Basel Abbas & Ruanne Abou-Rahme
May amnesia never kiss us on the mouth
The New York and Ramallah-based artists Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme will present their first solo exhibition in Switzerland at the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst. Through sound- and image-based multi-channel installations and live performances, Abbas and Abou-Rahme develop projects that revolve around witnessing, archiving, and exhibiting recordings of violence and loss. Nearly a decade ago, at the time of the Arab Revolutions, the artists began to download and collect footage that gives testimony to the historic events in the Middle East. For May amnesia never kiss us on the mouth (2020–ongoing), a work that is co-commissioned by the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, the artists have assembled a large body of knowledge: the material captures everyday people singing, dancing, performing, and protesting in Palestine, Syria and Iraq. By preserving, transcribing, translating, sampling, and exhibiting these ephemeral recordings, Abbas and Abou-Rahme point up not only the circulation and erasure of virtual imagery, but also individual and collective experiences of destruction, displacement, and disappearance in spaces under threat. In collaboration with a dancer and musicians from Ramallah’s cultural underground, they formulate and perform multi-layered counternarratives to reimagine acts of resistance and offer a revision of previously overlooked histories. Abbas' and Abou-Rahme’s nonlinear narratives seek to question what is, and propose an alternative political language and imaginary that defy prevailing colonial and capitalist logics and discourses. The long-term project’s title, May amnesia never kiss us on the mouth, a reference to the English translation of the Chilean writer Roberto Bolaño’s Infrarealist Manifesto (1976), can be read as an indictment of the presiding artistic community’s complacency and an urgent reminder that artists need to remain wary: “May amnesia never kiss us on the mouth. May it never kiss us.”
Basel Abbas (b. Nicosia, Cyprus, 1983) and Ruanne Abou-Rahme (b. Boston, USA, 1983) have had solo exhibitions at, among others, the Art Institute of Chicago (2021); Kunstverein in Hamburg (2018); Art Jameel Project Space Dubai (2017); Alt Bomontiada, Istanbul (2017); and Carroll / Fletcher, London (2016). Their work has been included in major international biennials such as the 12th Sharjah Biennial (2015), the 10th Gwangju Biennale, the 31st São Paulo Biennial (both 2014), the 13th Istanbul Biennial (2013), and the 53rd Venice Biennale (2009).
Previous iterations of this work have been co-commissioned by the Museum of Modern Art and the DIA Art Foundation (New York City). The ongoing multichannel sound and video work will also be exhibited at MoMA and The Common Guild, Glasgow, in 2022.
Curator: Dr. Michael Birchall (Curator, Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst)