Walid Raad: Sweet Talk: Commissions (Beirut 1994)

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Walid Raad's work engages how forms of violence affect bodies, minds and culture. Moreover, it queries the instability of documents, the role of memory and narrative in conflict discourses, and the construction of histories in the face of ongoing catastrophe. Raad's practice includes photography, video, sculpture, and performance, and relies on formal and conceptual conventions borrowed from journalism, fiction, and comedy.

Raad's Sweet Talk is an ongoing set of self-assigned photographic commissions that look at the city of Beirut through thousands of negatives and digital files produced since the mid-1980s. Since the end of the Lebanese wars (approximately 1975-1991), Beirut's ravaged downtown has been under reconstruction. In 1994, a Lebanese company for the development of Beirut Central District was established, launching the largest urban redevelopment project of the 1990s.

The works in Sweet Talk: Commissions (Beirut 1994) present images - preserved referents - from Raad’s self-assigned commissions to consider the persistence of ruins and effects of the war through the city’s redevelopment. The new works at the Audain Gallery present Beirut as shifting and transitory, rising and falling. They unfold, double and mirror to reveal images of a city that is haunted psychologically and materially. In theorist/artist Jalal Toufic's words, ruins are "places haunted by the living who inhabit them"; they are "anachronistic", "resist the passage of time", and point to a "labyrinthine temporality". Sweet Talk offers a way to think through to Vancouver's continuous expansion that elides its traditions pre-city. Raad undertook research in Vancouver as part of his 2016 SFU Audain Visual Artist in Residence.

Raad was born in Chbanieh, Lebanon and works in New York where he is Professor of Art in The Cooper Union. Solo exhibitions include the Louvre, Paris; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Kunsthalle Zurich; Whitechapel Art Gallery, London; and Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin. His works have been shown in Documenta, Venice Biennale, Whitney Biennial, Sao Paulo Bienale, Istanbul Biennial, and Homeworks. He is a member of the Home Workspace Program in Beirut and The Gulf Labor Coalition.

Curated by Melanie O'Brian. Co-presented by SFU Galleries and SFU's School for the Contemporary Arts.