Jonah Goldman Kay on Lawrence Abu Hamdan

In most of Lawrence Abu Hamdan’s installations, the aesthetics of sound take a front-row seat—sound is the “soiled proof” used to reconstruct the expertise of dwelling in a pitch-black jail in Syria or to catalogue objects whose sounds turned points in authorized disputes. Abu Hamdan has labored with Forensic Structure at Goldsmiths, College of London, and has leveraged the collective’s methods for excavating the hidden reality in visible flotsam in his personal seek for proof in remnants of the spoken phrase. With forty fifth Parallel, 2022, a movie commissioned by a number of establishments, together with Spike Island and the Toronto Biennial of Artwork, Abu Hamdan strikes away from direct engagement with aural stimuli. However traces of this sonic fascination linger within the background.

The movie facilities on the Haskell Free Library and Opera Home, which straddles the border between america and Canada. A relic of the pre-9/11 relationship of the US with its neighbors, this in any other case unobtrusive constructing with an tackle in rural Vermont has a line indicating the boundary between the 2 nations clearly marked on its flooring; guests are allowed to cross freely from one facet to the opposite. In a five-act monologue written by Abu Hamdan and carried out by Danish Palestinian movie director Mahdi Fleifel, we find out about a bumbling gun-smuggling ring that was run out of the library. Abu Hamdan connects the circumstances of this comparatively lighthearted oddity to a different, much more critical crime on the southern border of the US—the homicide of fifteen-year-old Sergio Adrián Hernández Güereca. Together with his ft firmly planted on US soil, Border Patrol agent Jesus Mesa Jr. stretched his hand and gun throughout the road that divides the 2 nations and shot Hernández, who was enjoying together with his mates on the Mexican facet. Because the case wound its strategy to the Supreme Courtroom, its ramifications emerged. In a precedent-based authorized system, a choice towards the border officer would open the door to lawsuits from people overseas who had been harmed by authorities workers working on American soil—together with, notably, victims of the 91,340 drone strikes carried out throughout the Center East by military officers in distant US areas over the previous twenty years. Abu Hamdan’s movie reveals the mercurial nature of the border: Nevertheless clearly delineated its bodily boundaries could also be, the edge of the frontier is consistently fluctuating, usually with deadly impact.

Fleifel’s efficiency within the movie approximates that of a prosecuting lawyer in a courtroom. Via his testimony, Fleifel pleads Hernández’s case, in addition to these of hundreds of victims killed by drone strikes, asking the viewer to contemplate an alternate future the place the “US border is irreversibly punctured.” He reenacts the capturing, utilizing the thick black border line that runs via the theater as an instance the officer’s place. His efficiency is related to Abu Hamdan’s broader curiosity within the limits and potential of testimony and the mutability of oral narrative. In forty fifth Parallel, Abu Hamdan delivers testimony via an actor, utilizing speech and gesture to translate the entanglements of the border and the American authorized system right into a understandable format. This determination to corporealize the intangible nature of the border extends past the spoken phrase—every act is illustrated by a backdrop handpainted by set designers. A border claims to be clear, clear, disembodied—however it’s maintained via incessant bodily violence. By articulating the border’s declare to abstraction via embodied human presence, Abu Hamdan exhibits how fallacious that rivalry is.