspective. Walid Raad’s work creates reinterpretations of the past based on purportedly genuine sources and accounts and leads to a constant questioning of what receives the stamp of legitimacy as something true and unquestionable and which other possible visions and experiences of the same events are therefore excluded. He took a major step in his artistic career in 1999 when he set up The Atlas Group, a fictitious foundation active until 2004 that aimed to research and document the civil war in Lebanon and which had archives in New York and Beirut. Through the foundation’s notebooks, photographs and audiovisual materials—and apocryphal characters such as Lebanese historian Dr Fadl Fakhouri, with his photo albums, and hostage Souheil Bachar, who supposedly made videotapes during his captivity in Beirut—Raad explores concepts such as memory, experience, authenticity and the falsification of events that help explain the history of a place. His work is characterised by the use of archives as display and he uses formats that range from video and photography to text, audio, installation and performance. Rooted in both documentary and political conceptual art, his work constantly forces us to question the truth of the representations of history we are presented with. Raad currently lives in New York and is an associate professor of art at The Cooper Union. Since 1996 he has been a member of the Arab Image Foundation.

Artworks by the artist included in the Collection Artworks by the artist included in the Collection

  • I might die before I get a rifle / 1989 -