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

A saturated purple video is projected onto an uneven surface of overlapping rectangular panels. Pink light illuminates semi-translucent shades in the background. Onscreen, a kneeling woman is overlaid with text in Arabic and English that reads “As tremble. ”

Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme, May amnesia never kiss us on the mouth (2020–ongoing). Installation view: Museum of Modern Art, New York. Photo: Jonathan Muzikar

Hayden Gallery
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Basel Abbas
Ruanne Abou-Rahme
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In spring 2024, artist duo Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme will present a new site-specific installation at the MIT List Visual Arts Center.

Working across a range of media—including moving-image installations, sound, performance, and text—Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme undertake long-term research projects that center themes of collectivity and resilience, erasure and memory, and the quest for new political imaginaries. Their rigorous research, most recently into communal song and dance in the Arab world, yields densely layered narratives and saturated, multisensory installations. Further complicating their works—which sample found video footage alongside their own moving images and intense, pulsing soundscapes—is the artists’ concern with gaps and glitches, as well as their consistent reflection on their own role in witnessing or translating the fugitive sounds and images they engage.

Abbas and Abou-Rahme’s forthcoming List Center presentation will take shape as a multi-channel sound and video installation, offering a new site-specific iteration of May amnesia never kiss us on the mouth (2020–ongoing). This multipart project joins fragments of communal song and dance in Iraq, Palestine, Syria, and Yemen, which the artists collected from videos posted on social media over the past decade, with new filmic performances created by the artists with dancers and musicians who responded to specific gestures, music, or texts from the archive. In looking at ephemeral performances in politically marginalized parts of the world and asking what it means to archive sound and gesture through embodiment, the artists reveal performance to be both a critical space of resilience and an ever-evolving repository 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.