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Cotton Under My Feet: A conversation with Walid Raad

January 17, 20226:00 p.m.
Casa Árabe Auditorium (at Calle Alcalá, 62). 6:00 p.m. Free entrance until the event’s capacity is reached. Mask use is required at all times.
In English with simultaneous translation into Spanish.

On Monday, 17 December, Lebanese artist Walid Raad will present Cotton Under My Feet, the book that gathers images and stories about his homonymous work, at Casa Árabe's headquarters in Madrid. 

In this artist talk, Walid Raad will present images, stories, and concepts from his three ongoing long-term projects: The Atlas Group (1989-2004); Scratching On Things I Could Disavow; and Sweet Talk: Beirut (commissions).

The artist talk is followed by the presentation of the new publication Walid Raad: Cotton Under My Feet which is accompanying the eponymous exhibition at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza. Walid Raad is joined by Guillermo Solana, director of the Thyseen-Bornemisza National Museum, and Daniela Zyman, curator of the exhibition and co-editor of the book. Also attending the event will be Irene Lozano, Director of Casa Árabe.

NOTICE: By express wish of the artist, the conference may not be recorded by any audiovisual means (photographs, videos or audio recordings). We appreciate your cooperation and understanding.

Walid Raad (Chbaniyeh, Lebanon, 1967) is a renowned multimedia artist based in New York, where he teaches at the Cooper Union School of Art. Through his works, he explores the influence that violent historical events have on our bodies and minds, as well as on culture. To do this, he does not hesitate to use a wide variety of media, including installations, performance art, videos and photography. His most notable projects include "The Atlas Group" (1989-2004), in which he dealt with Lebanon’s contemporary history.  His work has been exhibited at numerous fairs and exhibitions, such as Documenta 11 and 13, the fourteenth Istanbul Biennial, the first Vienna Biennial, the thirty-first Sao Paulo Biennial and the fiftieth Venice Biennial. He has also held solo exhibitions at major museums and galleries in Vienna, Paris, Amsterdam, Madrid, Stockholm, New York, Boston, London, Berlin and Seoul, as well as others. You can consult his work, awards and publications at Jalal Toufic.

About the catalog
In the closing decade of the twentieth century, a number of private collections were transferred to sovereign states to be housed in public museums, the institutions that anchor the modern state’s cultural and tourism infrastructure. A familiar story in so many ways and the starting point for Walid Raad’s expedition into the history of the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid. Among the wealth of objects displayed in the museum and deep in its archives, Raad encounters extremely strange stories, fictional documents and puzzling artifacts: A sixteenth century Persian carpet that is heavier than its weight; Paintings of clouds that irrupt on the backs of Old Master paintings; A large wooden structure known as the “Flat Corner with its Angel-Attractors;” Gold and silver medieval cups that attract one kind of arthropod and repulse all others; An American painter who painted two exact copies of every one of his 120 landscapes of swamps and marshes. Some of these stories reached Raad from this historical world, while others from a place called fiction, and yet others from the realm of undeath. He attributes their otherworldliness to the distorted expression of the braided historical, political, and economic forces unleashed on this world; and/or the conditions surrounding the private-to-public transfer of great wealth; and/or the storage, display, and trade of technologies created and deployed in the past two centuries in the cultural sphere (museums, fairs, auctions, festivals, catalogs, and so on). Essentially, Raad assumes that the artifacts’ strangeness must be the manifestation of political, economic, ideological, scientific, cultural, and social happenings in this world.
Brought to life in a slippery narrative marathon—a performance whose lavishly illustrated script is the core of this book—Raad entices readers to follow him into the tunnels of conjuncture he constructed. While reflecting on the potential legacy of the Thyssen-Bornemisza collections and their relation to the history of Western and non-Western art, Raad formulates a daring proposition with wide-ranging consequences: The urgent task to create just and transformative cultural institutions also rests on the ability of artists to reformulate the imaginative, metaphysical, and fictional horizons of world-making.

Published on the occasion of the eponymous exhibition, the fully illustrated 174-page publication Walid Raad: Cotton Under My Feet includes Walid Raad’s complete performance script, provided with a rich selection of archival images and supplemented by an extensive research bibliography. Essays by the exhibition curator Daniela Zyman and art historian Eva Ebersberger unpack Raad’s ritual of encounters that intermediates between history, its actualization, and the fictional. Writer and thinker Jalal Toufic elaborates on the labyrinth and the undeath realm, central concepts of Raad’s project. With introductions by TBA21 chairwoman Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza and Guillermo Solana, artistic director of the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza. Published and distributed by Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König.
Cotton Under My Feet: A conversation with Walid Raad