Journal

The journal on portikus.de operates as an extension of the exhibitions at Portikus themselves. A wide spectrum of contributions including essays, interviews, fictional writing or photo- and video-contributions provide a closer look on artistic interests and reflect on topics that concern our society, politics and culture.

"Oh my god, this is another kind of code language!"

Amy Sillman, Bernard Vienat
2016-08-17

A Narrative for the Body: Shahryar Nashat’s Present Sore

Isla Leaver-Yap, Shahryar Nashat, Fabian Schöneich
2016-04-22

People are standing in the shade of a petrol station. Dark smoke is rising. A young man waves a slingshot in a circle over his head. It is 1:45 pm on May 15, 2014 in the West Bank. A male wearing a backpack enters the picture. A few seconds later, a bullet hits him from behind. He falls to the ground. Helpers rush to his aid. It is 2:58 pm on May 15, 2014. More gray smoke is billowing upwards. From the right, a man enters the picture. He is shot in the chest and falls to the ground. People rush to help him. This footage by a security camera shows the killings of Nadim Siam Nawara, age 17, and Mohammad Mahmud Odeh Abu Daher, age 16, which were committed during the demonstrations on Nakba Day near Ofer Israeli military prison by Ramallah.

“The images captured on video show unlawful killings where neither child presented a direct and immediate threat to life at the time of their shooting. These acts by Israeli soldiers may amount to war crimes, and the Israeli authorities must conduct serious, impartial, and thorough investigations to hold the perpetrators accountable for their crimes,” Rifat Kassis, the spokesperson of the human rights organization Defence for Children International, declared soon thereafter to the public. In addition to the surveillance videos, there are also audio recordings taken by a television crew at the scene of the crime that will be used as evidence in an audio-ballistic analysis to clarify how and from what direction the two unarmed Palestinian teens were fatally shot. The key question here is whether the soldiers and border police officers fired live ammunition or rubber bullets, as the Israeli security forces stated in their own defense. An investigation now aims to solve the murders.

Two years later, artist Lawrence Abu Hamdan develops Rubber Coated Steel, an extensive video installation at Portikus that reconstructs the events and makes the sounds recorded at the crime scene visible as images. His mixed media work consists of visualized frequency bands of the tracks and found video materials which, arranged within the architecture of a shooting range, also document the course of events. However, before the video work Rubber Coated Steel was created, Hamdan’s findings and the reports drawn up together with the London Institute of Forensic Architecture were used as legal evidence against the Israeli soldiers to prove their violation of the arms agreement with the United States before Congress in Washington, D.C.

The interpretative force of the auditory material in this particular case can also be found in the significance Hannah Arendt ascribed to listening and seeing for the process of comprehension. In 1961, she wanted to personally witness the trial of SS Obersturmbannführer Adolf Eichmann before the Jerusalem district court and thus proposed to The New Yorker that she serves as an observer of the court proceedings. She justified this decision in a letter to her former teacher Karl Jaspers, writing, “I would never be able to forgive myself if I didn’t go and look at this walking disaster face to face in all his bizarre vacuousness, without the mediation of the printed word. Don’t forget how early I left Germany and how little of all this I really experienced directly.”1 In Jerusalem, Arendt was prepared to encounter a vicious monster. During the trial, however, her expectations were not met, instead she experienced a person who followed and issued instructions from behind his desk and seemed barely conscious of the consequences of his actions. Therefore, in her final report Arendt developed the mental figure of the “banality of evil” 2 , for which she was criticized sharply from many sides, but which today largely influences our understanding of the brutality of the crimes committed against the Jews.

Adolf Eichmann, Photo: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, D.C., Photograph #65268, Courtesy of Israel Government Press Office

Similar to Arendt, for Hamdan, precise observation and analysis are the keys to comprehending the inconceivable. His examination of the audio material and precise evaluation of the results are an attempt to actually prove that live ammunition was fired to shoot the teenagers and to justly solve the crimes. As Arendt clearly defined the subjectivity of her report, Hamdan, too, reflects the conditions of his analysis by exhibiting the technological apparatus operating between the incident and the judgment. At Portikus, he shows the visualized frequency bands, presents the relevant video clips, and makes the shots audible over and over again. The situation that we experience in the exhibition is not only a meticulous reconstruction of the incident, but it also offers the chance to understand how the available body of evidence was analyzed, evaluated, and interpreted. Rubber Coated Steel seeks justice while reflecting, as legal reports can never do, on how fragmentary pieces of proofs are shaped to form a conclusion.

Translated by Faith Ann Gibson

1 “Hannah Arendt’s letter to Karl Jaspers, December 2, 1960,” Hannah Arendt -- Karl Jaspers, Correspondence 1926-1969, Edited by Lotte Kohler and Hans Saner, Translated by Robert Kimber and Rita Kimber, New York 1992, p. 409-410.
2 Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, London 2006, p. 252.

WE THE PEOPLE – Upholding Liberty

Cosima Anna Grosser
2017-04-25

The Body, the Pedestal

Marina Rüdiger
2016-05-31

H[gun shot]ow c[gun shot]an I f[gun shot]orget?

Lawrence Abu Hamdan
2016-04-19

Between Standstill and Movement

Malina Lauterbach, Maximilian Wahlich
2017-01-29

Textile as a medium of contemporary art

Olga Inozemtceva
2017-05-18