Kunsthalle Zürich

In its still short history, the Kunsthalle Zürich has established itself as one of the most renowned houses for international contemporary art. As an active institution with a broad network, it takes up an eminent position in the local, national as well as international cultural sphere.

Since 1996 the Kunsthalle Zürich has been at the heart and centre of the Löwenbräu complex – a former brewery – next to the migros museum für gegenwartskunst, the Daros Collection and important galleries for contemporary art. A complex and pulsating platform, the Löwenbräu stands worldwide as a unique model for a site that unites commercial, private and public domains of contemporary art under one and the same roof.

Founded in 1985 the Kunsthalle Zürich features five large-scale solo or group exhibitions and – in its additional exhibition spaces "Kunsthalle Zürich Parallel" – three to five smaller exhibitions per year in alternating display formats. 

In close dialogue with the artists, first survey shows of their works are usually arranged. By introducing new manners of perception and productions of mostly younger artists to a wider public, the artistically creative developments of the present time are showcased in an exemplary fashion.

Together with an extensive programme of lectures, artist’s talks, symposia, public guided tours and an educational programme for children and young adults the Kunsthalle Zürich aims at making visible new ways of seeing through art, thus creating a platform for intellectual discourse and for the exchange of new thoughts and ideas.

Walid Raad "Miraculous Beginnings"
26 August – 30 October 2011

What forms, stories, gestures, and concepts are made possible by wars? How are certain events lived but not experienced? How does violence affect art, culture and tradition in material and im-material ways? The work of the artist Walid Raad, who was born in Chbanieh, Lebanon, in 1967 and currently lives, works and teaches in New York, has been revolving around these questions for 20 years now. His oeuvre includes photographs, videos, sculptures, installations and performances.

Walid Raad is one of the most important figures of his generation of young artists from the Middle East. The exhibition «Walid Raad – Miraculous Beginnings», which was organized in cooperation with the Whitechapel Gallery in London, presents a broad overview of his works from the past 20 years. The exhibition also provides insight into an oeuvre that scrutinizes the notions of document, fact, and fiction in film, photography, video, performance, history, and art history. «Walid Raad – Miraculous Beginnings» brings together the extensive groups of photographs and video works which the author created with The Atlas Group (1989–2004), his project in fiction about the Lebanese wars, and his latest project Scratching on Things I Could Disavow: A History of Art in the Arab World (2008–present), a provocative exploration by the artist of the situations, stories, and forms made possible by the recent art boom in the Middle East.

A free-standing wall system, which explores the theatrical dimension of museum-based forms of presentation and which highlights the mise-en-scène aspects of the work, was specially developed for the presentation of this visually and physically comprehensive oeuvre at the Kunsthalle Zürich in the Museum Bärengasse.

The Atlas Group (1989–2004)

The Atlas Group series of works is rooted in Walid Raad’s experiences in Lebanon over the past forty years. It is mainly dedicated to the exploration and documentation of the Lebanese wars of the past few decades. The accompanying archive, The Atlas Group Archive, contains audiovisual, photographic, literary and other documents which are classified in three categories: [cat. A] – documents that are attributable to an identifiable individual; [cat. FD] – found documents; and [cat. AGP] – documents attributable to The Atlas Group. Raad’s archive does not contain artworks that present immediate images of what happened during the wars. Instead, they present stories and forms linked to what can be said, thought, and imagined about the wars. Some of The Atlas Group files are attributed to fictitious figures and others to historical ones thus raising additional questions about the concept of the witness made possible by the Lebanese wars. With The Atlas Group, the artist is not seeking political or historical truth but is instead paying close attention to political, social, economic as well as narrative, emotional and aesthetic facts.

Scratching on Things I Could Disavow: A History of Art in the Arab World (2008–present)

The second project presented in the exhibition is titled Scratching on Things I Could Disavow: A History of Art in the Arab World. This project explores the emergence of a large new infrastructure for the arts in the Middle East and its effects on artistic production in the region. Walid Raad observes the emergence of new art museums, galleries, schools and cultural organisations in cities like Abu Dhabi, Amman, Beirut, Cairo and other cities with fascination. The buildings designed by internationally renowned architects – e. g. the largest-to-date Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Museum by Frank Gehry, an Abu Dhabi Louvre Museum by Jean Nouvel and the Performing Arts Centre by Zaha Hadid, all located on Saadiyat Island, the “Island of Happiness” in Abu Dhabi – are the most visible symptoms of this emerging infrastructure, and also stand for Raad as the distorted mirror through which to view how art and culture in the Arab world have been affected materially and immaterially by the various conflicts that have ravaged the region in the past century. Raad’s artworks present some of the unusual forms, colours, and stories made possible by this massive investment in art in the Middle East.

Photo Gallery

Walid Raad, Miraculous Beginnings, 26 August - 30 October 2011

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