Basel Abbas & Ruanne Abou-Rahme: The song is the call, and the land is calling

Basel Abbas & Ruanne Abou-Rahme: The song is the call, and the land is calling

Copenhagen Contemporary / Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek

June 24, 2024
Basel Abbas & Ruanne Abou-Rahme
The song is the call, and the land is calling
June 14–December 29, 2024
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Copenhagen Contemporary
Refshalevej 173A
1432 Copenhagen K
Denmark
Hours: Wednesday–Sunday 11am–6pm, Thursday 11am–9pm

Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek
Dantes Plads 7
556 Copenhagen V
Denmark
Hours: Tuesday–Sunday 10am-5pm, Thursday 10am–9pm

With their thought-provoking and visually striking works, Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme fill two of Copenhagen’s largest art institutions with electronic soundscapes, sampled archival material, 3D-printed ancient masks and images layered with poetic texts. The two-part exhibition, The song is the call and the land is calling, unfolding at both institutions simultaneously, dives into the profound connection between cultural heritage and identity, and draws connections between narratives of struggle and shared dreams of liberation across different lands, histories and political contexts. The exhibition is the second in a three-year collaboration between Copenhagen Contemporary and the Glyptotek.

At the heart of Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme’s artistic practice is a profound inquiry into collective memory and the power of cultural expression. With backgrounds in sound and experimental film, Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme have developed an internationally renowned body of work that encompasses video, sound, image, text, installation and performance practices. Often evolving as longterm research projects, their works unfold as immersive multi-layered media installations, delving into themes of collective spirit, belonging and selfdetermination amidst histories of loss, violence and displacement. 

The song is the call and the land is calling presents several of Abbas and Abou-Rahme’s key works in new and expanded iterations. Unfolding in the slippages between erasures and reappearances, dispossession and resistance, histories of colonialism and attempts at new livelihoods the exhibition explores how histories of collective resilience resonate in our contemporary cultures. By referring to their works as ‘poetics of resistance’, the artists highlight their enduring interest in how marginalised communities can mobilise hope and collectively foster new social and political potentials despite living in oppressive political systems. 

With this year’s exhibition, Copenhagen Contemporary and the Glyptotek seek to investigate the deep connections between cultural heritage and identity by asking: What is the place and power of cultural heritage when forces of imperialism and colonial occupation threaten to uproot and erase entire communities from a land? How can the perception of cultural heritage be strengthened, not merely as relics of the past but also as immaterial culture, acting as living testimonies to the resilience and ingenuity of humanity? And how can cultural heritage be a question of human rights and the freedom to selfdetermination?

The works at Copenhagen Contemporary
At Copenhagen Contemporary Abbas and Abou-Rahme present three combined works: the immersive multi-channel sound and video installation May amnesia never kiss us on the mouth: Only sounds that tremble through us (2020–22), the sculptural installation Where the soil has been disturbed (2022) and the textile banner piece Low cloud hum (2023).

The central work, May amnesia never kiss us on the mouth, is a multi-part research project examining how disintegrated communities bear witness to experiences of violence, loss, displacement and forced migration through performance. Since the early 2010s, Abbas and Abou-Rahme have collected online recordings of people singing and dancing in communal spaces in Iraq, Palestine, Yemen and Syria. Accompanied by new sound compositions and poetic text excerpts, the work brings these recordings together with new filmic performances conceived by the artists with dancers and musicians from Palestine.

The works at the Glyptotek
At the Glyptotek the artists are presenting their long-term research project And yet my mask is powerful Part 1, 2, 3 (2016–18), alongside one newly commissioned work rooted specifically in the museum’s ancient collection.

And yet my mask is powerful explores ideas of empowerment and resistance through a multi-screen video work, a sound piece and a sculptural installation. The project focuses on a collection of 9,000-year-old neolithic masks excavated in the West Bank and the surrounding areas. For many years, these masks were kept in private collections hidden from public view, until they were displayed at the Israel Museum in 2014. Visiting the exhibition online through a virtual tour, the artists ‘hacked’ the masks by replicating them using 3D-printing technology and subsequently returning the copies to the ruins of some of the over 500 Palestinian villages destroyed or depopulated by Israel in 1948, as an act of homecoming.

In a new work based on the Glyptotek’s collection the artists have 3D-scanned and printed ancient idols and figurines from regions across Turkey, Syria, Palestine, Lebanon and Jordan. 

The exhibition is curated by Aukje Lepoutre Ravn (CC) and Anna Kærsgaard Gregersen (Glyptotek).

Biography
Living and working between New York City and Ramallah Basel Abbas (b.Nicosia, Cyprus, 1983) and Ruanne Abou-Rahme (b. Boston, US, 1983) have collaborated as a duo since 2007. The artist’s work is deeply rooted in the history and circumstances of Palestinian lives and identity, shaped by their upbringing in communities across Ramallah, Jerusalem and Galilee. However, their work is always situated beyond the individual as they incorporate multiple perspectives and sources in their research, including field work, oral history, personal encounters and self-authored texts, historical records, archaeological findings, archival research and found footage from the Internet.

Recent exhibitions include MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge, MA (2024), Astrup Fearnley Museet, Oslo (2023); the Museum of Modern Art, New York (2022); Common Guild, Glasgow (2022); Art Institute of Chicago (2021) and Centraal Museum, Utrecht (2020). Their work has been included in major international biennials such as Sharjah Biennial (2023, 2015); Berlin Biennale (2022); Busan Biennial (2018); Gwangju Biennale and São Paulo Biennial (both 2014); Istanbul Biennial (2013); Liverpool Biennial (2010); and Venice Biennale (2009). They are recipients of the Sharjah Biennale Prize in 2015 and the Abraaj Prize in 2016. 

About the collaboration
Hosting Histories: Revisiting Cultural Heritage of the Middle East and Beyond is a three-year partnership between the Glyptotek and Copenhagen Contemporary that revisits the cultural heritage of antiquity and its significance today. 

Exhibition period
Copenhagen Contemporary: June 14–December 29
Contact: T +45 29 89 80 87 / contact [​at​] cphco.org

Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek: June 14–October 20
Contact: T +45 33 41 8 141 / info [​at​] glyptoteket.dk

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June 24, 2024

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