London-based artist Lawrence Abu Hamdan will be visiting Beirut this spring to start working on a new project in Cairo. Commissioned by Beirut in dialog with other partners, this is the first project to emerge under the umbrella of Beirut Collaborative Commissions (BCC), a framework to facilitate better infrastructural conditions for creating, producing and presenting artworks in Egypt and the wider Arab region.
Abu Hamdan's forthcoming research is inspired by the popular Islamic media form of the cassette sermon and how it has transformed the political geography of Egypt. Amplifying the way the transmission of these preaching "stars" has reorganized subjectivities from pious to political, an essential aspect of what is now called the Islamic Revival, the cassette sermon has become omnipresent in most Middle Eastern cities, punctuating public spaces through the daily routines of many men and women. Cassette sermon tapes have provided one of the means by which Islamic ethical traditions have been re-calibrated to a modern political and technological order—to its noise and forms of pleasure and boredom, but also to its political incitements and call for citizen participation. Working against the popular belief that Islamic cassette sermons are a tool of militant indoctrination, the artist will engage local residents and young practioners in examining the spaces in which these tapes resonate in a city that is audibly forming its future constitution.
The project commences with a three week long research and production visit to Cairo in June. During this time, Abu Hamdan will collect recordings, interviews and cassette materials to subsequently realize a narrative audio composition and audio-visual installation over the course of the following months. The research will then culminate in a solo showcase with new works by Abu Hamdan at Beirut in November 2013, and a bilingual print publication in Arabic and English.