Critics’ Picks

Lawrence Abu Hamdan, The recovered manifesto of Wissam, 2017, mixed media, dimensions variable.

Lawrence Abu Hamdan, The recovered manifesto of Wissam, 2017, mixed media, dimensions variable.


Lawrence Abu Hamdan

mor charpentier
61 Rue de Bretagne
April 7–May 26, 2018

Sound is a peculiar thing, to which our ears are so finely attuned yet by which we are so often simultaneously confused. Lawrence Abu Hamdan, an artist whose investigations into sound have been used as forensic analyses in legal cases, tackles this issue in his first solo exhibition in France.

“Disputed Utterance,” 2018, a series of four digital prints accompanied by seven drawings, delicately illustrates palatography, a technique that sometimes utilizes charcoal and olive oil to illustrate how the mouth forms specific sounds. Though off-putting in their grotesque detail, the texts and phonetic descriptions within the framed works are gripping: In Can/Can’t, 2018, a doctor is called out when his Greek accent complicates the pronunciation of “can” and “can’t,” which leads to a drug addict’s critical misuse of his medicines. Wooooooooah [gasp], 2018, is a hard-hitting wall piece that depicts a one-to-one-scale digital model of a crime scene where Olympic and Paralympic champion Oscar Pistorius murdered his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, by shooting her through a locked bathroom door. It indicates that while Steenkamp’s screams as she was being attacked became deformed by the material through which they passed, it’s impossible that Pistorius could have mistaken her voice for an intruder’s, as he originally claimed.

Downstairs is The recovered manifesto of Wissam, 2017, made up of ten fake fruit trees draped in unraveled cassette tape—surely the show’s centerpiece. From the work we hear a nine-minute audio recording of a man named Wissam, who is reading a manifesto based on taqiyya, an Islamic concept often misunderstood as a juridical right to lie (in actuality, it allows Muslims to “abjure” their religious beliefs in a dire situation through dissimulation). Abu Hamdan’s research into sound exposes the politics of listening and its convoluted role in history and law.