Lawrence Abu Hamdan
August 29, 2019 – January 4, 2020
For his largest presentation to-date, the artist proposes 8 installations that span the last 7 years, including videos, prints, found objects, sound pieces… Describing himself as a “Private Ear”, Abu Hamdan looks through his work into the political effect of listening.
Natq is a word that, in Arabic, can be used to refer to various speech-related acts. Its most basic understanding covers the physical action of speaking; but it can also mean speaking the truth. It can be used when passing a judgement or when speaking for someone and is used to describe the speech of reincarnated subjects.
The exhibition explores several cases which revolve around a moment of utterance, or Natq: it presents After SFX and Earwitness Inventory, which are both based on interviews Abu Hamdan’s carried out himself, as well as on material from legal cases from across the world. With these works, the artist proposes a library of sound effects that could retrieve memories of acoustic violence, and reveals a language of objects, that we do not yet speak.
Challenging our understanding of privacy, and of the actual limits of physical space, Walled Unwalled a film installation currently on show at the Venice Biennale, looks into the permeability of walls. Here the ability of voices to traverse material barriers is explored as a means to dissolve the limits placed on speech.
Fundamental to Abu Hamdan’s most recent works, is the understanding of Natq as the ability to speak or write a language without having learned it – or xenoglossy. Two works in the exhibition shed light on buried historical records and unresolved injustices: a video that premiered at the Sharjah Biennial 2019 and that studies reincarnation in a case linked to the Lebanese civil war; as well as prints derived from Dr. Ian Stevenson’s theory that relates birthmarks to death and rebirth.
Natq also proposes an installation that looks at new technologies of voice analysis that are unjustly used for lie detection. The works in this show explore what testimony is, but also, through the space of art, attempt to propose what it could be. As such, Natq explores and expands the horizons of currently accepted forms of speech in today’s legal and political forums.
Ultimately, Abu Hamdan attempts to create a language for inadmissible voices and unspeakable truths, by investigating issues related to human rights, collective memory and auditory privacy. He gleans utterances that are disputed, professed, and bleeding, not only through walls, but through time.
This exhibition has been developed by the artist with the support of his team at the studio: Agata Cieslak, Nancy Naser Al Deen, and Nabla Yahya.