Born in 1985 in Amman, Jordan, Lawrence Abu Hamdan is an artist and fellow at the Vera List Center for Art and Politics at the New School, New York. With a background in DIY music, Abu Hamdan's practice is centred on sound and its intersection with politics, and takes on a variety of forms—including performance, graphic work, audiovisual installations, photography, essays and lectures. The artist received his PhD from Goldsmiths, University of London in 2017, which involved a series of forensic audio investigations that were conducted as part of his research for Forensic Architecture.Read More
In 2012, Abu Hamdan created the audio documentary The Freedom of Speech Itself (2012), which spotlighted the UK's controversial use of voice analysis in order to determine the origins and authenticity of asylum seeker's accents, which resulted in a number of wrongful deportations. The 30 minute video is composed of a series of testimonies from lawyers, phonetic experts, asylum seekers and Home Office officials that highlight the geopolitics of accents as well as the act of listening. The work has also been exhibited as a sound installation alongside sculptural compositions of voiceprints, whose undulating, cartographic forms bind together the notions of voice and territory. Made from acoustically absorbent foam, the sculptures illustrate the frequency and amplitude of two different voices saying 'you'.
As part of his PhD research, the artist—alongside Amnesty International and Forensic Architecture—worked with survivors' of Sayndaya prison in Syria to construct the architecture of the prison through earwitness testimonies. This research was incorporated into a sound and light box installation commissioned by the 13th Sharjah Biennial, titled Saydnaya (the missing 19db) (2017). The light box illustrates that the whispers of inmates became four times lower since the beginning of the 2011 protests. This decrease is visually illustrated in the light box, along with two different voice levels demonstrating the level of whispers before and after 2011 and a third, normal conversational voice to illustrate the stark disappearance of voice over time as a direct consequence of violence and suppression. A sound piece was also played back from a dimly-lit mixing desk/sound board whose volume controls reacted autonomously according to the voices heard in the room.
The artist received the 2018 Abraaj Group Art Prize for his commissioned piece, Walled Unwalled. Projected onto a glass plate, behind another sheet of holographic foil, the work presents a series of narratives of legal cases that were constructed from evidence collected 'through walls'. In a 2018 Ocula Conversation with Mohammad Salemy, Abu Hamdan discusses the work explaining that he is 'after the condition that is depicted through the stories that are heard or experienced through walls; most explicitly through digital walls, or in terms of surveillance, when the film or camera is used to see, particularly in the context of a prison.'
In 2017, Abu Hamdan's work Rubber Coated Steel (2016) won the short film award at the Rotterdam International Film festival. His exhibition Earshot at Portikus Frankfurt (2016) was the recipient of the 2016 Nam June Paik Award. Solo exhibitions include Hammer Museum L.A. (2018), Kunsthalle St Gallen (2015), Beirut in Cairo (2013) and The Showroom in London (2012).
Tessa Moldan | Ocula | 2018
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