Lawrence Abu Hamdan: Earwitness Theatre

28th September – 21st December

Institute of Modern Art

The first solo exhibition in Australia by Beirut-based artist and ‘private ear’ Lawrence Abu Hamdan presents a new co-commission, Earwitness Theatre. Abu Hamdan’s practice examines the politics of listening through installations acutely attuned to sound.

Presenting an expanded library of over 90 sourced and custom-designed objects accompanied by an animated text work, Earwitness Inventory (2018) explores the hallucinatory world of the earwitness. This work is informed by Abu Hamdan’s acoustic studies of the Syrian prison of Saydnaya in 2016 and legal cases across the world in which sonic evidence is contested and acoustic memories need to be retrieved. The installation reflects on how the experience and memory of acoustic violence is connected to the production of sound effects.

Alongside Earwitness Inventory is a contained listening room hosting the audio work Saydnaya (the missing 19db) (2017). In this work Abu Hamdan oscillates between listening to the testimony of former detainees and listening to their reenacted whispers as a form of sonic evidence in itself. The violations taking place internally at the prison are only accessible through the recorded memories of the few who are released.

Abu Hamdan’s investigations into Saydnaya are extended with presentation of his recent performance-video installation Walled Unwalled (2018). Here a series of performance reenactments and a monologue comprise an interlinking series of narratives; legal cases that revolved around evidence heard or experienced through walls.

Earwitness Theatre attempts to capture the psychological, bodily, and spatial world of the earwitness—where sounds are remembered as images, where objects have unexpected echoes, and where silence becomes an entire language.

Abu Hamdan has been selected as a finalist for the prestigious Turner Prize for this exhibition.

Lawrence Abu Hamdan: Earwitness Theatre is commissioned and produced by Chisenhale Gallery, London, in partnership with the IMA; Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam; and Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, Missouri.

Saydnaya (the missing 19db) (2017) was commissioned by Sharjah Art Foundation.

Image: Lawrence Abu Hamdan, ‘Earwitness Theatre’. Installation view: Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, May 17–August 18, 2019. Photo: Dusty Kessler.

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