Walid Raad at Fondazione Volume!, Rome

Walid Raad, Letters to the Reader, 2014
MDF wood and paint, 11 panels, each 94 1/2 x 48 in. (240 x 121.9 cm) + wall text
Installation view, Paula Cooper Gallery, New York, NY, February 27 – March 26, 2016
© Walid Raad. Courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York

Fondazione Volume!
presents Yet Another Letter to the Reader, a project by Walid Raad, (Chbanieh, Lebanon, 1967), one of the most original and influential voices of the artistic scene of Middle East.

Since 1989, Walid Raad has dedicated himself to The Atlas Group (1989-2004), an art project that concentrates on the Lebanese wars of the past few decades. With his project, Raad created a number of documents (films, videotapes, notebooks, photographs) that he attributed to various imaginary individuals or organizations. Raad’s works engages how “certain events may have been lived but not experienced,” and his documents attempt to fill this gap (even if in fiction). As such, his works consider how events of physical and psychological violence may be documented and their histories written.

In 2007, Raad launched his ongoing work Scratching on Things I Can Disavow. With this new project, Raad has be­­­en concentrating on the emergence of vast new infrastructures for the arts in the Arab world, with particular focus on the emergence of large museums in the Persian Gulf: Louvre Abu Dhabi and the Abu Dhabi Guggenheim, among others. Raad’s artworks address how “Arab art” has been affected, materially and immaterially by the various conflicts that have devastated the Middle East in the past few decades. And moreover, he considers how the emerging new infrastructures hint at but also overlook these subtle and not-so-subtle changes.

For Fondazione Volume! and expanding on his current ongoing research, Walid Raad has conceived Yet Another Letter to the Reader. This project follows Postscript to the Arabic Translation which was presented in Aishti Foundation’s storage space just outside of Beirut in 2015 and Another Letter to the Reader, recently presented at XI Biennial of Gwangju.

More than thirty crates – normally used to carry and/or store works of art – come together to build walls and rooms, turning Volume! into a real and an imaginary storage place. A place that might have been inhabited by a restless painter who, as a contemporary Frenhofer, plunges his brushes in colors, lines, and forms, not for the creation of the Unknown masterpiece, but to “try to make available again (and for the first time),” as Raad has said, works of art that have been affected with an invisibility. Raad’s crates are like membranes whose surfaces hold paintings. They seem to be displayed arbitrarily, linked only by the fact that they “reproduce” artworks painted by “Arab” artists. It is also clear that his surfaces may not necessarily correspond to the crates’ contents, bringing forth questions about the relations between the crates’ outside and inside, between container and contained. In this mnemonic and visionary labyrinth, fragments of Arab artworks emerge: Huguette Caland (Lebanon, 1931), Shakir Hassan Al Said (Iraq, 1925), Ibrahim el -Salahi (Sudan, 1930), Marwan Kassab Bachi (Syria, 1934), Inji Efflatoun (Egypt, 1924), Jafar Islah (Kuwait, 1946), Hamid Nada (Egypt, 1924), Hassan Sharif (Dubai, 1951), Khalil Gibran (Lebanon, 1883). These fragments, like pieces of a puzzle, are now gathered. They seem to have found a unity and a resting spot in Rome. But they may disperse again at any time.

The exhibition has been curated by Claudia Gioia.

A talk will talk place prior to the opening of the exhibition on Thursday 2nd February 2017 at 6pm at Casa Internazionale delle Donne (Via della Lungara 19, Rome).

Fondazione Volume! –  Via San Francesco di Sales 86/88, Rome
Opening: Friday 3 February 2017, 6:30pm