11th Gwangju Biennale
2. 9. – 6. 11. 2016



Lawrence Abu Hamdan

Earshot (2016) is an installation by Lawrence Abu Hamdan (b. 1985 Amman/Beirut), consisting of a video work Rubber Coated Steel and Final Vocabulary a series of prints of audio-ballistic analysis of recorded gunshots fired by Israeli solders in the occupied West Bank of Palestine. The installation departs from a murder case that began in 2014 when the artist was asked to analyze audio files that recorded the shots that killed Nadeem Nawara and Mohammad Mahmoud Odeh Abu Daher. His audio investigation, which proved that the boys were shot by real bullets and not rubber ones, became the center of a murder investigation that went through the military courts and international news networks to the US Congress, where it was used to argue that the Israelis had breached the US-Israeli arms agreement. With Earshot, the artist holds his own tribunal for these killing sounds, yet the installation does not preside over the voices of the victims but seeks to amplify their silence, questioning the ways in which rights are being heard today and the aesthetic conventions of evidence itself.

Analyzing the fundamental concepts of political speech – the oath, the right to silence, freedom of speech – Abu Hamdan’s practice uses the tools of a forensic researcher. Operating in the field of sonic analysis, the artist “attempts to measure the contemporary relationship between listening and politics, borders, human rights, testimony, and truth.” With this aim, he demonstrates that the battle for free speech is now about control over the conditions of audibility and opacity. Such is the case of Conflicted Phonemes (2012), an installation where the sonic analysis of phonetic tests used for asylum seekers by immigration authorities in the Netherlands was displayed in a graphic archive of wallpaper and posters at Casco, Utrecht. How do we visualize the relation between the development of technological apparatuses and the decaying democracy of today’s sovereign powers? This question is an echoing concern for Abu Hamdan, who has been researching the overlap between legal regimes and sound at sites for jurisdiction, such as tribunals and border control agencies.

Abu Hamdan’s research into linguistics merges with his strong background in DIY music and storytelling, creating hybrid investigation-led works. Using the format of the radio documentary, lecture-performance, or film, his projects are often text/sound compositions complemented by graphic visualizations of sonic architectures. MM


Lawrence Abu Hamdan is an artist, "private ear,” and currently a fellow at the Vera List Center for Art and Politics at the New School, New York. The artist’s forensic audio investigations are conducted as part of his research for Forensic Architecture at Goldsmiths, College University of London, where he is also a PhD candidate. His solo exhibitions include: “Earshot,” Portikus, Frankfurt (2016); “تقيه (Taqiyya)” at Kunst Halle Sankt Gallen (2015); “Tape Echo,” Beirut, Cairo and Van AbbeMuseum, Eindhoven (2013/14); “The Freedom Of Speech Itself” at The Showroom, London (2012); and “The Whole Truth” at Casco, Utrecht (2012). Additionally his works have been exhibited and performed at the New Museum Triennial (2015), the Shanghai Biennial (2014), and the Whitechapel Gallery, Tate Modern London, Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA), and the Museum of Modern Art Antwerp.