Lebanese-born artist Walid Raad’s precise archival aesthetic belies his core concern: the limits of documentation to represent the psychic effects of war and trauma. His retrospective at MoMA, comprising more than 200 objects, gathers together two projects that meld fact and fiction. The third floor display consists mainly of work attributed to the Atlas Group (1989-2004), a fictive historical organization tasked with recording Lebanese history. Raad produced series “authored” by different characters archiving phenomena alternately minute and tragic, such as the color of every bullet tip that destroyed property during the civil war or the horse race betting habits of historians. More recently, Raad has embarked on a project entitled “Scratching on things I could disavow,” examining the burgeoning culture industry in the Middle East. Central to this inquiry is his unmissable Walkthrough performance where, against a series of backdrops in the atrium, he delivers a lecture that slides from truth to speculation. His ticketed presentation, performed several times a week, unpacks the factual origins of the Artist Pension Trust, a disruptive incident at the future opening of the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi and the mysterious fate befalling his work during an exhibition installation.
Pictured: Installation view of “Walid Raad,” 2015; at the Museum of Modern Art © 2015 The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Photo Thomas Griesel.