ON DRAWING DRAWING ON: Film Screening: Lawrence Abu Hamdan, A Thousand White Plastic Chairs

 Mar 09, 2022, 12:00 PM – 9:00 PM
 Logan Center Performance Hall

Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts
915 E 60th St, Chicago, IL 60637

A Thousand White Plastic Chairs documents Lawrence Abu Hamdan’s performance in the Logan Center Penthouse in March 2020, as part of “The Sonic Image,” an evening of performances conceived by Gray Center Fellows Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Hannah B Higgins, and W.J.T. Mitchell during their Thinking Through Sound Fellowship

In A Thousand White Plastic Chairs,  Abu Hamdan subjects his own voice to the mercy of lights controlled by Mitchell. The video is illuminated by these lights alone, which continually command and direct the artist’s speech and speed of thought by emblazoning his face in red and yellow. Here, Abu Hamdan re-performs the asymmetry between the speed of the technology, which allowed words to travel through copper cables at 4,600 meters per second, and the speed of the human mind to process what it sees and stores of a given event. These events are preserved within cacophonous and dissonant objects that embody the schism between an event and its reckoning, and mediate the conflict between a sound and what that sound means. This work proposes that the true capacity to bear witness is measured not through acts of coherent testimony and seamless speech, but rather through their breaking points.

As part of his larger project, The Witness-Machine Complex, Abu Hamdan examines the role of the simultaneous translators and the then-novel electronic acoustic infrastructure deployed to enable their work at the Nuremberg Trials in 1945/6. Allowing the International Military Tribunal to take place in Russian, French, German, and English simultaneously, the work of the translators and their apparatus set a precedent for subsequent international legal procedures. 

(Lawrence Abu Hamdan, 13:20 min, 2020)

Image caption: Earwitness Inventory: Tray Rack (2018), Lawrence Abu Hamdan, courtesy of the artist