A Book Review in the Form of a Polemic Chad Elias’s Posthumous Images: Contemporary Art and Memory Politics in Post-Civil War Lebanon and the Old New World Order
Chad Elias’ 2018 book Posthumous Images: Contemporary Art and Memory Politics in Post-Civil War Lebanon attempts to deal with the question of post-civil war representation, image-making and contemporary art from the perspective of memory studies in Lebanon. Dealing with a particular group of artists working since the 1990’s in installation, video, film, and performance, the book attempts to create a relation between their artistic propositions and narratives on the one hand, and the post-war reckoning with the missing and disappeared, the history of former Leftist combatants, neglected space programs, reconstruction and urban space, on the other. The book has a series of shortcomings and structural, theoretical blind spots that this review essay attempts to redress. For instance, Posthumous Images has no framework for the notions of communities of witnessing, collective memory, or post-war amnesia that seems to underpin its claims, as they seem to figure only nominally. In these theoretical omissions, the essay argues, the book adopts and furthers the ideology human rights as this relates to the politics of remembrance, as well as to Lebanon’s neoliberal post-war realities. Moreover, it lacks a rigorous art historical frame to study the given artworks formally, or theoretically, leaving the book open to a post-historical method that disavows a critical, social history of art needed for an analysis of post-civil war and post-Cold war art forms in Lebanon and beyond.
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