Project Description

We know what it is for, we who have used it

March 3 – April 7, 2019

Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme: We know what it is for, we who have used it
Curated by Suzy Halajian

Opening night on March 2, 2019 at Disjecta Contemporary Art Center
Member Preview: 5:30-6pm
Curator and Artists in Conversation: 6-7pm
Reception: 7-9pm
Exhibition on display March 3 – April 7, 2019

Free and open to the public.

 

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. —Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme, And yet my mask is powerful

We know what it is for, we who have used it is an exhibition by Palestinian artistic duo Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme. Extending out from their project, And yet my mask is powerful, the multi-media installation confronts the apocalyptic imaginary, violence, and erasure that dominates our contemporary moment. It takes Adrienne Rich’s poem of resistance and discovery, Diving into the Wreck (1971-72), as a script to the project. The text proposes heading into the past, into sites of disaster, as well as into one’s own personal history, in order to search for evidence of what can be salvaged.

For this research-based work, the artists return to Palestinian villages in Israel that were destroyed in 1948, and ask, what happens to the people, places, and things that have been violated and displaced? How can we reconsider matter and objects once the living fabric is destroyed, and who has the right to retrieve the material from these sites? Their investigation began when they first encountered Neolithic masks exhibited at the Israel Museum in 2014. Currently the oldest known masks, they date back 9,000 years, and were taken from the West Bank and surrounding areas, and stored in private collections. Abbas and Abou-Rahme give new meaning to these objects by photographing and reproducing them through 3D printing. By replicating, and returning to the sites of wreckage, the artists reconsider artifacts to be animated objects that exist and perform their own vitality. They simultaneously point to the necessity of enlivening archeological sites in order to rehabilitate unfamiliar life forms, and ultimately to re-examine histories of occupation and colonial legacies.

And yet my mask is powerful includes two layered parts. The first consists of a five-channel video and sound installation that transposes Rich’s text in English and Arabic. The work documents a group of young people as they return to the sites of ruin and perform new rituals there. Breathing new life into these places, the group’s performance conjures up the potential of a time that has not yet been imagined, and is unbound by the here and now. The second part presents printed images, notes, studies, herbs, specimens, and masks. Abbas and Abou-Rahme sample the diverse vegetation found in the abandoned sites, as emerging and resilient agents. Place is no longer constituted by its destruction, but through the living forms—its soil and flora—that infuse site with vitality and change. This persisting archive allows unfamiliar possibilities to emerge.

Through the intersections between body and artifact, thingness and virtuality, the artists propose a counter-mythology that re-conceptualizes time, the present and the aftermath of historical trauma. Stories of dispossession and resistance unfold, challenging our understanding of both wreckage and its material remnants. Meanwhile, the artists radically imagine another world, one in which ruin and debris lead us into deeper contact with others who have also defiantly taken this journey to the past, and will return again to carve out and inhabit a space that has yet to be realized.

The 2018-19 Curator in Residence season is led by Suzy Halajian and includes a series of three exhibitions, related programming, and a publication, each building upon the other and expanding the dialogue throughout the year. The season will present practices that engage with ecological politics and its implications on environmental sustainability by situating discourse in Western histories of gender- and race-based oppression and discrimination. Diverse works by national and international artists present counter-perspectives from various contexts to politicized instances of land use, territorialization, and development.

 

PUBLIC PROGRAMS:

Sunday, April 7, 5-6:30pm at Disjecta

Landscape, We: Film program with works by Shadi Habib Allah, Maha Maamoun, and Arjuna Neuman and Denise Ferreira Da Silva.

Co-organized by curator Suzy Halajian and artists Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme, Landscape, We, presents works that are in dialogue with the themes present in the artists’ solo exhibition, We know what it is for, we who have used it, and in the 2018-19 The Politics of Landscape season. Screened directly after the closing of this third and final exhibition in the series, the program brings together three films that consider different contexts and stories, in order to point to the violence, power struggles, and colonial narratives that surface through considerations of the landscape, both material and imagined. In varying ways, the works unearth buried sites and histories, and challenge notions of property through a post-human lens. 

For more information on the films and artists, please see here. 

This program will also be screened at the Echo Park Film Center in Los Angeles on Sunday, April 21.

Location: Disjecta, 8371 N Interstate Ave.

