, sound is more than an art form, or even a fact of life. The self-described “private ear” uses various kinds of audio in installations, performances, and graphic works that interrogate the effects of sound on human rights—how voices are silenced, and how they can be heard and answered.
Lawrence Abu Hamdan
“When I meet a curator who tells me that she or he is interested in the ‘politics of listening,’” said Omar Kholeif, senior curator and director of collections at the Sharjah Art Foundation, “I smile and look inwards, knowing that person has in some way or another been influenced by the work of Lawrence Abu Hamdan.”
“Earwitness Theatre,” his 2018 presentation at London’s Chisenhale Gallery, garnered Abu Hamdan a nomination for the prestigious Turner Prize this year. “Earwitness Theatre” built upon the artist’s audio investigations into the brutal Syrian prison of Saydnaya, where detainees are often blindfolded and left in the dark. His “earwitness testimony” translates witness descriptions of sound effects “like somebody dropping a rack of trays” to the ricochet of a gunshot. The work has political currency: Abu Hamdan developed the project with
and Amnesty International for use in legal investigations and advocacy for humanitarian rights. “He has been able to shift the discourse around how we listen and interrogate why we listen,” Kholeif said.