Great Review of Language Gulf In the Shouting Valley 2013 by Jim Quilty

From the English Language Lebanese Newspaper- the Daily Star

BEIRUT: Lawrence Abu Hamdan’s “Language Gulf in the Shouting Valley” (2013) is rooted on what may be the Golan Heights’ best-known cultural activity.

Members of the Druze community straddle the border dividing Israeli-occupied Syria from Israel’s Palestinian lands. In lieu of direct communication, family members and friends on either side of the line fall back on shouting at one another from opposite sides of the cease-fire line, which has come to be called “The Shouting Valley.”

Abu Hamdan’s 15-minute “audio essay” is installed within a gray-painted alcove distinguished by sound-baffling foam strips on the left and right walls and atop the viewing bench (so it’s more comfortable than the others in this exhibition).

Intermittently a generous screen flashes to life with the video component of this sound work – shaky hand-held camera shots from the Shouting Valley – but the main body of the work issues from two small wall-mounted speakers.

The soundtrack has two components – the shouts and screams of residents from either side of the valley and Abu Hamdan’s interview with scholar Lisa Hajjar. An authority on the incarceration and torture protocols of the U.S. and client regimes like Israel, Hajjar discusses the liminal position of Israel’s Druze.

As they are heterodox Muslims, the Israeli regime has “Orientalized” the Druze as “non-Arab” collaborators. The only Palestinians eligible for Israel’s military draft, while still subject to its arbitrary land confiscation, young uneducated Druze men are employed in intermediary roles – translators in the occupation’s military courts, for example – that Israel’s Arab-Jewish citizens are discouraged from playing.

Druze conscripts face unusual pressure to demonstrate their loyalty to the occupation regime. In performance, the Druze translators are so aggressive and uncooperative during land-confiscation hearings that Palestinian plaintiffs are reduced to mere objects.

In Hajjar’s words, the Druze mouthpieces of the occupation are the grease that allows it to operate. Abu Hamdan proposes that, like the Shouting Valley, the Druze role as mouthpiece reflects the community’s liminal status as translator, transgressor, traitor and collaborator.

“Language Gulf” is one of 24 works now on show in “Ten Thousand Wiles and a Hundred Thousand Tricks,” the exhibition component of Meeting Points 7, the transnational contemporary art road show, up at the Beirut Art Center.

Abu Hamdan’s politically grounded installation art is more sophisticated than it appears. This is less a matter of artistic modesty than the BAC’s staging: As mounted here, the work’s sound design makes the shrieks issuing from the audiovisual footage much louder than the interview portions that give the piece its intellectual girth.

Ironically, informed members of the public skirting “Language Gulf” may assume they already know what the work is “about,” and not bother listening to it properly.

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(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News ::