Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme

Collapse, 8’20″2009

Contingency, 6’48″, 2010


Contingency (2012)

A field of noise. We must keep the order. Low-frequency machine rumble.
A body stuck in a turnstile. Distortion. Metal clanks against metal.
Speakers vibrate, a disembodied voice, an order to MOVE BACK. The machine begins the rhythm again.

Contingency explores the sonic fabric of colonial structures as embodied in the experience of the Ramallah-Jerusalem checkpoint Qalandia.

Using only sounds and dialogue recorded on location with hidden handheld devices the sonic language of the space is decoded and denormalised. Fragments of the conversations and confrontations on site run across the screen. The soundscape is denaturalised to expose an unsettling surrealism and a kind of ‘science fiction’ that lurks at the heart of contemporary coloniality.  Critically examining how colonial practices of disciplining populations not only result in acts of resistance but paradoxically also elicit corresponding modes of self-disciplining by colonial subjects. A disconcerting reference to the ‘machine’ returns again and again in the interactions.

Contingency was originally produced in 2010 as an 8 minute 4 channel sound installation with a minimum of 3 LED tickers running around the perimeter of the room.

Collapse (2009)

8’20” single channel video & sound installation

Collapse brings together imaginary and actual moments of resistance and loss, an act of excavation that illuminates the deep disruptions that have shaped not only Palestinian lived experience and memory but shared histories of struggle.

A literal and poetic displacement resonates throughout the work, in part a meditation on a contemporary Palestinian landscape ruptured by a breakdown of community, memory and narrative. The feeling of continual suspension and relapse, progress and deadly repetition is played out exploring the overlap between personal trajectories and multiple historical narratives. It is in the ambiguities between absence and presence, nostalgia and an altogether frustrating sense of deja-vu, that the installation explores an anxious and obsessive state of being, trapped in the transition between past, present, reality and fiction.


Yvette Greslé: Tell me about Collapse, one of the films selected for the screening of artist’s films at Carroll/Fletcher. Watching the film, I was struck by a sense of violence and power and how these, enacted in times of war and political conflict, produce a highly affective relationship to space. It made me think about how space is navigated, whether the space of a city or a landscape (or perhaps even an intimate space, such as a domestic space, or the artist’s studio in your work The Accidental Insurgents). Watching Collapse I felt and experienced the disorientation of displacement, and anxiety, through the (often ghostly) overlays of spatial environments and running men and women. It is such a complex and deeply affecting work, both visually but also in the way that you use overlays of sound.

BA and RA-R: Collapse is a work we finished in 2009. We began working on it in 2008 when we returned to Palestine having not lived there for about 7 years. We both left during the Second Intifada (which began in 2000) and went abroad to study. We lived and worked abroad and were then compelled to go back to Palestine for our work. When we returned we had to deal with quite violent and radical transformation. Not only spatially. Although you are right, there is a sense of how these transformations are visualised and how they manifest spatially. There was also a feeling that there was a loss of a political community or a shared narrative of resistance. It felt as though there was a very deep geopolitical fragmentation of sorts. And a stagnation. We thought about landscape in that sense. As a kind of breakdown of community, and also of memory.

When we left Palestine at the moment of the Second Intifada there was still this discourse of resistance. Or perhaps the remnants of it – a discourse of resistance and liberation. It was the end of the transformation of the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organisation) into an authority. Before, the idea of the PLO was of something very much alive, and part of a community. When we returned the failures of the Second Intifada had solidified and this marked the end of the PLO or the end of the idea of the PLO. This was quite a radical turning point in terms of the Palestinian narrative, or the discourse which was shaping the narrative.

© writing in relation 2014

The full interview can be found here


“In Contingency (2010), the duo explored the sonic particularities of the Qalandia checkpoint, the portal between Jerusalem and Ramallah in the West Bank (the artists’ hometown), and one of the most visually documented structures of recent years. The darkened installation plunges the visitor into a field of sound which pulses in tandem with dialogues on ticker-machines that criss-cross the space high above – material recorded by the artists on location with handheld devices. The deep rumbling of the security machines, the staccato clicking of the turnstiles and the metallic voices issuing instructions across the loudspeakers, orchestrate a stark reminder of the ability of sound to affirm disciplinary power. However,Contingency goes beyond the sonic documentation of a piece of military apparatus, capturing paradoxical instances of self-discipline as well as unexpected moments of individual resistance and comic absurdity. At the heart of this denatured and fragmented aural and textual landscape lies a dizzying sense of the fantastical, and a critical reading into the murky presence of fictive dystopias within the everyday trappings of occupation.”

Courtesy Katya García-Antón and frieze magazine.

The full article can be found here


Produced with the support of the Delfina Foundation London and Rose Issa Projects London.

Courtesy of the artists and
Produced by for the online exhibition Accordance (2012) -
Text animation by Kuba Nowak.
The installation version was produced with the support of Ashkal Alwan (Beirut).

Documentation of the installation version of Contingency
The artists’ tumblr
The artist’ page at Carroll / Fletcher

Contingency: Courtesy of the artists and
Produced by for the online exhibition Accordance (2012)