Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme
2023-24 CAST Visiting Artist
Considering embodied memory through sound, video, and performance
Working across a range of media—including moving-image installations, sound, performance, and text—Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme undertake long-term research projects that center themes of collectivity and resilience, erasure and memory, and the quest for new political imaginaries. Their rigorous research, most recently into communal song and dance in the Arab world, yields densely layered narratives and saturated, multisensory installations. Further complicating their works—which sample found video footage alongside their own moving images and intense, pulsing soundscapes—is the artists’ concern with gaps and glitches, as well as their consistent reflection on their own role in witnessing or translating the fugitive sounds and images they engage.
Abbas and Abou-Rahme’s forthcoming List Center presentation will take shape as a multi-channel sound and video installation, offering a new site-specific iteration of May amnesia never kiss us on the mouth (2020–ongoing). This multipart project joins fragments of communal song and dance in Iraq, Palestine, Syria, and Yemen, which the artists collected from videos posted on social media over the past decade, with new filmic performances created by the artists with dancers and musicians who responded to specific gestures, music, or texts from the archive. In looking at ephemeral performances in politically marginalized parts of the world and asking what it means to archive sound and gesture through embodiment, the artists reveal performance to be both a critical space of resilience and an ever-evolving repository of memory.
More information about the List Visual Arts Center exhibition
Only sounds that tremble through us
MIT List Visual Arts Center
Wiesner Building E15, Atrium Level
20 Ames Street, Cambridge, MA
Artist duo Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme present a new site-specific installation and performance series in the Hayden Gallery at the MIT List Visual Arts Center. More information.
Performance: Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme
Basel Abbas (b. Nicosia, Cyprus, 1983) and Ruanne Abou-Rahme (b. Boston, USA, 1983) work together across a range of sound, image, text, installation, and performance practices at the intersections between performativity, political imaginaries, the body, and virtuality. Across their works, they probe a contemporary landscape marked by a seemingly perpetual crisis and an endless “present” that is shaped by the politics of desire and disaster. They have been developing a body of work that questions this suspension of the present and searches for ways in which an altogether different imaginary and language can emerge that is not bound within colonial/capitalist narrative and discourse. In their projects, they find themselves excavating, activating, and inventing incidental narratives, figures, gestures, and sites as material for reimagining the possibilities of the present.
In the process of reflecting on ideas of nonlinearity in the form of returns, amnesia, and deja vu, they unfold the slippages between actuality and projection (fiction, myth, and wish), what is and what could be. Largely, their approach has been one of sampling materials both existing and self-authored in the form of sound, image, text, and objects, and recasting them into altogether new “scripts.” The result is a practice that investigates the political, visceral, material possibilities of sound, image, text, and site, taking on the form of multimedia installations and live sound/image performances.
Natalie Bell is curator at the MIT List Visual Arts Center, where she recently organized solo exhibitions of Leslie Thornton and Sreshta Rit Premnath, and is preparing solo exhibitions of Matthew Angelo Harrison and Raymond Boisjoly. She was previously associate curator at the New Museum, New York, where she curated and co-curated over a dozen solo exhibitions. She also co-curated several major group exhibitions at the New Museum, including Trigger: Gender as a Tool and a Weapon (2017); The Keeper (2016), and Here and Elsewhere (2014).
Noor, Tausif, “POTENTIAL ENERGY: Tausif Noor on the art of Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme,” Art Forum, April 2022
Joseph, Martha, “Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme: Echoes of Resistance,” MoMA, May 25, 2022
Ramadan, Dina A., “Basel Abbas & Ruanne Abou-Rahme: May amnesia never kiss us on the mouth,” The Brooklyn Rail, June 2022
Szremski, Ania, “The ecstasy of song and dance in the face of war and upheaval,” 4Columns, May 27, 2022
Anahita, Delcorde, “Silence into sound, erasure into being. A review of Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme’s Postscript: after everything is extracted,” Afterall, March 2022
El Zein, Rayya, “To Have Many Returns: Loss in the Presence of Others,” World Records Journal, Vol. 4, 2020
McNamara, Rea, “Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme Create a Poetic, Web-based Space for Mourning,” HyperAllergic, March 2021