Lawrence Abu Hamdan, One of the Four 2019 Turner Prize Winners, Will Explore Reincarnation With a Coveted New Commission

The artist has won the 2022 Future Fields Commission.

Lawrence Abu Hamdan. Photo by Miro Kuzmanovic. Courtesy of the artist.

Artist Lawrence Abu Hamdan, one of the joint winners of the 2019 Turner Prize, has won an accolade all his own.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo announced today that the Jordan-born, Beirut-based artist has been awarded the 2022 Future Fields Commission in Time-Based Media, making him the first non-American recipient of the prize. Abu Hamdan will receive $125,000 for the production of a newly commissioned work, which will debut at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in spring 2022, followed by the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo in Turin that winter. 

Abu Hamdan rocketed to international art stardom in recent years for his deeply researched sound art. His works have examined the use of speech analysis by UK immigration authorities, exposed the growing field of voice analysis and lie detection, and explored legal cases that revolved around evidence heard through walls. The artist, who describes himself as a “private ear,” brings his background in music to his multidisciplinary art practice, which now spans film, installation, and live performance.

The new commission will continue in the vein of the politically minded, immersive installations for which he has become known, but the project—tentatively titled How to Hear Impossible Speech: Lessons from the Division of Perceptual Studies—also marks a notable shift in Abu Hamdan’s research.

Video still from Once Removed (2019) by Lawrence Abu Hamdan. Commissioned by Sharjah Biennial 14. Courtesy of the artist.

While his Turner Prize-winning 2018 work, Walled Unwalled, tracked the reverberation of speech through physical walls, his latest project, inspired by the concept of reincarnation, will explore how speech transforms across time. 

“It’s a new body of work that I’ve been developing since working on ear-witness investigations, in which I’ve kind of taken a new track,” Abu Hamdan explained to Artnet News. “And it’s about multiple works, actually, of which this commission is one part, that deal with the speech of and the testimony of reincarnated subjects, people coming back from the dead and their testimonies from their previous lives.… It’s really about the political possibilities opened up by listening to the voices of the returned.”

For Timothy Rub, the Philadelphia Museum’s director, the commission will provide American audiences a new opportunity to acquaint themselves with the artist’s provocative work. “Their encounter with his work will undoubtedly strike an unsettling, yet sympathetic chord,” Rub said, “as it asks us to consider our place in the world and our relationship with other cultures.”

Originally established in 2016, the Future Fields commission is awarded to artists pushing the boundaries in video, film, performance, and sound. Lawrence Abu Hamdan is the third recipient. He succeeds Rachel Rose and Martine Syms, whose exhibition will open in Turin this spring before traveling to Philadelphia in fall 2020. 

Performance still from Natq a live audiovisual essay (2019) by Lawrence Abu Hamdan. Courtesy of the artist.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art and Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo will jointly acquire Abu Hamdan’s work after its debut. “This is a very serious investment in a new project,” the artist said. “It’s come at a particular moment where the focus of what I’m interested in have slightly shifted, so that’s very exciting. It’s really encouraging that artists are able to shift their focus and mediums and that it can be supported.”

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