EMΣΤ is pleased to present the work of Lawrence Abu Hamdan for the first time in Greece. Abu Hamdan is a “private ear” whose audio-visual installations, videos, performances, photography, essays, and lectures explore the political effects of listening, using various kinds of audio to explore its effects on human rights and law. His interest in sound and politics originates from his background as a music producer and facilitator of DIY music. The artist’s audio investigations have been used as evidence at the UK Asylum and Immigration Tribunal and as advocacy for organisations such as Amnesty International. At EMΣΤ he will show Rubber Coated Steel (2016) and Walled Unwalled (2018), two film works that explore contested borders, citizenship and freedom of movement.
Set in a facility designed with one specific function – to fire ammunition and mute the sound of the bullets – Rubber Coated Steel presents the fictitious trial of an actual murder case. The subtitles are a transcript drawn from a case focusing on an incident in May 2014, in which two unarmed teenagers, Nadeem Nawara and Mohamad Abu Daher, were shot and killed by Israeli soldiers in the occupied West Bank (Palestine). The case never came before a civil court. Instead, it was made public by the human rights organisation, Defence for Children International. Through Forensic Architecture, a Goldsmiths College-based agency that undertakes advanced architectural and media research, the organisation worked with Lawrence Abu Hamdan to publish a report, that included detailed audio analysis of the gunshots fired, which conclusively proved the guilt of the soldiers.
The piece acts as a kind of tribunal in absentia for these murders while the film becomes a new kind of legal scenography and a means of presenting the evidence that transforms the viewer into a juror. Emotions, dead bodies, loud sounds, gun shots, and even the voice itself are all removed from the video. This is a silence that forces us to listen to sound, which would be incomprehensible to most visitors, even if they were to hear it. The result is a levelling of the playing field between what is voiced and committed to language, and what is suppressed or willingly silenced.
Walled Unwalled is a film about the permeability of walls, which unfolds in an infamous Cold War–era recording studio in former East Berlin. In the year 2000 there were a total of fifteen fortified border walls and fences between sovereign nations. Today, physical barriers at sixty-three borders divide nations across four continents. And yet, all the time, millions and millions of invisible cosmic particles called muons descend into the Earth’s atmosphere and penetrate its surface meters deep, even through layers of concrete, soil, and rock. Scientists have realized that these particles can be harvested and have developed a technology to leverage their peculiar physical capacities to penetrate surfaces impervious to X-rays. Muons allowed us to see for the first time the contraband hidden in lead-lined shipping containers, and secret chambers buried inside the stone walls of the pyramids. Now no wall on Earth is impenetrable. Historically, walls have served as both an architectural and a legal device—legal in that they define the limits of a city and its jurisdiction, and architectural in the sense that the walls of the home are a barrier between public (civic) and private life. The history of the self and the citizen, and the notion of the enclosed room, city, or nation are intertwined. What does it mean for us as subjects that we are building more walls than ever? And more to the point, what are the implications of walls being no longer physically or conceptually solid or impenetrable? Walled Unwalled reminds us of examples of sweeping state surveillance.
Press release from EMΣΤ.