Walid Raad charts Lebanon’s highs and lows in exhibition of two decades’ work

LABANESE artist Walid Raad may suggest his work is in some ways made possible by the wars in his homeland, but there is more to his message than conflict.

The acclaimed photographer’s latest exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery is a survey of his work from the past 20 years.

Miraculous Beginnings charts the highs and lows of the Lebanese consciousness through its wars with Israel and steely knack of picking itself up and rebuilding both infrastructure and confidence after the dust from the gunfire settles.

The exhibition uses both first-hand and manipulated images.

A series of photographs were developed from negatives which were found in the rubble of a bombed-out district of Beirut.

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The films showed unidentified men and women who were found dead in the Mediterranean.

As one of the foremost Middle Eastern artists of his generation, Mr Raad’s photo diaries and somewhat profound manipulation of true-life stills (such as the unidentified Lebanese victims in the uncovered images) make this exhibition more than a passing comment on the country.

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The works are inclusive, concentrating on both the human plight and bricks and mortar challenges facing the country over the years.

Works from Mr Raad’s previous showcases, Secrets in the open sea, Let’s be honest the weather helped and Sweet Talk: Commissions (Beirut) alongside his latest project, Scratching on Things I Could Disavow: A History of art in the Arab World, 2008-present, are included.

In 1999, Raad founded The Atlas Group – an imaginary foundation which presents Lebanon’s modern history through films, exhibitions and archived material.

Like the group, this exhibition promises to be reflective, encompassing and, at times, a little eerie.

The exhibition is free and runs at the Whitechapel Gallery until January 2.

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