Kevin Space is very pleased to present the first solo exhibition of Basel Abbas & Ruanne Abou–Rahme in Austria. We know what it is for / We who have used it manifests the third chapter of And yet my mask is powerful (2016–2017).
First the air is blue and then it is bluer and then green and then black/
I am blacking out/
and yet my mask is powerful it pumps my blood with power
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 reimagine the world so palpable only a blink of an eye ago now tastes bitter in our mouths.
Neolithic masks taken from the West Bank and surrounding areas, and stored in private collections are hacked and 3D-printed. The oldest known masks dating 9¨000 years¨ mutate from dead fossil to living matter. Copies circulate in Palestine, eerily akin to a black ski mask. A group of youth wear them at the site of a destroyed Palestinian village in Israel. Becoming other, becoming anonymous, in this accidental moment of ritual and myth. Initiating a series of trips to possess and almost be possessed by these strangely living sites of erasure and wreckage. Only now, returning to the site of destruction as the very site from which to cast a new projection that palpably evokes the potential of an unrealised time, not bound by the here and now or there and then. A parallel time that is not occupied, a virtual time that is not ‘our’ time.
And yet my mask is powerful confronts the apocalyptic imaginary and violence that dominates our contemporary moment, an apocalyptic vision that seems to clog up even the pores in our bodies. Taking Adrienne Rich’s poem ‘Diving into the wreck’ as the beginnings of a script, And yet my mask is powerful asks what happens to people/ place/ things/ materials when a living fabric is destroyed. How in the face of such violence can we then begin to retrieve and reconstitute living matter from the wreck itself.The project uses the trips taken by young Palestinians to sites of destroyed villages as an avatar to think about the possibility of using the site of wreckage as the very material from which to trace the faint contours of another possible time. Something strange happens in these returns. The destroyed sites emerge not just as places of ruin or trauma but appear full of an unmediated vitality. The young people making these trips treat the site as a living fabric. But even more, something in the very tissue of the site itself is undeniably living. It permeates from the soil into the stone and back into every bit of vegetation. There is a swarm of non-human life forces here from the insects to the wild thorns to the pomegranate trees that are inscribed with the living memory and story of the site. And it is here in the living archive of the vegetation itself that the site lives and breathes.
In its intersections between performativity and ritual, body and artifact, thingness and virtuality And yet my mask is powerful begins to splice together a counter-mythology to the dominant mythologies of the present. A counter-mythology that holds on to our imaginative space as the last terrain to be occupied. The layers of images, texts, sound and things perform and activate various forms of returns, flashforwards and deja vu unfolding in this gesture a dense story of erasures and reappearances, dispossession and resistance, the archaic resonating in the contemporary.
Basel Abbas & Ruanne Abou-Rahme were born 1983 in Nicosia, Cyprus and Boston, USA and live and work between Ramallah and New York. They have exhibited and performed internationally. Selected solo exhibitions include And Yet My Mask Is Powerful, Kunstverein Hamburg and Krannert Art Museum, Illinois (Upcoming, 2018), And Yet My Mask is Powerful, Carroll / Fletcher London and Alt Bomontiada, Istanbul (2016); The Incidental Insurgents, ICA, Philadelphia, (2015).
Recent group exhibitions include 4th Ural Industrial Biennial of Contemporary Art, Ekaterinburg (2017), Jerusalem Lives (Tahya Al Quds), The Palestinian Museum, Birzeit (2017), House of Commons, Portikus, Frankfurt; This Sea Is Mine, Qalandiya International, Ramallah (both 2016); Political Populism, Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna; the 12th Sharjah Biennale; Lest The Two Seas Meet, Warsaw Museum Of Modern Art (all 2015); the 31st São Paulo Biennial; 10th Gwangju Biennale; Insert 2014, New Delhi (all 2014); Asian Art Biennale (Taiwan); 13th Istanbul Biennial; Points of Departure, ICA, London (all 2013).
They received the Abraaj Group Art Prize 2016 and the Sharjah Biennial Prize in 2015. They were fellows at Akademie der Kunste der Welt in Cologne in 2013, and artists in residence at the Delfina Foundation, London in 2009.