Curated by writer, academic, and playwright Jane Taylor, Season 4 of The Centre for the Less Good Idea takes the shape of a Collapsed Conference – a series of talks, presentations and ideas all told through performance.
Walid Raad | Performance and In Conversation | Double Bill
It’s difficult to imagine a more fitting start to The Centre for the Less Good Idea’s 4th season than a double bill featuring Lebanon-born, New York-based artist and academic Walid Raad.
Comprised of an artist talk followed by a public conversation between Raad and founder of The Centre for the Less Good Idea, William Kentridge, Raad’s performance served as the perfect primer to the season 4’s overarching theme of the ‘collapsed conference’ curated by academic and theatre-maker Jane Taylor.
Raad who’s well-known for his work on the contemporary history of Lebanon, with a specific focus on the country’s wars between 1975 and 1991, conducted a talk in the form of a lecture, the contents of which were largely formulated through fictional archives while being dotted with moments of truth. The artist delved into historical accounts of car bombs, the practice of betting on horses, and more. Seemingly watertight arguments and findings were presented to the audience before collapsing in on themselves and leaving only fragments of fact and fiction.
As you watch Raad, you are taking notes – unconsciously or otherwise – about the validity of the information you are being fed, and of the performance itself. ‘This bit must be true,’ you find yourself thinking, ‘But this can’t be true.’ But prospecting truth from muddied or fabricated versions of history is beside the point with Raad’s performance. His lecture essentially calls into question the nature of truth and of fiction, rather than the differences between the two. By taking the structure of a performance, it also calls attention to the integrity of performance itself and, ultimately, uses fiction to highlight the obscurity, the audacity, and the incomprehensibility of the truth – something that’s all too relatable when it comes to South Africa’s own fixation with the archive.
In the discussion between Kentridge and Raad which followed the performance, the two discuss the use of archival information, found media, and the artist’s own creations to deliberate on the idea of history as a construction, and the archive as a collection of disjointed truths and realities, skewed by time, language, and medium.
One of the core questions being put forward through the various performances of Season 4 is: What happens to an academic argument when it’s channeled through, or constrained by, the medium of performance? Raad’s performance, then, was an excellent way to begin puzzling it all out.
For the full conversation between Walid Raad and William Kentridge go to | https://vimeo.com/300123940
Animateur for The Centre | Bronwyn Lace
Cinematography and Editor | Noah Cohen
Project Manager | Shruthi Nair
Lights | Wesley France and Guy Nelson
Sound | SoulFire Studios and Zain Vally
Stage Management | Hayleigh Evans and PopArt Productions
Writer | Dave Mann