Posted on March 30, 2019

Award-winning artist Lawrence Abu Hamdan will be giving his Crossing Boundaries Lectures titled, "Bird Watching" at the Museum of Islamic Art and Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar (VCUarts Qatar).

The lectures, the latest in Abu Hamdan's series of live audio essays, examines the contemporary politics of listening, and the importance of the “earwitness”. They will take place on April 1 at the Museum of Islamic Art, and on April 2 at VCUarts Qatar.

In “Bird Watching”, Jordan-born Abu Hamdan, who media company Bloomberg said “is in every important museum collection around the globe”, will bring the audience through the earwitness testimony of survivors from Sayndaya prison near Damascus who were blindfolded or kept in total darkness for extremely long periods, and who developed an acute sensitivity to sound. The prison is inaccessible to independent observers and monitors, and the memories of those who survived it are the only resource available from which to learn of, and document, the violations still taking place there.

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However, the capacity of detainees to see anything in Saydnaya was highly restricted as they were mostly kept in darkness, blindfolded, or made to cover their eyes. As a result, the prisoners developed an acute sensitivity to sound. Through new and dedicated techniques of earwitness interviews created by Abu Hamdan, the witnesses reconstructed the architecture and events of the prison they experienced through sound. The lectures will take place on Monday, April 1 at 6:30pm at the Museum of Islamic Art Auditorium, and on Tuesday, April 2 at 12:45pm at VCUarts Qatar's Atrium. The lectures are free and open to the public.

Abu Hamdan’s interest with sound and its intersection with politics originate from his background as a touring musician and facilitator of DIY music. His audio investigations have been used as evidence at the UK’s Asylum and Immigration Tribunal and as advocacy for organizations such as Amnesty International and Defence for Children International. His works are amongst the collections at the MoMA and the Guggenheim in New York, the Van AbbeMuseum in Eindhoven, Centre Pompidou in Paris, and the Tate Modern in London. 

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