Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme, Winning Artists, Abraaj Group Art Prize 2016

Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme work at the intersection of culture and politics, producing artworks that reflect on the body, the landscape, the ritual, the testament and the violence of today’s world. Commissioned for the Abraaj Group Art Prize 2016, their video and sound work Only the beloved keeps our secrets contemplates the position of the body within fluctuations of presence and erasure.

Having amassed material from an abundance of sources, including many images, texts and testimonies from Palestine, Abbas & Abou-Rahme have taken a close look at ritualistic dance and song, particularly in relation to the backdrop of crisis that underpins much of their work. The work prompts us to think about how technologies, particularly the Internet, can act as a cipher, providing a continued existence for those that have been erased. These audio and visual fragments are collaged together in their video, with the various layers floating and merging, becoming both abstract and figurative, evoking this new fluidity between presence and absence.

Only the beloved keeps our secrets is structured around footage taken from an Israeli military surveillance camera. On March 19, 2014, 14 year-old Yusuf ¬Shawamreh crossed the ‘separation fence’ erected by the Israeli military near Hebron. He was going to pick Akub, an edible plant that is a delicacy of Palestinian cuisine, which grows at high altitudes and blooms for only a short period of time. Israeli forces ambushed him and shot him dead. After a court injunction the military surveillance footage was released and consequently circulated online. The work invites us to consider the forms of entanglement between the destruction of bodies and the erasure of images, and the conditions under which these same bodies and images might once again reappear.

About Basel and Ruanne

Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme (b.1983) work together across a range of sound, image, text, installation and performance practices. Their practice probes a contemporary landscape marked by seemingly perpetual crisis and an endless ‘present’,  one that is increasingly shaped by a 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 can emerge. In their projects, they find themselves excavating, activating and inventing incidental narratives, figures, gestures and sites as material for re-imagining the possibilities of the present.

Often reflecting on the idea of returns, amnesia and deja vu, and in the process unfolding the slippages between actuality and projection (fiction, myth, wish), what is and what could be.  Their practice, largely research based, frequently investigates the spatio-temporal resonances of seemingly disparate moments.  Overwhelmingly their approach has been one of sampling materials (both existing and self-authored) in the form of sound, image, text, objects and recasting them into altogether new ‘scripts’. The result is a practice that investigates the visceral, material possibilities of sound, image, text and site, taking on the form of multi-media installations and live sound/image performances.

They have exhibited and performed internationally and founded the sound and image performance group Tashweesh. Solo exhibitions include the Institute of Contemporary Art (Philadelphia), Office for Contemporary Art (Oslo), Carroll/Fletcher (London), Akademie Der Kuenste Der Welt (Cologne), New Art Exchange (Nottingham), Delfina Foundation (London). Group exhibitions include Kunsthalle Wien (Vienna), Museum Of Modern Art (Warsaw), Institute of Contemporary Art (London), the 12th Sharjah Biennale, the 31st São Paulo Biennial, the 10th Gwangju Biennale, the 13th Istanbul Biennial, the 6th Jerusalem Show, HomeWorks 5 (Beirut), and Palestine c/o Venice at the 53rd Venice Biennale.They have held performances at The Hammer Museum (Los Angeles), House of World Culture (Berlin), Tanzquartier (Vienna), Serpentine Pavilion (London), 4th Guangzhou Triennial (Guangzhou), TBA21 (Vienna), De Balie (Amsterdam), Beirut Art Centre (Beirut), Danish Film Institute (Copenhagen) and CCA (Glasgow). They were fellows at Akademie der Kunste der Welt in Cologne in 2013 and artists and recipients of the Sharjah Biennale Prize in 2015.

Other Recipients

Basir Mahmood – Shortlisted Artist

Using video, film or photograph, Basir Mahmood weaves various threads of thoughts, findings and insights into poetic sequences and various forms of narratives.
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Dina Danish – Shortlisted Artist

Dina Danish – Shortlisted Artist

Triggered by the need for understanding, Dina Danish’s subjects include linguistic structures, pinball machines and tongue-twisters.
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Nav Haq – Curator

Nav Haq – Curator

Nav Haq is Curator at MuHKA – Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp. He was previously Exhibitions Curator at Arnolfini, Bristol, and Curator at Gasworks, London.
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