The Art of Listening

n the mountains of Lebanon, villagers drape strands of shiny magnetic tape from old cassettes over fruit trees to keep the birds away. No one pays too much attention to the tape—or the audio content imprinted on it. But a few years ago, Lawrence Abu Hamdan unwrapped a coil from a clementine tree and listened to it. What the Turner Prize-nominated artist heard were the words of an Islamic scholar talking about an esoteric doctrine from the Druze minority that reviews editor Ophelia Lai describes in her cover feature on the artist as “methodologies of hearing, soliciting, and utilizing audio evidence.” In the article, Lai dissects several of Abu Hamdan’s major projects, including his audio ballistic analysis of gunfire, his research into the weaponization of silence in a Syrian prison, and court trials where the case rests on “disputed utterances,” finding that the artist’s works uncover “the power dynamics implicit in who has the right to speak or remain silent, to record or be recorded.”

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