– Summer 2015

Events, Works, Exhibitions

Equivocally Yours: A Conversation with Lawrence Abu Hamdan

Robert Leckie

Lawrence Abu Hamdan,
Contra Diction: Speech Against Itself, 2014—ongoing, live audio essay. Performance view, Cornerhouse, Manchester, 21 November 2014. Courtesy the artist

I have known Lawrence Abu Hamdan as a musician since we were both growing up in Yorkshire, but only got to know him as an artist more recently, through his Aural Contract series (2012–14). This trilogy considers the role of the
voice in law, from accent and lie detector tests to the elusive Shi'a concept of taqiyyah. Mimicking a classic BBC radio documentary format, The Freedom of Speech Itself and The Whole Truth (both 2012) use self-reflexive strategies to subtly undermine the authority ascribed to the documentarian’s voice, while at the same time unmasking the uses and abuses
of listening by the state. Contra Diction: Speech Against Itself (2014–ongoing),
the ‘live audio essay’ that completes the series, uses performance to further cloud the relationship between information
and its delivery. For me, this project closed, to some extent, the gap between Lawrence the Musician and Lawrence the Artist, and raised questions related to research, didacticism and performativity that have come up recently in my own work as a curator. The conversation that follows originated in the desire to discuss, as friends as much as peers, the relationship between music and art; why position- taking and ambiguity needn’t cancel each other out; and the problems of ‘emerging’ in an art world that values newness above all else. While it

  1. ‘2015 Triennial: Surround Audience’, New Museum, New York, 25 February—24 May 2015. Lawrence Abu Hamdan was the 2015 Commissioned Artist for the Armory Show, New York, 5—8 March 2015.

  2. ‘Aural Contract: The Whole Truth’, Casco, Utrecht, 13 October—16 December 2012, curated by Binna Choi.

  3. ‘Aural Contract: The Freedom of Speech Itself’, The Showroom, London, 1 February—17 March 2012, curated by Emily Pethick. The sound installation was presented at the exhibition ‘Materiality’, Wyspa Institute of Art, Gdansk, 26 May—30 September 2012, curated by Arne Hendriks, Ines Moreira and Leire Vergara.