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Basel Abbas & Ruanne Abou-Rahme

Ruanne Abou-Rahme, b.1983, Boston, U.S.A and Basel Abbas b.1983 Nicosia, Cyprus, currently live and work in Ramallah and New York. Abou-Rahme and Abbas’ work reimagines the present within the notions of memory, amnesia and return. This idea of return is viewed from a multiplicity of lenses and is investigated through the relationship between the actual, the imagined, and recollection. The artists work across sound, image, text, installation and performance, but are perhaps best known for their soundscapes and mixes, as part of their performance group Tashweesh, which includes musician and performer Boikutt.

Boikutt, Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme performing as Tashweesh // image via the artists’ website

Ruanne Abou-Rahme & Basel Abbas were awarded the Abraaj Group Art Prize in 2016 and the Sharjah Biennial Prize in 2015. They have shown at the 53rd Venice Biennale in 2009, the Serpentine Pavilion in London and the Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW) in Berlin in 2013, amongst several other international exhibitions and performances.

Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme, Contingency, 2010, still from 4 channel sound installation 8′, minimum 3 LED tickers, aluminum sheets, // image via

A field of noise. We must keep the order. Low-frequency machine rumble. A body stuck in a turnstile. Distortion. Speakers vibrate, a disembodied voice, an order to MOVE BACK.

The machine begins the rhythm again.

Abou-Rahme and Abbas experiment at the intersection between colonial power dynamics and sonic art. Contingency (2010) presents covertly recorded audio from the Qalandia checkpoint at the Ramallah-Jerusalem border between Israel and Palestine. Eerie, disjointed snippets of conversations are displayed on text-tickers, presents an interaction that bears the aesthetics of the mechanistic and non-human. The sonic installation works to de-normalise such language within an absurdist framework that leaves one with a lingering sense of the dystopian and phantasmagorical. Here the auditory realm carries the potential to be both “an instrument of disciplinary power and as a site for its possible subversion”, a theme which recurs throughout the artists’ work.

Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme, The Incidental Insurgents. 2012-2015 (video still) // image from the artists and Carroll/Fletcher Gallery via

The Incidental Insurgents is a trilogy of pieces created between 2012 and 2015, in a serialised manner typical to their practice. The assemblage of works forms a constellation of ideas that reflect their process of historical research. This series concerns itself with folk heroes operating in seemingly disparate circumstances, according to the artists ranging from “Victor Serge and his contemporary anarchist-bandits in 1910’s Paris; Abu Jildeh and Arameet and their bandit gang involved in a rebellion against the British in 1930’s Palestine, the artist as the quintessential bandit in Roberto Bolaño’s novel The Savage Detectives set in 70’s Mexico, and the artists themselves in present day Palestine”. The myth-making of such historical and contemporary figures flows between the history and fantasy, referencing Godard’s Pierrot le Fou in the same breath. The affirmation of continuity and timelessness in the Palestinian context is one that directly challenges the trauma of an historical break, which we see revisited in subsequent work.

And Yet My Mask is Powerful (2016) provides a roadmap of resistance in the age of digital culture. As much of the struggle for Palestinian national identity is fought along fault lines of popular culture, historical narrative, and online platforms, this work documents their overlap as a site for eruptive resistance: hacking 3D models of Neolithic masks found near the Dead Sea and in the West Bank, and then reproducing them using 3D reproduction techniques. Their interest in non-linearity shows in this process: as ancient artefacts and future technological horizons interact to restore agency in a dystopian present.

Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme, Only the beloved keep our secrets. 2016, video still, // image from the artists and Abraaj Art Prize via

Currently, the work Only the beloved keep our secrets (2016) is being exhibited at A Space Gallery in Toronto. Their website explains it as a piece which is:

structured around footage taken from an Israeli military surveillance camera. On March 19, 2014, 14 year-old Yusuf Shawamreh crossed the ‘separation fence’ erected by the Israeli military near Hebron. He was going to pick Akub, an edible plant that grows at high altitudes and blooms for only a short period of time, and a delicacy in Palestinian cuisine. Israeli forces ambushed him and shot him dead. After a court injunction the military surveillance footage was released and consequently circulated online.”

There will be a new installment of And yet my mask is powerful to be introduced at A Tale of A Tub in Rotterdam, and exhibited from 6th September 2018.


by Perwana Nazif, with thanks to James Elsey