posted by on 2006.07.20, under Uncategorized

A R T F U L Wednesdays

In light of the recent Israeli/Hezbollah fighting in Lebanon, I thought it would be appropriate to discuss the work of Walid Raad and The Atlas Group. I was first introduced to Raad’s work through Professor Gene Gort at Hartford Art School when he invited Raad as a visiting artist. He gave a slide show and presented several videos that appeared to be experimental documentaries about the Lebanese civil war. Afterwards, I remember overhearing Gene say to Jeremy something to the effect of “don’t believe a word he says.” Years later I saw Hostage: The Bachar Tapes at an LA Freewaves screening and I was reminded of how powerful Raad’s work is. This video is presented as if it is made by a Lebanese man who was held hostage with 5 Americans leading up to the Iran Contra Affair. It chronicles his hostage experience through a direct address to the camera combined with video compositing of appropriated news footage and a long take of the Mediterranean Sea. No where on the tape or in its credits does it mention Walid Ra’ad or The Atlas Group. Occasionally there are digital glitches. One thinks they are mistakes and not part of the original piece, but after a while one realizes the glitches are clues to its making, reminding the viewer that this is manipulated and edited video art not a fully factual document. Yet it still calls into question – did the Arab hostage really exist? And if so, why was his voice not heard until now (2001) and the American’s voices heard through their published memoirs in the early 1990s? Atlas Group’s website says this piece is part of files that they created but are attributed “to named imaginary individuals or organizations.” Yet Souheil Bachar has his own page on the Internet Movie Database. Hmmmm?

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