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This composition is part of Lawrence Abu Hamdan’s ongoing Aural Contract project which is a series of events, publications, performances, exhibitions, interviews, audio and workshops examining the politics of listening through a focus on the role of the voice in law.
As part of his exhibition at the Showroom, 'Aural Contract: The Freedom Of Speech Itself', Abu Hamdan ran a workshop exploring Harold Pinter’s 1988 play 'Mountain Language'. This play was constructed as an indictment against the bans and regulations enforced upon speech during Margaret Thatcher’s Britain as well as the banning of the Kurdish Language in Turkey.
Pinter’s play is an important reference for Aural Contract, as although the play dramatizes a banned language from the mountains, the only language spoken by any of the characters is english; the same language to represent both oppressor and oppressed. By excluding the easy distinction of two different languages, Pinter locates his critique not in the politics of language and the domination of one language over the other, but rather in the politics of amplitude and the domination of the one who determines which voices (as opposed to languages) are allowed to be heard and which are not. Pinter disorientates the ears of the audience and in turn positions them as the enforcers who must determine which of these english speaking voices are forbidden and which are permissible.
Mirroring this process, participants for Abu Hamdan’s workshop were cast through a voicemail audition system. Posters were distributed all around, the local, Church street neighborhood displaying a few lines from the play, a telephone number and some instructions on how to take part. Workshop candidates performed these lines down the phone into a automated voicemail service and from this pool of voices the artist selected the 8 characters that make up Pinter’s play.
For Soundworks at the ICA Abu Hamdan has revisited the pool of voices gathered throughout the audition process and used these audio artifacts as a means to document the process and create an autonomous composition that amplifies the candidates vocal performances as well as the audio infrastructure emplaced to register, compress, and distort these voices. This piece seeks then, to inhabit and induce the very modes of listening which are central to the contemporary political conditions of voice and its audition.
Lawrence Abu Hamdan is an artist based in London, his work is chiefly concerned with the politics of listening and the object quality of sound. Abu Hamdan’s first solo exhibition The Freedom Of Speech Itself (2012) at The Showroom London is part of the ongoing Aural Contract project which has also been presented at Homeworks 5 Beirut (2010) and WYSPA IS Gdansk (2011). Other works include Model Court at Chisenhale Gallery London (2011) and Marches for Artangel, London (2008). His hybridized practice means that he has written for Cabinet Magazine and the 10th Sharjah Biennial and is now developing a radio documentary trilogy commissioned by The Showroom London, Casco Utrecht and as part of a Phd at the Centre for Research Architecture Goldsmiths College.
Nominated by ICA
Image caption: Mountain Language audition poster (courtesy of the artist)
This work is part of ICA SOUNDWORKS - www.ica.org.uk/soundworks