The multi-media project by art duo Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou Rahme (both b. 1983, based in Ramallah, Palestine) entitled And Yet My Mask is Powerful, takes the poetry of Adrienne Rich as a starting point. The duo have combined a static installation with a video in an attempt to address the apocalyptic imagery of the modern world and transform it into a social condition. The project engages with the idea of ‘returns’ to the sites of wreckage and for a young generation of Palestinians, these are the very sites from which to conjure a yet-to-be realised chapter in history.
And Yet My Mask is Powerful
A fuller version of And Yet My Mask is Powerful will be presented in the artists’ first major solo show at Carroll / Fletcher in September 2016. Best-known for their critically-acclaimed series “The Incidental Insurgents” (2012–15), Abbas and Abou-Rahme probe a contemporary landscape marked by seemingly perpetual crisis and an endless “present,” one that is increasingly shaped by a politics of desire and disaster. Their work searches for ways in which an altogether different imaginary can emerge. The artists’ approach has been one of sampling materials (both existing and self-authored), recasting them into altogether new “scripts.” The result is a practice that investigates the visceral and material possibilities of sound, image, text and geography, taking on the form of multimedia installations and live sound/image performances.
Taking Adrienne Rich’s poem “Diving into the wreck” as the beginning of a script, and interweaving other sampled texts, we strive to confront the apocalyptic imaginary and violence that has taken over the Arab word but equally finds its resonance across the word. An apocalyptic vision that seems to clog up even the pores in our bodies. What really happens to people/place/things/materials when a living fabric is destroyed? The project takes a different view of time, one that is not just preoccupied with “our” time, but thinks of various forms of returns, flash-forwards, dejà vu. Freeing us to think beyond ourselves in the here and now, and opening the possibility to think of parallel times. A sort of counter-mythology for a future memory.
A series of trips to the sites of destroyed Palestinian villages in Israel have informed this body of work. The physical act of us going to end searching for these potent and almost possessed sites is an integral part of And Yet My Mask is Powerful. However, it is not a project about these specific sites, but about “returns” to the sites of destruction as an act that allows you to cast a different projection, an act that momentarily, viscerally, opens up a time that is not “our time”, or past time, but “another”, unrealised time.
The video and sound piece attempts to capture the visceral experience of these “returns”. Meanwhile, object and “things” are cast into work, either by themselves or projected into images and contexts. Three object echo elements in Rich’s poem: the camera, the knife and the book of myths. Tools that are used to destroy places – particularly those requiring the force of the body – also have a key in this project. Caught in a play of scale magnified by the film projections, these object create a disjuncture between the thing itself and its shadow, what is and what could be.