In the files of the Atlas Group, an “imaginary foundation” co-created and administered by the Lebanese artist Walid Raad “whose purpose is to collect, produce, and archive documents of the Lebanese civil wars,” there are nearly one hundred black-and-white photographs chronicling the wreckage of a fraction of the 3,641 car bombs set off in Lebanon between 1975 and 1991. “The only part that remains intact after a car bomb explodes is the engine,” Raad writes in the introduction to My Neck Is Thinner than a Hair (2005). “Landing on balconies, roofs or adjacent streets, the engine is projected tens and sometimes hundreds of meters away from the original site of the bomb.” The photographs depict not the grisly crime scenes, splayed bodies, and bloodied streets but rather the helpless aftermaths of these punctual murders; men stand around the hulks of destroyed vehicles, some of them still aflame. The inert shells of twisted metal, harmless, only hint at the carnage the photographers have failed to capture.
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