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'The truth will be known when the last witness is dead'.
Walid Raad




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nothing featured - March 05
   The Atlas Group


How do we write the history of uncertainty?

The Atlas Group : “Missing Lebanese Wars” (Detail)The Atlas Group is a framework Walid Raad has created for exploring how evidence is used to invoke the beliefs that become history. Combining images collected from popular media with narratives explaining their possible meanings, he explores the mutability of history and the authority attributed to knowledge production. Where do we look for the evidence that becomes history? Which stories are told, and who gets to tell them?

Raad’s subject is the Lebanese civil war. By making documents that are aware of that which is left out of the official history of the war, he wants to depict war's more elusive aspects. To accomplish this he turns to surprising sources.


Missing

The Atlas Group : “Missing Lebanese Wars” (Detail)Photographs of horse-race finishes cut out from a Lebanese newspaper and taped to a series of yellow notebook pages, are the central part of the piece “Missing Lebanese Wars”, presented in The Atlas Group archive as a part of the notebooks of "the famous Lebanese historian, Dr. Fadl Fakhouri". The story is of a group of historians who gathered every Sunday at a Beirut racetrack to gamble. Although they did not gamble on the races themselves; they bet on precisely how many fractions of a second before or after the horse crossed the finish line the photographer would expose the frame. Along with the newspaper photographs - which never quite capture the precise instant of victory - the notebook pages include numerous pencilled details; notations about the race's distance and duration, the historians' bets, short descriptions of the winning historian etc.


Everything is a little off

How do we handle that which is already impossible to handle? "Missing" in the title of this piece should be read as a play on "presence" in poststructuralism. Everything is a little off, a little late, or a little early. “'Missing' has this idea of longing for, yet the inability to arrive. It's as if you're always longing for that which you missed.”(Raad)


This false binary between fiction and non-fiction

The Atlas Group : “No, Illness Is Neither Here Nor There” (Detail) When Raad combines fact with fiction, his aim is not to deceive or dissemble. In Raads words: "It's not about treating the details as either real or fictional. Whenever either one happens, I'm disappointed. But it teaches me about the weight of this false binary between fiction and non-fiction and the difficulty of playing between them." Raad does work with the antithesis between fiction and non-fiction, the invented and the real, but he does so in the awareness that no historical essence may be won from it. The real could be the fictive. The fictive could be real.


Evidence of what cannot be known

Raad's fictive historian, Dr. Fakhouri, is also credited for a series of film stills in The Atlas Group archive, called “Miraculous Beginnings”. Fakhouri is in this piece said to have exposed a frame of film "every time he thought the wars had come to an end." A history of a war should also include evidence of frustration and uncertainty, proof of what cannot be known, but only longed for.


Looking at people trying to understand

The Atlas Group : “My Neck Is Thinner than a Hair” (Detail)Another way Raad is representing the history of the Lebanese wars, is by putting attention not to what "happened", but to what people look at in trying to make sense of what happened. A part of the piece “My Neck Is Thinner than a Hair” includes a series of photos of people looking at the remains of the 245 cars used as bombs and set off during the Lebanese civil war. Watching these pictures of groups of men who have gathered to look at the outcome of car bombs, we are also left looking at the ways newspapers are (not) looking at the events they are supposed to document.


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links:

The Atlas Group : “My Neck Is Thinner than a Hair” (Detail)| The Atlas Group Archive | ~ | Galerie Sfeir-Semler |





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- suggestions is gratefully accepted!

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