Letters to the Reader (1864, 1877, 1916, 1923)

Letters to the Reader
(1864, 1877, 1916, 1923)

Walid Raad

Letters to the Reader is part of the ongoing art project Scratching on Things I Could Disavow, initiated in 2007, and which responds to the recent emergence of large new infrastructures for ‘Islamic’ contemporary and modern ‘Arab’ art in the Arab world and elsewhere. The artworks and stories presented in his project all emerge from encounters on this ground with individuals, institutions, economies, concepts and forms.

Letters to the Reader proposes a number of prefabricated wall samples for a new Museum of Modern Arab Art in São Paulo – or Amman or Doha or Abu Dhabi or Beirut or Marrakech or Hong Kong or New York. The work is led by the conviction that many so-called ‘Modern Arab artworks’ will lack shadows when displayed in the new museum. In anticipation of this situation, the project is, on the one hand, forced to engage some of the display elements or parameters (walls, floors, paint, lights) that contribute to this shadow-less condition; and on the other, to be attentive to its consequences by coming up with possible material antidotes and/or dealing with the resulting (objective) hallucinatory manifestations.

Like in earlier work, time and history are present here in an enigmatic manner: in the form of archives that approached history, memory and remembrance with the aid of photography, film, design, architecture and discourse. These presented something akin to a ‘future in the past’, the staging of a dream reality without a referent, or at least with an obscure (or obscured) referent. A ‘future in the past’ characterised by the constant sliding between historical and fictitious narration that happens when memory is activated – revealing how much these fields actually share. – WR