Jarman Award 2017 shortlist interviews: Lawrence Abu Hamdan
Date posted: 08.11.2017
In this week's Jarman Award interview, we catch up with the shortlisted artist Lawrence Abu Hamdan to talk about his dual and closely interconnected career as an artist and forensic audio analyst.
Lawrence Abu Hamdan is an artist working across audio-visual installations, performances, graphic works, photography, Islamic sermons, cassette tape compositions, essays and lectures. Abu Hamdan’s interest in sound and its intersection with politics originates from his background in DIY music. He has previously made audio analyses for legal investigations, and advocates for organisations such as Amnesty International and Defence for Children International.
Abu Hamdan become an artist through music, playing in bands and being part of the DIY music scene where he was exposed to a range of experimental practices, including performance.
The pivotal moment in his artistic practice was a 2010 interview with Dr Peter French, a forensic sound expert who testified in over 5,000 cases where sound or voice played a key role in establishing culpability. The interview opened up a new world of sound for Abu Hamdan, where the smallest utterance or cough could be of huge significance. He saw the forensic approach to sound as an avant-garde mode of attention, and began researching and documenting cases where forensic audio analysis was applied, leading to collaborations and direct involvement in cases put forward by NGOs.
The first case on which Abu Hamdan worked as a forensic sound analyst led to his recent work, Rubber Coated Steel (2016), which won a Tiger Award at International Film Festival Rotterdam. Forensic Architecture, an independent research agency that works in collaboration with Defence for Children International, asked Abu Hamdan to produce a series of visualisations of sounds of gunshots to determine whether the shots fired by an Israeli soldier at a group of Palestinian teenagers were rubber bullets or live ammunition. He found the case particularly interesting as the difference in the sounds of the gunshots only became apparent to him through the creation of visualisations. Initially, Abu Hamdan was not able to distinguish the sound of a rubber bullet from live ammunition, but the Palestinian teenagers recorded by news crews behaved in a way that clearly indicated that they could hear the difference and acted instinctively in response by trying to flee.
Abu Hamdan will discuss Rubber Coated Steel in detail at Turner Contemporary in Margate on Tuesday 16 November as part of the Jarman Award Touring Programme.
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