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Lawrence Abu Hamdan Nominated for the Turner Prize 2019

Beirut-based artist and audio investigator Lawrence Abu Hamdan is among four artists short-listed for the Turner Prize 2019, one of the best known prizes for visual arts in the world.

Beirut-based Lawrence Abu Hamdan (1985, Jordan) is a contemporary artist and “audio investigator” whose interest in sound and its intersection with politics originates from his background as a touring musician and facilitator of DIY music. His work looks into the political effects of listening, using various kinds of audio to explore its effects on human rights and law.  The artist’s audio investigations have been used as evidence at the UK Asylum and Immigration Tribunal and as advocacy for organisations such as Amnesty International and Defence for Children International.

Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Courtesy of Sfeir-Semler Gallery

Abu Hamdan’s nominated exhibition, Earwitness Theatre at London’s Chisenhale Gallery (2018), grows on the artist’s enquiries into the political effects of listening, questioning the ways in which rights are being heard and the way voices can become politically audible.

At Chisenhale Gallery, Abu Hamdan presented Earwitness Inventory (2018) comprised of 95 custom-designed and sourced objects all derived from legal cases in which sonic evidence is contested and acoustic memories need to be retrieved.

As part of this body of work, Abu Hamdan also presented his expanded video installation Walled Unwalled (2018) which won the Abraaj Group Art Prize at Art Dubai in 2018. The video work went on to be exhibited at London’s Tate Modern in the same year and is currently on view in the main exhibition at the Venice Biennale 2019.

Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Walled Unwalled (2018), Courtesy of Art Dubai and Photo Solutions

In this single-channel 20-minute performance-video installation presented as a projection onto (and through) a glass wall, Abu Hamdan speaks behind the windows of an infamous cold war-era recording studio in former East Berlin on an interlinking series of narratives derived from legal cases that revolved around evidence that was obtained or experienced through walls, doors and floors.

Amongst the cases are the US Supreme court thermal imaging case Kyllo v. United States (2001), the murder trial of Oscar Pistorius in South Africa (2014) and the earwitness interviews he created in 2016 for Amnesty International and Forensic Architecture, Goldsmiths, University of London’s investigation into the Syrian regime prison of Saydnaya.

Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Earwitness Theatre (2018), Courtesy of Chisenhale Gallery and Andy Keate

During Art Week 2019 (March 17-24), Abu Hamdan temporarily relocated his studio from Beirut to Dubai, developing work for Sharjah Biennial 14 (ends June 10) as well as inviting visitors to explore his works that use photography, sound, and video to experiment with speech, silence and testimony.

Abu Hamdan’s work joins the other three short-listed artists are Helen Cammock (1970, UK), Tai Shani (1976, UK) and Oscar Murillo (1986, Colombia) in an exhibition at the Turner Contemporary in Margate, Kent from September 2019 to January 2020, with the winner announced on 3 December.

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