CAM presents a major new co-commission by Beirut-based artist and “private ear” Lawrence Abu Hamdan. Working with sound, installation, performance, and text, Abu Hamdan examines the contemporary politics of listening through two installations that attempt to capture the psychological, bodily, and spatial world of the earwitness. Often building on audio analysis that Abu Hamdan has made for legal investigations and advocacy for humanitarian organizations, his work is acutely attentive to sound. Proposing new strategies for listening, Abu Hamdan’s work questions the ways in which rights are being heard and the way voices can become politically audible. The new commission is accompanied by the US premier of the artist’s 2018 video installation and live performance, Walled Unwalled, and his 2017 work Saydnaya (the missing 19db). CAM’s presentation therefore brings together the entire body of work Abu Hamdan created based on his experience from the acoustic investigation of the Syrian regime prison of Saydnaya, which he conducted for Amnesty International and Forensic Architecture. In Saydnaya detainees are often blindfolded and left in darkness, developing an acute sensitivity to sound. Starting with the premise that crimes are more often heard than seen, Abu Hamdan’s new commission explores techniques to access sonic memories, where not all things look the way they sound or sound the way they look.
Earwitness Theatre is commissioned and produced by Chisenhale Gallery, London, in partnership with CAM, Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam, and Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane. The exhibition is organized for the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis by Wassan Al-Khudhairi, Chief Curator, with Misa Jeffereis, Assistant Curator.