New York, New York, March 4, 2022 – Dia Art Foundation is pleased to announce the release of the second part of a digital work by Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme: May amnesia never kiss us on the mouth (2020– ), co-commissioned by the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). In development for nearly a decade, this project revolves around Abbas and Abou-Rahme's collection of online recordings, featuring everyday people singing and dancing in communal spaces in Iraq, Palestine, Syria, and Yemen, that the artists have archived since the early 2010s. Through the circulation of this material, the artists examine how people bear witness to and narrate experiences of violence, loss, displacement, and forced migration through performance.
The project has and will continue to evolve into multiple digital and physical forms. Part I, subtitled Postscript: After everything is extracted, launched December 10, 2020, as part of Dia’s Artist Web Projects—the longest-running web-art commissioning series in the United States—and is accessible for free on Dia’s website. On March 5, 2022, the digital platform will expand with the launch of Part II. A related presentation of the project will take place as an exhibition at MoMA from April 23 to June 26, 2022.
“Our series of Artist Web Projects is emblematic of Dia’s interests in supporting artists working in experimental mediums on an ambitious scale,” said Jessica Morgan, Dia’s Nathalie de Gunzburg director. “Following Dia’s long-term engagement with Abbas and Abou-Rahme, we are delighted to launch the latest iteration of this important work, which will bring the artists’ expansive collection of recordings to the public.”
The title May amnesia never kiss us on the mouth is lifted from a translation of writer Roberto Bolaño’s “Infrarealist Manifesto,” written in Mexico City in 1976. It is at once an indictment of an artistic community’s complacency and an urgent call that artists remain attentive: “May amnesia never kiss us on the mouth. May it never kiss us.” Through its multiple parts, Abbas and Abou-Rahme's work considers performance—whether in the form of song, spoken word, dance, or gesture—as a political act that reflects a contemporary moment marked by various forms of violence. By bearing witness to and embodying overlooked histories, the project insists that communities affected by upheaval in Iraq, Palestine, Syria, and Yemen, but also around the world, persevere and reclaim contested spaces.
In December 2020 the digital project opened with Part I, Postscript: After everything is extracted, a reflection on the act of mourning. Soon after the pandemic took hold of the world in early 2020, the artists returned to a piece of writing that speaks to a constant state of grief and pain experienced across virtual and physical spaces. As the viewer progresses through various composed chapters of the Postscript, they encounter the text in fragments. Accompanied by a new sound piece by the artists, the different chapters layer text pop-ups with avatars that are common to Abou-Rahme and Abbas practice, as well as a selection of found and original videos that foreshadow those featured in the second iteration.
In March 2022 the platform evolves with Part II, which will include nearly eighty videos from the artists’ extensive collection of found and unedited online recordings of performances, many of which are no longer accessible online. Among these are documents of tragedy and poetic expressions of the everyday: a lament for a lost home performed from the rubble of a building; a lovers’ duet; and a young man in Raqqa, Syria, singing waist-deep in the Euphrates River. The songs and poems from the found videos have also been transcribed into Arabic and translated into English, and both texts are a layered component of Part II. The lyrics tell stories of separation, loss, abandonment, and exile, and draw connections between narratives of struggle and shared dreams of liberation.
Over the last several years, the artists have also collaborated with electronic musicians Haykal, Julmud, and Makimakkuk, as well as the dancer Rima Baransii, all of whom are based in Palestine. Alongside the found recordings and texts, Part II also features videos shot in various parts of the state of the performers responding to specific gestures, music, or texts from the archive. To encourage a singular experience, visitors to Part II can navigate their own trajectory through the compilation of intersecting and overlapping visual material, which is accompanied by sound from the performances and archival videos.
“For Part II of May amnesia never kiss us on the mouth, Abbas and Abou-Rahme have assembled and preserved a body of knowledge in defiance of its continuous digital erasure. Amidst the ongoing disruption of everyday life in the region, this work persists in narrating lived experiences. In reclaiming digital traces and intersecting these with responsive performances, the artists give attention to the agency and resilience of the performing body,” said Kelly Kivland, curator.
