Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme: Only sounds that tremble through us

A dark room with purple walls is occupied by video projections and illuminated artworks on the floor and ceiling, creating an effect like overlapping windows on a computer screen. A purple glow comes from a tinted window on the left side. Freestanding panels are scattered throughout the room, each with colorful abstractions and other images mounted to them. Blue banners with abstracted plant designs hang from the ceiling and a red video projection, showing a person lying on their back, glows on the far wall

Exhibition view: Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme: Only sounds that tremble through us, MIT List Visual Arts Center, 2024. Photo: Dario Lasagni

Hayden Gallery
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Basel Abbas
Ruanne Abou-Rahme
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Artist duo Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme undertake long-term research projects that center themes of collectivity, resilience, and memory. 

Their moving image works, which often sample found video alongside their own footage, poetry, and pulsating soundscapes, are complicated by a concern with gaps and glitches, products of the artists’ reflexive approach to translating fugitive fragments of sound and image. The masks and digital avatars found in their works raise questions of visibility and opacity, and the artists’ use of unnatural and inverted colors implies the limits of the visible light spectrum.

Abbas and Abou-Rahme’s exhibition features three bodies of work from the pair’s decade-long project May amnesia never kiss us on the mouth (2010–ongoing)A recent commission that debuted at the Museum of Modern Art in 2022, Only sounds that tremble through us (2020–22) is a three-channel video installation that expands from the artists’ digital video archive of everyday communal song and dance from diverse communities in the Arab world which they collected from social media. At Abbas and Abou-Rahme’s invitation, one dancer and three electronic musicians use their bodies as samplers and take up varied improvisations in response to the movements, lyrics, or sentiments they observed in these quotidian recordings. Surfacing these ephemeral gestures through reinterpretation, Abbas and Abou-Rahme ask what it means to archive sound and gesture through embodiment and look to song and dance as modes of resilience and repositories of memory.

Basel Abbas (b. Nicosia, Cyprus, 1983) and Ruanne Abou-Rahme (b. Boston, USA, 1983) have collaborated since 2007. They have had institutional solo exhibitions at, among others, Astrup Fearnley Museet (2023); the Museum of Modern Art (2022); Common Guild, Glasgow (2022); the Art Institute of Chicago (2021); Centraal Museum, Utrecht (2020); Kunstverein in Hamburg (2018); Art Jameel Project Space Dubai (2017); and the Institute for Contemporary Art, Philadelphia (2015). Their work has been included in major international biennials such as the Sharjah Biennial (2023, 2015); the Berlin Biennale (2022); the Busan Biennial (2018); the Gwangju Biennale and the São Paulo Biennial (both 2014), the Istanbul Biennial (2013), the Liverpool Biennial (2010); and the Venice Biennale (2009).

Abbas and Abou-Rahme’s exhibition is organized by Natalie Bell, Curator.


General operating support is provided by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; the Council for the Arts at MIT; Philip S. Khoury, Vice Provost at MIT; the MIT School of Architecture + Planning; the Mass Cultural Council; and many generous individual donors. In-kind media sponsorship provided by 90.9 WBUR. The Advisory Committee Members of the List Visual Arts Center are gratefully acknowledged.