The project's multimedia installations feature new video and sound material, as well as found and fabricated objects ranging from plants collected on location to replicas of the world's oldest masks dating from the beginning of the Neolithic Era.
Drawing on a visual and aural lexicon refined by Abbas and Abou-Rahme in their critically acclaimed project The Incidental Insurgents (2012-2015), And yet my mask is powerful offers an immersive experience conceived as a counterpoint to today's all-pervasive imagery of crisis. In this piece, the artists use the site of trauma as a crucible, a place from which to imagine an alternative narrative, informed by the past but turned towards the future.
First the air is blue and then
it is bluer and then green and then
black I am blacking out and yet
my mask is powerful
It pumps my blood with power
The clearing. We find ourselves in the wreck once again and then again. A perpetual crisis leaves us suspended at ground zero. The potential to radically re-imagine the world, so palpable only a blink of an eye ago, now tastes bitter in our mouths.
Neolithic masks found in the West Bank and stored in private collections are hacked and 3D-printed. Copies circulate in Palestine, eerily akin to a black ski mask. A group of youths wear them at the site of a destroyed Palestinian village in Israel. Becoming other, becoming anonymous, in this accidental moment of ritual and myth. Initiating a series of trips to possess and be possessed by these strangely living sites of erasure and wreckage. Only now, returning to the site of destruction as the very site from which to cast a new projection that evokes the potential of an unrealised time, not bound by the here and now or there and then. A parallel time that is not occupied, a virtual time that is not "our" time.
And yet my mask is powerful confronts the apocalyptic imaginary and violence that dominates our contemporary moment, an apocalyptic vision that seems to clog up even the pores in our bodies. Taking Adrienne Rich's poem Diving into the Wreck as the beginnings of a script, And yet my mask is powerful asks what happens to people / place / things / materials when a living fabric is destroyed. How in the face of such violence can we then begin to retrieve and reconstitute living matter from the wreck itself? The project uses the trips taken by young Palestinians to sites of destroyed villages as an avatar to think about the possibility of using the site of wreckage as the very material from which to trace the faint contours of another possible time. Materials are taken from the sites: plants, flowers, stones, bits of garbage. Other objects, particularly tools used for either building or destroying things, are cast into the work, either by themselves or projected into the sites. Caught in a play of scale, magnified by the video projections, these things create a disjuncture between the thing itself and its shadow, what is and what could be.
In its intersections between performativity and ritual, body and artifact, thingness and virtuality, And yet my mask is powerful begins topiece together a counter-mythology to the dominant mythologies of the present. A counter-mythology that holds on to our imaginative space as the last terrain to be colonised. The layers of images, text, sound and things perform and activate various forms of returns, flash-forwards and déja-vus unfolding in this gesture a dense story of erasures and reappearances, dispossession and resistance, the archaic resonating in the contemporary.
- Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme, Summer 2016
Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme are showing Only the beloved keeps our secrets, produced for the Abraaj Group Art Prize 2016, at Tyneside Cinema in Newcastle, UK from 10 September to 24 October 2016. On 9 October, the artists will discuss their practice with Tyneside Cinema’s film curator Elisabetta Fabrizi. For more information:
The artists are also showing a version of And yet my mask is powerful as part of NERIRI KIRURU HARARA, SeMA Biennale Mediacity Seoul 2016, South Korea, from 1 September to 20 November 2016.