The Atlas Group

We decided to let them say ‘we are convinced’ twice. It was more convincing this way
2002, 111 x 180 cm each, color photographs

images courtesy of the artist

THE ATLAS GROUP was a project undertaken by WALID RAAD between 1989 and 2004 to research and document the contemporary history of Lebanon with a particular emphasis on the Lebanese wars of 1975-1991.THE ATLAS GROUP locates, preserves, studies and produces audio, visual, literary and other documents that shed light on this history. The documents are preserved in The Atlas Group Archive which is located in Beirut and New York. With this project, the artist is not seeking political or historical truth but is instead paying close attention to political, social, economic as well as narrative, emotional and aesthetic facts.

We decided to let them say, ‘we are convinced,’ twice deploys a grid of oversized photographs that include images of smoke trailing behind fighter planes, Israeli soldiers napping next to a tank, and a crowd of onlookers observing a military action in the distance; taken as a teenager by RAAD in 1982 during the Israeli invasion of West Beirut, the blown up scale of the images in 2006 reveals damage done to the negatives over time but also betrays a digital ghosting of the images via applications of blue, green, and pink tones.

In the summer of 1982, I stood along with others in a parking lot across from my mother’s apartment in East Beirut, and watched the Israeli land, air, and sea assault on West Beirut. The PLO along with their Lebanese and Syrian allies retaliated, as best they could. East Beirut welcomed the invasion, or so it seemed, and that much is certain. West Beirut resisted it, or so it seemed, and that much is certain. One day, my mother even accompanied me to the hills around Beirut to photograph the invading Israeli army stationed there. Soldiers rested their bodies and their weapons as they waited for their next orders to attack, retreat or stay put. I was 15 in 1982, and wanted to get as close as possible to the events, or as close as my newly acquired camera and lens permitted me that summer. This past year, I came upon my carefully preserved negatives from that time. I decided to look again.

WALID RAAD was born in Lebanon in 1967. He completed a PhD at the University of Rochester in 1996 and is now an Associate Professor of Art at The Cooper Union in New York. His work includes mixed-media installations, performance, lectures, video, photography and literary essays. Earlier this year he won the 2011 Hasselblad Award, for this occasion an exhibition is actually on view at the Hasselblad Center at the Gothenburg Museum of Art, Sweden, where the Foundation has its head office until January 15, 2012.

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