In April 2022 MoMA will present the project in the Marie-Josée and Henry Kravis Studio, the museum’s new space for live art and expanded approaches to sound and moving image. A multichannel sound-and-video installation, this physical iteration of the project will bring digital traces of these performing bodies into the gallery.
To celebrate the launch of Part II, Dia will host a free conversation at Dia Chelsea about the project with the artists; writer and curator Omar Berrada; and theorist, historian, and artist Jill H. Casid. The discussion will be followed by a DJ set and performance by Julmud transmitted from Ramallah, Palestine.
May amnesia never kiss us on the mouth is curated by Kelly Kivland, chief curator and director of exhibitions at the Wexner Center for the Arts, Ohio, and former curator at Dia, with Theodora Bocanegra Lang, Dia’s curatorial assistant. The digital platform of May amnesia never kiss us on the mouth was programmed by Lukas Eigler-Harding. The forthcoming exhibition at MoMA is organized by Martha Joseph, the Phyllis Ann and Walter Borten assistant curator of media and performance, with performances produced by Lizzie Gorfaine, producer, and Kate Scherer, manager, with Ginny Benson, assistant performance coordinator, performance and live programs.
May amnesia never kiss us on the mouth is co-commissioned by Dia Art Foundation, New York, and the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
May amnesia never kiss us on the mouth is made possible by support from the Khalid Shoman Foundation-Darat al Funun and by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.
About Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme
Basel Abbas was born in Nicosia, Cyprus, in 1983. Ruanne Abou-Rahme was born in Boston in 1983.
They have exhibited internationally, most recently at Proyectos Ultravioleta, Guatemala City, and Disjecta, Portland (both 2019). Their work has been displayed in additional solo exhibitions at, among others, Kunstverein Hamburg (2018); Alt Bomontiada, Istanbul (2017); Office for Contemporary Art in Oslo (2015); ICA Philadelphia (2014); Akademie der Künste der Welt, Cologne (2014); and Delfina Foundation, London (2009). In 2015 their work was included in the Sharjah Biennial, where they were awarded the Sharjah Biennial Prize. Abbas and Abou-Rahme both live in New York City and Ramallah.
About Artist Web Projects
Inaugurated in 1995, Dia’s Artist Web Projects commissions artists to create original projects for the internet and is the longest-running program of its kind in the United States. The series invites artists to realize projects that explore the aesthetic and conceptual potentials of the medium. Dia’s archive of Artist Web Projects are available online here.
Dia Art Foundation
Taking its name from the Greek word meaning “through,” Dia was established in 1974 with the mission to serve as a conduit for artists to realize ambitious new projects, unmediated by overt interpretation and uncurbed by the limitations of more traditional museums and galleries. Dia’s programming fosters contemplative and sustained consideration of a single artist’s body of work and its collection is distinguished by the deep and longstanding relationships that the nonprofit has cultivated with artists whose work came to prominence particularly in the 1960s and 1970s.
In addition to Dia Beacon, Dia Bridgehampton, and Dia Chelsea, Dia maintains and operates a constellation of commissions, long-term installations, and site-specific projects, notably focused on Land art, nationally and internationally. These include:
- Walter De Maria’s The New York Earth Room(1977) and The Broken Kilometer (1979), Max Neuhaus’s Times Square (1977), and Joseph Beuys’s 7000 Eichen (7000 Oaks, inaugurated in 1982 and ongoing), all of which are located in New York City
- De Maria’s The Lightning Field(1977) in western New Mexico
- Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty(1970) in the Great Salt Lake, Utah
- Nancy Holt’s Sun Tunnels(1973–76) in the Great Basin Desert, Utah
- De Maria’s The Vertical Earth Kilometer(1977) in Kassel, Germany
For additional information or materials, contact:
Hannah Gompertz, Dia Art Foundation, firstname.lastname@example.org, +1 212 293 5598
Melissa Parsoff, Parsoff Communications, email@example.com, +1 516 445 5899
(US press inquiries)
Sam Talbot, firstname.lastname@example.org, +44 (0) 772 5184 630 (international press inquiries)