Response to Walid Raad’s artworks at MoMA

I find the concept of multiverse interesting and problematic at the same time. Interesting because it opens a whole new set of possibilities (and impossibilities alike!), and problematic because it hits me hard every single time when I wind up the contemplation and go back to real life. Stepping outside into crowded streets of Manhattan was therefore a really difficult transition after experiencing Walid Raad’s “Scratching on things I could disavow” at MoMA.

The first floor showcased a series of miniature versions of his artworks, one after the other. The entire exhibition on this floor was wrapped in a mysterious, vague aura as it gradually incepted doubts: whether the addressed events actually happened or not. The last few pieces were based on clearly unreal events( for example ‘artists from the future communicating with Walid Raad via telepathy’) but the gradual change in tone of the descriptive text made it compelling enough. Environment of the art gallery also had a share in it since the place was quiet and viewers didn’t intend or dare to publicly express their disbelief. This was my first visit to MoMA and it worked really well- I wasn’t sure about the regulations followed in here such as the use of photography and general acceptable volume level of smalltalks. These factors induced another layer of mystery.

On the next floor there were actual artworks in form of notes, photographs, video recordings and paintings. The walkthrough began with a set of artifact pieces that the artist ‘received in a deformed condition’, juxtaposed with reimagined forms and supporting text.

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These works appeared legit and real in the beginning. Later the artist himself visited the floor and explained the stories. He mentioned that the artworks ‘lost their shadows and I had to reimagine and create them back’. It was certainly obscure with some misplaced sense of reality as we know it. However there was a strong conviction with which he confidently narrated the whole story with a serious tone, as though it was real. It was a spectacular performance.

Next there were photographs of shells and rockets. These images appeared completely real. I particularly found the arrangement of artworks very effective: First there were close-ups of the shells and bullets. Next there was a wall full of simple frames, each showing just a tiny explosion in the center of the canvas. Do these dangerous weapons make a very little impact in a greater scheme of things?

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I liked the narration when he described horses in a race and attempts to capture the winning horse reaching the finish line. In addition to the fact that horse is a powerful symbol that connects to so many representations such as speed, time, strength, discipline, and power, I found the photographs of horse and the rider together as a much interesting component of artwork.

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