17th Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival

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9 – 12 September 2021

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Thanks to all who have entered films to this autumn’s festival. We will let you know about the selection status of your film by the 9th of August.

At Those Terrifying Frontiers Where the Existence and Disappearance of People Fade Into Each Other

Available online

17 September – 11 October, 2020

This programme contains 2 films.

In consultation with Abbas and Abou-Rahme, Only the Beloved Keeps Our Secrets, a second work was chosen to accompany At Those Terrifying Frontiers Where the Existence and Disappearance. Taking the opportunity given by an online Festival, it was felt that this strategy might better simulate the artists’ performance, installation and exhibition making practice for viewers.

At Those Terrifying Frontiers Where the Existence and Disappearance of People Fade Into Each Other

Hybrid in form, this work from Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme wrestles with the problematics of representing a people displaced and disappeared. An avatar generating software and images of the people who participated in the Great March of Return demonstrations create figures that sing a sad lament. Voiced by the artists themselves yet digitally altered, they are, at once, human and non-human.

In this film, missing data in the figures’ faces are replaced with scars and glitches—an inscription of trauma onto the body. This act of flattening people is central to the real impossibility of representing faces and bodies that have been coded as illegal. Text taken from Edward Said’s book After the Last Sky is repurposed to create a new script which reflects on what it means today to be constructed as an “illegal” person, body, or entity.

The work also makes reference to “languages not fully formed”—how does one find the words to describe the ongoing effects of forced displacement? An attempt is made to represent this through “broken narratives, fragmentary compositions, self-consciously staged testimonials where the narrative voice keeps stumbling over itself, its obligations, its limitations”—an articulation of the contradictions inherent in this kind of documentation.

Themes of disappearance and re-appearance are present throughout. The Great March of Return—which refers to the 18 month demonstrations held every Friday on the Gaza border between March 2018 and December 2019, that demanded the right of Palestinian refugees to land that is now Israel—plays a key role in situating the concerns of diasporic Palestinians in the present tense. To film on the Gaza strip is itself an important act of witnessing; the area has been under near constant siege since 2006; Abbas and Abou-Rahme film border walls. Can liberation be found through attempting to live in a site of displacement and protest? —Myriam Mouflih

Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme work together across a range of sound, image, text, installation and performance practices. Their practice is engaged in the intersections between performativity, political imaginaries, the body and virtuality. Across their works they probe a contemporary landscape marked by seemingly perpetual crisis and an endless ‘present’, one that is shaped by a politics of desire and disaster. They have been developing a body of work that questions this suspension of the present and searches for ways in which an altogether different imaginary and language can emerge that is not bound within colonial/capitalist narrative and discourse. In their projects, they find themselves excavating, activating and inventing incidental narratives, figures, gestures and sites as material for re-imagining the possibilities of the present. Often reflecting on ideas of non-linearity in the form of returns, amnesia and deja vu, and in the process unfolding the slippages between actuality and projection (fiction, myth, wish), what is and what could be. Largely their approach has been one of sampling materials both existing and self-authored in the form of sound, image, text, objects and recasting them into altogether new ‘scripts’. The result is a practice that investigates the political, visceral, material possibilities of sound, image, text and site, taking on the form of multi-media installations and live sound/image performances.

Filmography

At Those Terrifying Frontiers where the existence and disappearance of people fade into each other 

2019

Oh Shining Star Testify 2019

And yet my mask is powerful, Part 1 2016 – 2018

Only the beloved keeps our secrets 2016

The Incidental Insurgents: The Part About the Bandits, Part 1, Chapter 1 2012-2015

The Incidental Insurgents: Unforgiving Years, Part 2 2012-2015

                                                                                             

The Incidental Insurgents. When the fall of the dictionary leaves all words lying in the street, Part 3, Chapter 5 & 6  2012-2015

The Zone 2011

Lost Objects of Desire 2010

Collapse 2009

 

 