 

ABOUT THE ARTISTS:

Basel Abbas (Cyprus) and Ruanne Abou-Rahme (United States) live and work in New York and Ramallah. They work together across a range of sound, image, text, installation, and performance practices. Their practice is engaged in the intersections between performativity, political imaginaries, the body, and virtuality. Across their projects, they probe a contemporary landscape marked by seemingly perpetual crisis and an endless ‘present’, one that is shaped by a politics of desire and disaster. Their work questions this suspension of the present and searches for ways in which an altogether different imaginary and language can emerge that is not bound within colonial/capitalist narrative and discourse. They excavate, activate, and invent incidental narratives, figures, gestures, and sites as material. Varying forms of returns, amnesia, and déjà vu enter their projects, as the artists continuously unfold the slippages between actuality and projection (fiction, myth, wish), what is and what could be.

Recent solo exhibitions include: Kunstverein Hamburg (2018); Krannert Art Museum, Urbana-Champaign, Illinois (2018); Art Jameel Project Space, Dubai (2017); Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia (2015); Office for Contemporary Art, Oslo (2015); and Akademie Der Künste Der Welt, Cologne (2015). Recent group exhibitions include Busan Biennial (2018); Darat Al Funun, Amman (2018); Contemporary Image Collective, Cairo (2017); Kunstgebäude Stuttgart (2017); Portikus, Frankfurt (2016); Qalandiya International, Ramallah (2016); Institute of Contemporary Arts, London (2013); 12th Sharjah Biennial (2015); 31st São Paulo Biennial (2014); 10th Gwangju Biennale (2014); 13th Istanbul Biennial (2013); 6th Jerusalem Show (2012): and the 53th Venice Biennale, Palestinian Pavilion (2009). www.baselandruanne.com

For more information on Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme’s book, And yet my mask is powerful, 2017, please see here.

 

ABOUT THE CURATOR:

Suzy Halajian is an independent curator and writer based in Los Angeles. Her work begins at the intersection of art and politics, treating image making as steeped in colonial pasts and modern surveillance states. Additionally, her research interests center on the legacies of trauma and conflict in experimental documentary and performance practices from the Middle East and North Africa and their diaspora. Halajian has curated exhibitions and programs at LACE (Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions), Human Resources LA, ONE Archives at the USC Libraries, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles Contemporary Archive (all Los Angeles); Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena; Sursock Museum, Beirut; Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York; UKS, Oslo, among others.

Halajian serves on the Programming Committee of Human Resources LA, and is the 2018-19 Curator-in-Residence at Disjecta, Portland. From 2015-16 she co-organized the invitation of sorts talk series in Los Angeles. In 2017 she was granted a Creative Capital | Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant with Anthony Carfello and Shoghig Halajian for the journal Georgia, and in 2014 she received a Curatorial Research Fellowship from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Her writing has been published by ArtEast, BOMB, X-TRA, Ibraaz, among others.

 

ABOUT THE CURATOR-IN-RESIDENCE PROGRAM:

The Curator-in-Residence program provides an opportunity for emerging curatorial talent to develop and expand the scope of their practice through a one-year residency. Curators engage with a broad range of artists to create a series of exhibitions in Disjecta’s dynamic 3,500-square-foot space. Past Curators-in-Residence include: Julia Greenway (2017-18), Michele Fiedler (2016-17), Chiara Giovando (2015-16), Rachel Adams (2014-15), Summer Guthery (2013-14), Josephine Zarkovich (2012-13), and Jenene Nagy (2011-12).

The 2018-19 Curator-in-Residence program is supported by the Oregon Cultural Trust.
Disjecta Contemporary Art Center is supported by Oregon Arts Commission, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Regional Arts & Culture Council, the Oregon Community Foundation, James F. And Marion L. Miller Foundation, the Arts Impact Fund and The Robert and Mercedes Eichholz Foundation. Other businesses and individuals provided additional support.

c3:initiative is a co-presenting partner with the Disjecta Contemporary Art Center Curator in Residence program for a second year during the 2018-2019 season. The program lends studio and low residency space to artists exhibiting as part of the upcoming CiR season. When possible c:3 hosts open studios and partner events at our North Portland location, as part of the program.

Image: Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme, And yet my mask is powerful, 2016, (still) video. Courtesy of the artists.

Location:
Disjecta

Opening Reception:
March 2, 2019 at Disjecta Contemporary Art Center
Member Preview: 5:30-6pm
Curator and Artists in Conversation: 6-7pm
Reception: 7-9pm
Exhibition on display March 3 – April 7, 2019

Gallery Hours:
Friday – Sunday, 12 – 5pm

Admission:
FREE and all ages