Abstract of the essay “Publishing as Archival Form.” in: Simulacrum 26, No. 3, 2018: p. 34-39.
Alluding to the form of a book or, rather, a loose series of drafts, prefaces, and introductions, the corpus of work that Lebanese artist Walid Raad (b. 1967) has built up over the last twenty-five years seems to resist cohesion and readability. This essay shows, how writing – as a cultural technique – is tightly linked to memory and has characteristics similar to the archive or the museum. As performed throughout Raad's work, writing is a spatialization of memory. The artist's works do themselves rarely contain an inherent epistemic value but play on both memory and forgetting and the limitations of the archive, which is bound to personal narration and knowledge that can only be conveyed through singular speech acts.
Seen from this angle, the assumed primacy of writing is replaced with speech as conveyor of knowledge: a phonocentrist impulse that permeates Raad's work and will become most evident in his performance series. This is, however, already present in the assumptions inherent in his early projects' reliance on the spoken word rather than on the written and alters the figure of the receiver from a reader to a that of a listener. Raad's body of work sets out to create productive frictions between the spoken and the written, the image and the narrative, or history and memory. Raad's publishing is 'archival' as it remains fragmentary and 'mnemonic' as it simultaneously fixates and withdraws itself from fixation.
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