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Equivocally Yours: A Conversation with Lawrence Abu Hamdan

Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Convention of Tiny Movements, 2015, sound, amalgamated objects, 5,000 crisp packets details. Installation views, Armory Show, New York, 2015. Photographs: Roberto Chamorro. Courtesy the artist and Armory Show
Robert Leckie asks Lawrence Abu Hamdan about his shifting approach to sound and performance, from his early days as a DIY musician to his recent experiments with technologies of surveillance. I have known Lawrence Abu Hamdan as a musician since we were both growing up in Yorkshire, but only got to know him as an artist more recently, through his Aural Contract series (2012–14). This trilogy considers the role of the
voice in law, from accent and lie detector tests to the elusive Shi’a concept of taqiyyah. Mimicking a classic BBC radio documentary format, The Freedom of Speech Itself and The Whole Truth (both 2012) use self-reflexive strategies to subtly undermine the authority ascribed to the documentarian’s voice, while at the same time unmasking the uses and abuses
of listening by the state. Contra Diction: Speech Against Itself (2014–ongoing),
the ‘live audio essay’ that completes the series, uses performance to further cloud the relationship between information
and its delivery. For me, this project closed, to some extent, the gap between Lawrence the Musician and Lawrence the Artist, and raised questions related to research, didacticism and performativity that have come up recently in my own work as a curator.