Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme create collaborative projects that take the contemporary Palestinian landscape as their location, and its contested history and uncertain future as their research material. Their installation, sound, performance, and book projects engage with the political impasse of our age, and work to unhinge assumptions about liberatory movements. They use aural, textual, and visual poetry to focus on the peripheral, and work with the notion of déjà vu—an experience that is uncomfortably familiar yet strange and new—to welcome slippages. This strategy of constructing incidental and amnesiac narratives from digital archives affords those materials opportunities for new imaginaries.
The Incidental Insurgents (2012 – 2015) is a multi-channel video that searches for new political relationships and courses of action. Performing a search for, sitting with, and looking at Palestinian land and history, the project bears the fruit of a relationship with the Young Arab Theatre Fund and Al-Ma’mal Foundation. The texts that appear onscreen are reworked fragments from the published writing of Russian revolutionary Victor Serge and Chilean socialist novelist Roberto Bolaño. These sampled materials allow poetic juxtapositions between disparate locations and histories. Caught between the impulse for radical action and the need to overcome the capitalist-colonial present, there is an uneasy sense of that which is unfulfilled. At the same time, there is a persistent refusal to accept defeat and to instead return. This return is at once defiant and resigned. This contradictory position is taken up as a new posture in search of a new politics.
Only the beloved keeps our secrets (2016) is a single-channel video that layers images and sounds into a dense tapestry of the rituals associated with mourning. The video is structured around footage taken from March 19, 2014 when an Israeli military surveillance camera captured the Israeli forces killing a 14-year-old boy named Yusuf Shawamreh. The boy was crossing the Israeli “separation fence” near Hebron in order to pick Akub, an edible, wild-growing plant considered a delicacy in Palestinian cuisine that is found at high altitudes. A court injunction forced the military to release the surveillance footage, and it was then shared online. The artists use visual strategies of accumulation and density in order to consider the relationship between testament, uncounted bodies, and the erasure of images. This project poses questions about the conditions under which the evidence of, and the lost bodies themselves, might appear again.
Abbas and Abou-Rahme live and work between Ramallah and New York. Incidental Narratives is their first exhibition in Canada; it pairs these two projects, both of which set adrift histories of conflict that we think we know, into altogether new, poetic, and painful narratives.
Co-presented with A Space Gallery