Earwitness Theatre. Non-neutral sound evidences

At Chisenhale Gallery in London, a research by Lawrence Abu Hamdan on the construction of memory through sound evidences provided by the survivors of Syrian prisons.

Lawrence Abu Hamdan - 3 whispers

Where vision is denied ­– and so are human life and human rights – memory does not give up, finding alternative means of constructions and affirmation. That is the place where sound becomes an evidence, material for resistance, no longer a neutral medium.
In 2016, Beirut-based artist Lawrence Abu Hamdan was asked to create dedicated earwitness interviews for Amnesty International and Forensic Architecture, Goldsmiths, University of London’s investigation into the Syrian regime prison of Saydnaya, where  13,000 people are estimated having been executed since 2011. Inaccessible to independent observers and monitors, the violations taking place at the prison are only recorded through the memory of those few who are released: still, their capacity to see anything is highly restricted as they are mostly kept in darkness or blindfolded.

Abu Hamdan used BBC and Warner Brothers Sound Effects Libraries, as well as encouraging the mouthing-out of sounds and the use of test-tones, to gain insight into the actions taking place inside the prison. In the attempt to create a more effective and truthful set of tools for aural memory, he started to collect his own specific sound effects library.
For “Earwitness Theatre”, his exhibition at Chisenhale Gallery, Abu Hamdan presents this expanded library of objects for the first time. Earwitness Inventory (2018) is comprised of 95 custom designed and sourced objects all derived from legal cases in which sonic evidence is contested and acoustic memories need to be retrieved. 

The inventory is completed by new animated text work; central to the exhibition, and surrounded by this collection of objects is a contained listening room hosting the audio work Saydnaya (the missing 19db) (2017), oscillating between listening to the testimony of former detainees and listening to their reenacted whispers as a form of sonic evidence in itself. In developing Abu Hamdan’s enquiry into the political effects of listening, “Earwitness Theatre” comments on the processes of reconstruction, addressing the complexity of memory and language, and the urgency of human rights and advocacy. 

Exhibition title:
Earwitness Theatre
Lawrence Abu Hamdan
Chisenhale Gallery
64 Chisenhale Road, London E3 5QZ
21 Settembre - 9 dicembre 2018
Production and next exhibition venues:
Chisenhale Gallery, Londra; Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam; Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis; Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane

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