Come on baby light my fire

A response to Walid Raad’s artwork “Let’s be honest, the weather helped”, 1998-2006. New Photography Galleries at the MoMA, New York, 2016. 


Waalid Raad. “Let’s be honest, the weather helped”(1998-2006). MoMA, New York. 2016.


Waalid Raad. “Let’s be honest, the weather helped”(1998-2006). MoMA, New York. 2016. (detail)

After reading Lebanese artist Walid Raad’s general statement, I felt as if artists are like little Red Riding Hood and the message is subjected to a context where the artwork is often times “wolfed down” by private companies and government policies. I feel most of Raad’s artworks express a Lebanese scenery that functions as Russian roulette because life and culture as a theme are threatened at all moments by war. This stage, I believe is the response that human sensitivity in its quest for truth, reaches art as a tool to expose many years of violent oppression in Lebanon. By doing so, other individuals attracted by the beauty of forms and color, open their minds to contemplate while bearing the burden of the cruel reality. After seeing this exhibition, I have the sensation that the reason why humans need art, lies on the fact that there’s an unconscious force pushing us to comprehend while we digest questions that artworks arise. In Raad’s works, beauty is a veil that uncovers a cruel world. And if his art could sing, it would be ironically whispering Morrison’s voice to me: “You know that it would be untrue. You know that I would be a liar . If I was to say to you. Girl, we couldn’t get much higher… Come on baby, light my fire.”(MORRISON, J.).

Raad’s art is an invitation to decode who’s behind art and through his artwork “Let’s be honest, the weather helped” (RAAD, Walid), the artist confronts by collecting bullets and exposing where do they come from, the representations and limitations of news media as well as popular culture. These serie of photographies show ten different book pages where a black and white photo of a Beirut setting is intervened with many colored dots located in different forms. At a first sight, I thought about how news media might only inform us about street gunfires, yet, many ignore who makes a war gunfire possible by supplying the bullets. I believe, media representations are limited and Behind Raad’s conceptual choices there’s a thick thread exposing a shocking fact: How can european made bullets, among other countries, dig a hole in a wall in Beirut? Are these countries supporting conflict? Why? What’s more interesting is how our standardized view about Lebanon conflicts makes us blind about any possible connection to nations, whose reputation is hard to be questioned by its power. Up to what extent do we have to destroy the world in order to understand it? War is a finite game (KELLY, Kevin), yet, art is an infinite one worth playing because it keeps human sensitivity awake to bounce finite games. It took this artist ten years to understand and unveil the labyrinth of where these bullets were coming from, but the “aha” moment that this artworks produced, is instant.

“Let’s be honest, the weather helped” aesthetic choice works as a graphic mapping of his findings. At a first sight, the color codes that bullet manufacturers used to identify their cartridges, looks like a pop intervention public art project on some old house photo. However, when getting closer we understand that beauty is just a hook to decode a deeper message. Also, presenting the artwork as a photo of a book, enhances the significance of what is being told and its context. I really felt like a spy looking into files of “The Atlas Group” (RAAD, W.), or in the artist’s words (as cited in the exhibit front page flyer) “Scratching on things I could disavow: Walkthrough”. Everything in this exhibition is carefully selected, even the message he wants us to understand about the veracity of the information given in museums, since none of these facts that Raad presents are true.

Source: Walid Raad and New Photography Galleries at the MoMA.

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