New multipart project launches as part of Dia's Artist Web Projects

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New multipart project launches as part of Dia's Artist Web Projects
Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme, Postscript: after everything is extracted (detail from May amnesia never kiss us on the mouth), 2020– . Collection of the artists, commissioned by Dia Art Foundation for the Artist Web Projects series. © Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme. Image courtesy Dia Art Foundation, New York.

NEW YORK, NY.- Dia Art Foundation and The Museum of Modern Art are presenting a new multipart, co-commissioned work by Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme: May amnesia never kiss us on the mouth (2020– ). In development for nearly a decade, this project revolves around the artists’ collection of online recordings, featuring everyday people singing and dancing in communal spaces in Iraq, Palestine, and Syria. 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 will evolve into multiple digital and physical forms. The first phase, subtitled Postscript: After everything is extracted, launched on 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. This digital platform will expand in summer 2021 and a subsequent chapter of the project will be presented as an exhibition at MoMA.

“Our series of Artist Web Projects is emblematic of Dia’s interests in supporting artists working in experimental mediums on an ambitious scale. This year, with access to physical spaces remaining restricted, this project feels even more timely and important,” said Jessica Morgan, Dia’s Nathalie de Gunzburg director. “Following Dia’s three-year engagement with Abbas and Abou-Rahme, we are delighted to now partner with MoMA on this commission, extending the project and offering different ways for the public to encounter the work.”

Abbas and Abou-Rahme work together across a range of sound, image, text, installation, and performance practices. Engaged in the intersections between performativity, political imaginations, and virtuality, their work highlights counter-narratives that upend strategies of erasure particular to colonialist structures.

The title of the project, 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 the presiding 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.”

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This December the 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 that they had begun before the lockdown, which speaks to the constant state of grief and pain experienced across virtual and physical spaces. The text is accompanied by a new sound piece that samples audio from original performances, which the artists created with a dancer and musicians in Palestine’s burgeoning underground scene.

In summer 2021 the platform will evolve to include the artists’ extensive collection of found online recordings of performances that they have archived since the early 2010s in addition to the recordings made in Palestine of the new performances. The former videos, many of which are no longer accessible online, have been transcribed and translated. The lyrics tell stories of separation, loss, abandonment, and exile, and draw connections between narratives of struggle and shared dreams of liberation. Abbas and Abou-Rahme’s original performances layer forms of embodiment to articulate, in the artists’ words, “a spectral collective—in every gesture, tone, word, or rhythm there is a ‘prior’ inscribed.”

At a later date, MoMA will present the next phase of the project in the Marie-Josée and Henry Kravis Studio, the museum’s new space for live art and expanded approaches to sound and the moving image. A multichannel sound-and-video installation, the next iteration of the project will bring digital traces of these performing bodies into the gallery.

Through its multiple parts, May amnesia never kiss us on the mouth considers performance—whether in the form of song, spoken word, dance, or gesture—as a political act that traces a contemporary moment marked by various forms of violence. By providing new opportunities to bear witness to and embody overlooked histories, the project insists that communities affected by upheaval in Iraq, Palestine, and Syria, but also around the world, persevere and claim contested spaces.

“May amnesia never kiss us on the mouth gives insight into the lived experiences in Iraq, Palestine, and Syria over the last decade. In an age where social histories are actively censored and mediated, the artists have assembled and preserved a body of knowledge in defiance of its continuous digital erasure,” said Kelly Kivland, Dia curator.

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.

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