Lawrence Abu Hamdan’s artistic-acoustic research departs from the political dimensions of language, the vulnerability of the human voice, and the politics of sound. In the last decade, the Turner Prize 2019 co-recipient has amassed an extensive archive of sounds and objects (the Aural Contract Audio Archive), collaborated with various human rights organizations, and engaged in both classical exhibition formats and lecture-performances. In allusion to a private detective or private eye, Abu Hamdan has variously been dubbed a “private ear” and “forensic listener.” The latter hints at his affiliation with Forensic Architecture, a research institution composed of artists, architects, and scientists which has been based at Goldsmiths, University of London since 2010. They have led various investigations into violent events, human rights abuses, and the manifold systemic injustices perpetrated within nation states.
Wrapped in a conceptual, technically driven aesthetic, Abu Hamdan’s sound and video installations examine military strikes, borderlines, and prisons in the Middle East. They have also revealed how erroneous linguistic forensics is employed to determine the origins of asylum seekers throughout Europe. His work pushes toward an institutionalized politics of human rights to provide both politically and esthetically promising forums for thus unheard voices. Rendering visible (and audible) what is marginalized and silenced, this counter-hegemonic knowledge production focuses on the material and political aspects of speech. This serves to derive sense-making from the narrating subjects themselves as opposed to speaking for them.
Lawrence Abu Hamdan was awarded the Turner Prize together with the three other nominees in 2019.
(Text: Christoph Chwatal)