Akeroyd Collection


Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Walled Unwalled, 2018

Part of a larger body of work derived from Abu Hamdan’s 2016 investigation of Saydnaya prison in Syria, Walled Unwalled, 2018, is a single-channel video installation that considers the political, social and architectural function of walls. In the video, we see Abu Hamdan behind the windows of an infamous Cold War–era recording studio in former East Berlin, the city itself infamous for its walled enclosure from ‘The West’. He speaks about the permeability of walls, citing in the process the US Supreme Court thermal-imaging case Kyllo v. United States (2001), the murder trial of Oscar Pistorius, and the survivors of Saydnaya prison. The discussion of walls as evidence, as threshold, and as technology from both Abu Hamdan and in excerpt material creates a polyphony. But Abu Hamdan’s voice, set to an increasingly ominous solo live drummer, becomes the main one we hear amongst the cacophony. He ruminates on the fact that more walls are being built than ever before; in the year 2000, there were a total of fifteen fortified border walls and fences between sovereign nations. At the time the film was made, there were sixty-three. This is set in contrast to scientific research regarding particles called muons that invisibly descend into the Earth’s atmosphere and penetrate meters deep, even through layers of concrete, soil, and rock. Scientists have developed a technology to harvest them and leverage their peculiar capacity to pass through surfaces impervious to X-rays. Muons allowed us to see for the first time ‘the contraband hidden in lead-lined shipping containers, and secret chambers buried inside the stone walls of the pyramids, meaning that no wall on Earth is truly impermeable’.

If the wall is both a legal device – defining the limits of a jurisdiction, and architectural – a barrier between private and public life, then the history of the self and the citizen, and the notion of the enclosed room, city, or nation are intertwined. In keeping with Abu Hamdan’s broader inquiries into the efficacy of state control and architectures, both material and immaterial, Walled Unwalled asks what it means for us as subjects that we are building more walls than ever. Most pointedly, what are the implications of walls being no longer physically or conceptually solid or impenetrable?

Medium2k video loop, stereo sound
Duration20 minutes 59 seconds
Editionof 6 + 2 APs