STOCKHOLM – On September 1st, 2021, Turner prize winner and self-proclaimed “private ear” Lawrence Abu Hamdan opened the most expansive exhibition of his career featuring many of his most iconic works to date at Stockholm’s Bonniers Konsthall.

Najla Abdellatif at the entrance of Dirty Evidence, image courtesy of Najla.

Najla Abdellatif is a Palestinian-Swedish environmental activist and art lover who took artmejo with her around Abu Hamdan’s Dirty Evidence showcase. In her tour, Najla experienced the artist’s use of the “aesthetic practice of art as an alternative vis-à-vis the aesthetic practices of the media and juridical to uncover and challenge their representational logic” as promised in the exhibition text. 

Dirty Evidence by Lawrence Abu Hamdan continues at Stockholm’s Bonniers Konsthall until November 2nd. Below is a wrap up of the show:

Earwitness Inventory, 2018-Ongoing:

Installation comprising ninety-six sourced and custom-designed objects/instruments and a video on screen

Earwitness Inventory is comprised of 96 custom-designed and sourced objects all derived from legal cases in which sonic evidence is contested and acoustic memories need to be retrieved, which challenges what we know about memory and testimony. Various objects like mops, a popcorn machine, shoes, and bottles are seen placed on evidence cabinets and invite visitors to expand their mind’s ear to find new emotional applications and sonic parodies to the sounds these objects can make.

After SFX, 2018:

Six-channel audiovisual installation and performance by the artist (26:45 min.)

After SFX is a 6 channel audiovisual installation using the sounds and stories from Abu Hamdan’s self-constructed sound effects library specific to the investigation of earwitness testimony. The 96 objects seen in Earwitness Inventory were sourced from a series of ‘earwitness’ interviews Abu Hamdan conducted himself as well as from trial transcripts from across the world. In After SFX the artist raises the question of describing sonic memories when precision is vital and vocabulary is lost.

Saydnaya (The Missing 19dB), 2017:

Installation comprising a chromogenic print in a lightbox (243 × 30.5 × 10 cm), sound piece (12:48 min.), and automated mixing deck, image courtesy of Najla Abdellatif 

In 2016, Abu Hamdan started working with Amnesty International and Forensic Architecture to produce an acoustic investigation into the Syrian-regime prison of Saydnaya. Saydnaya (The Missing 19dB) was the result of investigations with previous inmates from the Saydnaya prison located 25 kilometers north of Damascus. The lightbox in the installation documents the way in which the whisper of the inmates became four times quieter after the 2011 protests in Syria began; showing a decreasing sound level of a voice speaking at normal conversational volume, a voice demonstrating the level at which one could speak in Saydnaya before 2011 and finally the level at which one could speak after the 2011 protests. The 19-decibel drop in the capacity to speak stands as a testament to the transformation of Saydnaya from a prison to a death camp.

Once Removed, 2019:

Single-channel video (color, sound, 28 min.)
Shot Twice (With the Same Bullet), 2021, HD Video and 8 Lightboxes

Once Removed is an audiovisual installation that acts as a portrait of the time-traveling life and work of Bassel Abi Chahine. Abi Chahine obtained the single most comprehensive inventory of extremely rare objects, photographs, and interviews associated with the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) and the PSP (Progressive Socialist Party) socialist militias led by Walid Jumblatt during the Lebanese Civil War. While looking through the inventory, Abi Chahine began experiencing extreme sensations of nostalgia, flashbacks, and unexplainable memories from a previous life. He came to realize that his lucid and personal memories of the war are due to the fact that he is the reincarnation of a soldier named Yousef Fouad Al Jawhary, who died in Aley, Lebanon, on February 26, 1984, at age sixteen.

A Speculative Portrait (for a Boy Who Returned without His Face), 2020:

Video, looped, 0:38 min, images from Abu Hamdan’s website

This video showcases the reconstruction process of the face of Yousef Fouad Al Jawhary who was killed during the Lebanese Civil war at the age of 16 using a sole image of him taken at the age of 6 compared with images of his brother and father, to see what he could have looked like as a teenager. In this work, Abu Hamdan approached Dr. Caroline Wilkinson at Face Lab, a research group at Liverpool John Moores University to carry out forensic archaeological research.

About collaborator Najla Abdellatif:

Najla Abdellatif is a Swedish Palestinian who spent her upbringing in between Jerusalem, Amman, and Sweden. The constant state of transit throughout time awakened her to the sense of belonging to the land. Her interest in photography started during her high school years in Amman, and she would later go on to pursue higher education in analog photography with darkroom and film development in Sweden.

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