Original Title

على تلك الحدود المرعبة التي يختلط فيها وجود الناس واختفائهم ببعضه البعض

Director

Basel Abbas, Ruanne Abou-Rahme

SDH Captions

Production Country

Palestinian Territory

Production Year

2019

Duration

11 mins

Dialogue Language

Arabic

Subtitle Language

English

Print Contact

Basel Abbas

Only the Beloved Keeps Our Secrets

Only the Beloved Keeps Our Secrets invites us to consider the forms of entanglement between the destruction of bodies and the erasure of images, and the conditions under which these same bodies and images might once again reappear. Utilising military surveillance footage, the artists create a multi-layered and shifting work.

Like much of Abbas and Abou-Rahme’s work, the film is concerned with notions of fragmentation, disappearance and reappearance. Grainy footage is taken from an Israeli military surveillance in the foreground, whilst in the background a hand is holding a flower, freshly picked. After a court injunction, images were widely circulated online depicting a day in March 2014, where 14 year-old Yusuf Shawamreh crossed the “separation fence” erected by the Israeli military near Hebron. The teenage boy had been going to pick a flower, short in season and a delicacy in Palestinian cuisine, when he was shot dead by Israeli military forces.

Layers upon layers build on top of each other in a density of images. As the artists note, the function of this is “obscuring what came before in an accumulation of constant testament and constant erasure.” Another layer: red text in English capital letters, in Arabic script flashes up on top.

Using online recordings of song and dance to create a fragmented script, Abbas and Abou-Rahme use images of ambiguous and abandoned landscapes collected over a five year period. Shot mostly in Palestine, the images have the power to act as a testament but to invalidate themselves too. It’s the tension between opposing forces that the artists are able to convey in their work.

When images are widely circulated, a new meaning is given. In this, the act of taking apart, re-assembling and reframing the urgency of bearing witness is felt anew. “It is here between seeing and not seeing, between appearance and disappearance, that what could be retrieved from the wreck can be glimpsed.” —Myriam Mouflih

Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme work together across a range of sound, image, text, installation and performance practices. Their practice is engaged in the intersections between performativity, political imaginaries, the body and virtuality. Across their works they probe a contemporary landscape marked by seemingly perpetual crisis and an endless ‘present’, one that is shaped by a politics of desire and disaster. They have been developing a body of work that questions this suspension of the present and searches for ways in which an altogether different imaginary and language can emerge that is not bound within colonial/capitalist narrative and discourse. In their projects, they find themselves excavating, activating and inventing incidental narratives, figures, gestures and sites as material for re-imagining the possibilities of the present. Often reflecting on ideas of non-linearity in the form of returns, amnesia and deja vu, and in the process unfolding the slippages between actuality and projection (fiction, myth, wish), what is and what could be. Largely their approach has been one of sampling materials both existing and self-authored in the form of sound, image, text, objects and recasting them into altogether new ‘scripts’. The result is a practice that investigates the political, visceral, material possibilities of sound, image, text and site, taking on the form of multi-media installations and live sound/image performances.

Filmography

At Those Terrifying Frontiers where the existence and disappearance of people fade into each other 

2019

Oh Shining Star Testify 2019

And yet my mask is powerful, Part 1 2016 – 2018

Only the beloved keeps our secrets 2016

The Incidental Insurgents: The Part About the Bandits, Part 1, Chapter 1 2012-2015

The Incidental Insurgents: Unforgiving Years, Part 2 2012-2015

                                                                                             

The Incidental Insurgents. When the fall of the dictionary leaves all words lying in the street, Part 3, Chapter 5 & 6  2012-2015

The Zone 2011

Lost Objects of Desire 2010

Collapse 2009

 

 


Director

Basel Abbas, Ruanne Abou-Rahme

SDH Captions

Production Country

Palestinian Territory

Production Year

2016

Duration

10 mins

Subtitle Language

English

Print Contact

Basel Abbas