Disputed Utterance (2018) is a series of charcoal drawings and photographs that mimic the linguistic process of palatography, a specific method used to identify which parts of the mouth are used when making different sounds. It involves painting a mixture of charcoal and olive oil on the tongue or the roof of a the mouth and having that person pronounce a specific sound. The trace of the phoneme is then printed on the speakers palat in charcoal. Abu Hamdan uses these images in order to tell different narratives of what in legal cases is referred to as a ‘disputed utterance’, a trial where someone’s culpability or innocence is hinged upon conflicted claims over a recorded word or phrase. By using actual disputed utterances from real legal cases, Abu Hamdan produces a narrative that calls our attention to the ways in which our voices can become crime scenes.

The trigger for Beneath the Surface (2015) is the current application of voice analysis as a lie detection method recently piloted by European, Russian and Israeli governments as well as being employed in border agencies and insurance companies all over the world. This technology uses the voice as a kind of stethoscope, an instrument to measure internal bodily responses to stress and tension; a material channel that allows the law’s listening to bypass speech and delve deeper into the body of its subjects.

Each of the panels are articulations of the seven verdicts that the lie detector gives. The work shows the micro‑second where the machine makes its verdict. The artist hand painted the pitch of the voice at the tiny moment where this machine produces something that can have a great effect on somebody’s life. In reproducing them by hand, he reinserts the human programmer that hides behind the machines algorithmic decisions.

The room that hosts this work is filled with the sound of chanted vowels from one loud speaker wedge sitting on the floor. Each of these trance inducing looping vowel sounds are the non verbal voices that the lie detector has given its verdicts too, each one of these verdicts is illustrated on the painted panels. This paint then seeks to intensify the listening experience. With the accompanying sound of chanting voices extracted from the lie detector these painted voiceprints are simultaneously paintings and acoustic interventions into the space in which they are exhibited.

These paintings are newest articulation of Abu Hamdan’s body of work that explores the material, technological and political qualities of sound.
 

Installation view, Kunst Halle Sankt Gallen, Switzerland, 2015 Credits: Kunst Halle Sankt Gallen, Stefan Jäggi

Two You I & II (2015)

These images illustrate the frequency and amplitude of two different voices saying the English word “you.” The contours map Abu Hamdan’s argument in material form, binding together notions of voice and territory. Here the voice-prints (voice fingerprints) are realized as paintings, painted with an acoustically absorbent/ sound-deadening paint called “coat of silence.” This paint intensifies the listening experience by isolating the voices we hear. Whether accompanying the audio piece or exhibited alone, these painted voice-prints are at the same time static works of art and acoustic interventions in the space they inhabit. These paintings are the most recent articulation of Abu Hamdan’s body of work that explores the material, technological, and political qualities of sound.

Acoustic paint on canvas or wall