Walid Raad: Come with me, you can see it here. Can you see it? Take a close look, do you see? You see it here and here.
Earlier, do you remember when I talked about The Atlas Group? I said that I worked for 15 years on a project about the Lebanese wars. You see, I have known and I have seen how the Lebanese wars of the past four decades have affected Lebanon's residents physically and psychologically. We have 100,000 killed, we have 200,000 injured, we have a million more who have been displaced, and I don't even know how many have been psychologically traumatized.
All along with The Atlas Group, I have seen and I have known how wars affect people, they affect cities, they affect buildings, they affect streets. But what I had never thought about, what I had never considered before, was how the wars can also affect color, line, shape, and form. And some of these colors, lines, shapes, or forms, they can be affected physically, and like burned books or razed monuments, they are destroyed, they are physically destroyed and lost forever. We can never access them again.
But other colors, other lines, other shapes, other forms, they're affected in a more subtle way. They are not physically destroyed, but all of a sudden and for some reason, some artists, some writers, some thinkers start to deal with them as if they had been physically destroyed.
Let me give you an example. A woman, a painter, she paints, she paints monochromes, monochromes in a particular shade of red. She paints these monochromes for years. We know people like this, monochrome after monochrome. Well one day, she stops using this shade of red in her paintings. Well, we know artists, they go through phases, so her fans start to think, maybe she's in her blue phase, maybe she's in her yellow phase, maybe she's no longer interested in color, maybe she's become a conceptual artist or performance artist.
But dozens of years later and tens of artworks later, this shade of red still never appears in any of her artworks. Now her family begins to worry. They think that maybe she's getting old—that her eyes are weakening. So they send her to consult an ophthalmologist. The ophthalmologist examines her and he tells her, her eyes are fine, that maybe she should consult a therapist. She goes to consult a psychoanalyst, and after a few months, her analyst tells her that she's as healthy as anyone else. But this artist, this woman, she should've known that the block was never in her eyes, the block was never in her psyche. The block was in the color. The color has been affected and is no longer available.
And then there are instances, as you can see with these plates, when some colors, some lines, some shapes, some forms, they can sense the forthcoming disaster. And when they sense it, they decide to deploy defensives measures. They begin to hide, they take refuge, they hibernate, they camouflage, they dissimulate. And of course when they hid, I expected them to do so in the artworks of past artists. I thought past master paintings, master sculptures, master drawings, master buildings would be their most hospitable hosts, but I was wrong.
Instead, it seems that when some colors, some lines, some shapes, some forms, they sense the forthcoming disaster, they just jump. They just leap from where they are, and they take refuge in documents that circulate around artworks—not in artworks—but in documents that circulate around artworks.
For example, look here. They came to this dissertation. You see, it seems that they're fond of dissertations, especially ones written in a foreign language about a native culture, they love these. They always come here. And by the way, this is the first dissertation written in English about modern Arab art. Colors came here.
From time to time, lines camouflage themselves in budgets like this one, especially budgets that itemize the cost of cultural exchanges between two Arab cities, Cairo and Beirut, for example, here.
Shapes, they love to hibernate in letterheads. For example, this gallery's letterhead. And this, by the way, is the letter written by a Lebanese gallery to the Lebanese Ministry of Culture requesting the first Lebanese National Pavilion in Venice in 2005. Shapes, they hibernated here.
Forms, they're drawn to the graphic logos of companies that support the arts. They're drawn to condition reports, to floor plans, to business cards. They love price lists, catalogue covers, indices, appendices. Let's go back here, let's look at this budget. Numbers? No, these are not numbers, these are lines pretending to be numbers.
This here, this condition report. No, it's a shape taking refuge in a condition report.
Here, a book? A form, dissimulating as a book.
And of course, this is not blue, this is not yellow, this is not black.
These are the colors, lines, shapes, and forms that compose the 54 plates displayed here. Thank you.