Walid Raad on A.R.T.

Inkjet print, 54.3 x 76.3 x 3.5 cm, framed. Courtesy Walid Raad.

Walid Raad, Sweet Talk. Commissions (Beirut) _ 1987.009, 1987/2019.

(1) "Two things: I seem to be stuck quoting the writer and artist Jalal Toufic whenever I am asked to write. Here I go again, from his book What Was I Thinking: “You can allow yourself when reading a bad writer not to notice many things in the book because neither the writer nor the book registered them. But in a fine book, while the writer may not have noticed them, his or her book would have registered them, that is, they have consequences elsewhere in the book. For example, some things in a fine book will seem arbitrary if we do not take into consideration the literal meaning of figurative expressions, for instance, “dead silence” (in the case of “dead silence” the nonliteral meaning, “complete silence,” and the literal one fit well, since the only complete silence, silence-over, which cannot be interrupted by sounds, is encountered or undergone in death and produces a dead stop [“dead: 9. (only before noun) complete: a dead stop”, i.e., immobilizes one). One sign that one is dealing with journalism: figurative expressions are used and function almost always only in the figurative sense; in literature when a figurative expression is used, the literal sense too has to be taken into consideration, so if someone is described as more dead than alive, these words do not simply mean “hurt and in a very poor state” (Oxford Dictionary of English, 3rd edition, 2016) —indeed the figurative expression is in a way used mainly to convey in an esoteric manner the literal sense. However poor the health of the resurrected brother of Mary and Martha (who was solely alive since resurrected by the life) might have been at some point prior to his second physical demise, and however hurt Jesus Christ, “the life” (John 11:25), was while on the cross, a great book of literature or religion would not describe either as “more dead than alive.” When said about a mortal, three sorts of people would have understood “he was more dead than alive” only in the figurative sense, as “he was hurt and in a very poor state” (A): a journalist/bad writer; a mortal, who is dead while still physically alive, in disavowal of his or her condition; and the disoriented mortal who suspects that he’s already “in” the labyrinth and has realized that noticing signs and landmarks would then be not a manner of finding out where he is and avoiding continuing to be lost “in” the labyrinth, but, misleadingly, a manner of getting more entangled “in” the labyrinth, and that he will not leave the labyrinth, which is not simply spatial, by opening some door and walking out but rather by a suspension of interpretation and an eclipse of meaning. “How to Read a Dostoevsky Novel as If One Is Reading a Newspaper?”: that could be the title of a workshop I could one day give to those who, most often one or two semesters after attending my seminar on the labyrinth, may rush into my office panicked that they are now discovering in newspapers lower depths and cryptic notes from the underground worthy of Dostoevsky.”

And, I can’t remember what drew me to paper books. But I do recall being drawn as much to the writings and images within, as to the object itself: its shape, weight, smell, color, form, cover, binding, texture, font, margins, notes, preface, footnotes, bibliography. Used books captivated me as much as new ones, especially if their previous owners marked them in highly personal ways, bending page corners, writing (hopefully something thought-provoking) or drawing between printed lines or on margins. D.U.C’s commitment to books is not only a commitment to writers, makers, designers, and readers; and to the libraries that house, care, and lend books. But it is also a commitment to all margins (physical, social, economic, ideological, sexual, ethnic, cultural, spiritual, etc.) and to what is said and unsaid between lines and images." (B)

– Walid Raad, 2021 D.U.C. Honoree

(A) All figurative expressions prove to be literal in one realm or another (death, dance, etc.). It is crucial though, as long as one is aware that they are borrowings from the literal sense, to liberate them as figurative expressions.

(B) Toufic, Jalal. What Was I Thinking? Berlin: e-flux journal-Sternberg Press, 2017. 101-102.

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