Rana Hamadeh
Rana Hamadeh, Standard_Deviation, 2021, installation view Secession 2021, photo: Iris Ranzinger

Rana Hamadeh


In collaboration with Sara Hamadeh

September 17 – November 7, 2021

Rana Hamadeh’s works are characterized by engulfing delirious sonic and visual environments. She has been developing an ‘operatic practice,’ experimenting with writing and composing, and testing models for collective (and artificially-extended) forms of thinking and study. In thematic terms, her work is dedicated to an ongoing scrutiny of the epistemologies and technologies of justice. To this end, it examines tropes of violence that find their genealogies in the linguistic, legal, and theatrical infrastructures shaping our understandings of justice.

At the Secession, Hamadeh presents a new stage of her evolving animation film Standard_Deviation. The film, which was developed in close cooperation with the artist Sara Hamadeh, ventures into Sophocles’ famed tragedy Oedipus Rex. Rather than re-narrating the misfortunes of Oedipus, king of Thebes, whose grievous journey of self-discovery unfolds at the height of the Theban plague, the work conducts a reading of the dramatic constructs of Sophocles’ play itself—that is, of his figuration of tragedy as a “technology of endurance.” The film is based on a libretto written by the artist that is translated into different forms, spoken word, operatic renditions, and print. Taking a poetic approach to the ancient story, the work sheds new light on the tragedy’s course by placing the age-old characters before a backdrop of various visual and sonic references, non-linear narrative structures, and eerie spaces.

The digitally generated film sequences suggest a computer game. The film comprises two different visual logics: One logic takes the form of a 2D pixel animation reminiscent of 1980s and early 1990s platform computer games (with obstacles that need to be overcome in order to reach ‘higher levels’). The other logic manifests in a strikingly different 3D animation that reveals glimpses of the inner psyche of the characters, as if viewing the game from two different registers. The 3D-animated insights allow the viewer to accept a warped storyline in this ‘game narrative.’ The plot in the traditional sense gives way to seemingly absurd events that find their genealogy in the characters’ heightened life moments of struggle, birth, death, destruction, and resurrection.

The visualized scenarios are as dreamlike as they are sinister, the action propelled by cogwheels and prostheses. The film is structured around a recurring theme of running, as in Oedipus’s attempt to escape his destiny. Characters such as the leg, the shrimp, the block chairs, the paper plane, and the traffic cone wander through settings inspired by an anatomy theater. Theatres within theatres constantly unfold. The illusive and chimerical imagery is accompanied by a six-channel cacophonic sound composition specifically spatialized for the exhibition. The sound consistently intensifies. A mise-en-abymic loop, a sense of claustrophobia, and the incapacity to voluntarily exit the spaces that we are made to enter—the work is a play on the senses and the nervous system. The experience of trance combined with a sense of disorientation is key.

Generally, Hamadeh undertakes artistic research in discursive projects that grow and evolve over several years and take manifest form in immersive audio-visual installations and stage sets, performances, interactive sound-based system designs and compositions, as well as texts and pedagogical setups. Standard_Deviation is part of her long-term growing series, The Destiny Project. Launched in 2020, The Destiny Project aims at exploring the production, consumption, circulation, and articulation of desire in contemporary global public discourse.

Rana Hamadeh was born in Beirut in 1983 and lives and works in Rotterdam.
Sara Hamadeh was born in Beirut in 1991 and lives and works in Rotterdam.

The Destiny Project / Standard_Deviation was commissioned by SCHUNCK (Gemeente Heerlen) and made possible by SCHUNCK (Gemeente Heerlen), steirischer herbst ‘20 and Vienna Secession, with the generous contributions of the Mondriaan Fonds and Gemeente Rotterdam.