Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme’s May amnesia never kiss us on the mouth (2020– ) examines how individuals 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 everyday people singing and dancing in communal spaces in Iraq, Palestine, and Syria. This work brings these recordings together with new performances conceived by the artists, a dancer, and a group of musicians in the cultural underground in Ramallah, Palestine. According to Abbas and Abou-Rahme, through the circulation of this footage, “these fractured communities are resisting their own erasure and laying claim to space, self, and collectivity once more.”
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 the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York, from April 23 to June 26, 2022.
Part II of May amnesia never kiss us on the mouth includes 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 in Syria; 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.
Over the last several years, the artists have also collaborated with electronic musicians Haykal, Julmud, and Makimakkuk, as well as the dancer Rima Baransi, 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.
On December 10, 2020, the online project opened with a reflection on the act of mourning titled Postscript: after everything is extracted. Soon after the COVID-19 pandemic shut down much of the world, the artists gave focus to a piece of writing, begun before the lockdown, which speaks to a constant state of grief and pain experienced across virtual and physical spaces. This text is layered with digital portraits and a new sound piece created by the artists in 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 the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and Dia Art Foundation, 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.
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 the Art Institute of Chicago (2021); the Centraal Museum, Utrecht, Netherlands (2020); Proyectos Ultravioleta, Guatemala City (2019); and Disjecta, Portland, Oregon (2019). Their work has additionally been featured in solo exhibitions at Kunstverein Hamburg (2018); Alt Bomontiada, Istanbul (2017); the Office for Contemporary Art, Oslo (2015); the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia (2014); Akademie der Künste der Welt, Cologne (2014); and the 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 live in both New York City and Ramallah.
Haykal is an MC and producer based in Ramallah, Palestine. He has been releasing music since 2012 and is the co-founder of one of the oldest hip-hop crews in Palestine, Saleb Wahad, which means “negative one” in Arabic. Haykal has performed live at, among others, Swiss Club, Cairo, (2019) and with Muqata’a on the occasion of his album release in 2013. He has participated in Palestine Literature Festival (2016) and Al Haraja Market, Ramallah (2017).
Julmud is a producer, DJ, multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, and music researcher based in Ramallah, Palestine, who creates, composes, samples, and combines sounds from across the globe to create his own form of music. He has produced work for various artists such as Haykal, Al Nather, Muqata'a, Makimakkuk, and Walaa Sbait, as well as members of the collective Saleb Wahad, to which he also belongs. He is currently producing a variety of solo and collaborative works. His debut album, Tuqoos, is forthcoming from Bilna'es in March 2022.
Makimakkuk is an independent music producer, lyricist, and vocalist. She released her first EP Fada'/Spaces in 2014 with Luxembourg-based producer Sun Glitters and has released various tracks on platforms such as Soundcloud, YouTube, and Spotify. In 2015 she took part in the A. M. Qattan Foundation's art residency at the Cité internationale des Arts, Paris. She participated in the first Palestinian musical play, Joo', by composer Dina Shilleh and the first and only Palestine Boiler Room in 2018. She has collaborated with the members of Saleb Wahad and has supported artists such as Al Sarah and The Nubatones, Nicolas Jaar, Bu Kolthoum, and Elfar3i, and played in the same lineups as Muqata'a, Synaptik, DJ Sama, Julmud, Haykal, Al Nather, Oddz, and Sam Binga.
Rima Baransi is a Ramallah-based freelance dancer and choreographer. She started her professional journey with Ramallah First Group (Sareyyet Ramallah) in 2012. In 2007, she enrolled as a dance student at the Charles E. Smith Jerusalem High School for the Arts. Inspired by her mother, who is a former ballerina, Rima made her own language through dance. She recently participated in a professional contemporary dance program at Berlin Dance Institute. Baransi has performed at the Tate London, Osloworld Festival, and with The People United company as well as at Google and YouTube events in Dublin and Milan. She has been a part of the Hannah Ma, Shaden, Stereo48, and Shams dance companies.
Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme
Basel Abbas was born in Nicosia, Cyprus, in 1983. Ruanne Abou-Rahme was born in Boston in 1983. Abbas and Abou-Rahme live and work in New York City and Ramallah.