Book — 17 May 2019

Remarkable artists’ book of Lebanese-American artist Walid Raad that functions as archive

In The Atlas Group (1989-2004), Raad created stories and documents about the Lebanese wars of the past few decades. Borrowing from the genres of literary fiction and conceptual photography, Raad imagines documents, characters and events that could have existed in times of war. Taken as a whole, the material comprises an archive of sorts, one that holds significant meaning for Raad, who views his imaginary documents as potential artifacts for the writing of a new history. In his practice with The Atlas Group, Raad adopts the role of archivist presenting us with his finds. These stem from historical material that is filtered through his imagination and research in an attempt to reach some of the less visible effects of war.

The book, that is published on the occasion of the exhibition, highlights two of Walid Raad’s thoughtful and witty artworks. Better be watching the clouds concentrates on the local, regional and international political figures whose faces and names became fixtures in the Lebanese landscape. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Lebanon’s Intelligence Service code-named local and international political and military leaders in the language of local flora.

As a trained botanist, Hassoun’s job was to assign the code names to the leaders. Hassoun kept track of all code names in a logbook where she collaged faces of the leaders onto flowers and trees. The plant’s name became the politician’s code name. As such, Hosni Mubarak became Dwarf Mallow; Mikhail Gorbachev, Purple Carline; Ronald Reagan, Kermes Oak; And Kamal Joumblatt, Pink Sorrell. Hassoun donated plates of this logbook to The Atlas Group in 1992.

I want to be able to welcome my father to my house leans on diaries that Raad’s father kept throughout the wars. Raad present us with documents that seem to belong to some kind of archivist, a witness and a mediator. He proceeds from found photographs and other artifacts to create the documents that provoke his but also our imagination.

These two works are brought together in an exceptional way in this artists’ book, which is designed by Roger Willems and published in collaboration with Roma Publications.

Walid Raad - Better be watching the clouds / I want to be able to welcome my father to my house, 28 pages, 21 x 30 cm, paperback, English, € 27,50 in the museum shop, ISBN: 9789492811554.