This summer Rana Hamadeh will undertake a residency at Primary to develop a new work-in-progress, The Fugitive Image. This period-in-residence is a developmental part of a new body of work co-commissioned by Nottingham Contemporary and The Showroom, and is the latest element within Hamadeh’s ongoing overarching project, Alien Encounters.
The Fugitive Image, eventually culminating in a filmed play, departs from a claim that the artist has been exploring in several of her recent works, regarding justice as the extent to which one can access the dramatic means of representation – the measure to which one can access theatre. This claim, appropriated from an essay by academic Julie A. Cassiday on the origins of the genre of ‘legal spectacle’, proposes an inverted understanding of the notion of justice and of its workings: it is not through the exposure to institutions of justice that states, citizens, aliens, corporations, para-national structures and military machines take part in a symbolic order of representation. Rather, it is through the inhabitation of the theatrical that the very construct of justice is established.
The protagonists of the research from which these claims will be activated are Rayya and Sakina, two infamous sister serial killers known for being the first women to be executed by a legal court in the modern history of Egypt. An extensive number of state-sponsored plays, television series and books have been written about the sisters since their deaths in 1921, reproducing them as the prototypes of the universal face of female savagery and horror. The criminalisation of the rural, the gendering of the justice system, and the persistence of ‘the state of emergency’ in Egypt are all aspects of this story that the research will depart from.
Different elements of this new body of work will be exhibited over the course of the next year at Nottingham Contemporary (10 October 2015–3 January 2016) and The Showroom (20 January–12 March 2016). The Fugitive Image has been co-commissioned by Nottingham Contemporary and The Showroom and is developed in partnership with Flat Time House and Primary.
About Alien Encounters
Alien Encounters is an ongoing multi-faceted research project that Hamadeh initiated in 2011, and that serves as an incubator for a continuously growing series of performance/theatrical works and scripts, cartographic projects, sound and text based installations and other writings. Initially inspired by Sun Ra’s film Space is the Place (1974), which proposes an African American exodus towards outer space in response to racial injustice, Alien Encounters aims at further complicating the notion of ‘alienness’, where the alien is on one hand viewed as an outcast with regard to the law, and on the other hand as an extraterrestrial.
Thinking through the conjunctions of the legal and the spatial, Alien Encounters builds upon the idea of provincialising planet Earth (which responds to Dipesh Chakrabarty’s call for provincialising Europe) – a proposition that aims at queering the spatial imaginaries that constitute our legal understandings of the ‘worldly’. The evolving series of propositions throughout the project’s chapters depart each time from different theoretical and contextual anchors. They lead journeys amidst outer-space and land-sea relations plotted through science fiction projections, geo-political territory formation, cross-border travel, modern resistance movements within the Arab context, towards the spatial and legal coding of terms such as contagion, hygiene, immunity, resistance, exodus, and quarantine, and play out an intense scrutiny of the relations of criminology, epidemiology and theatre.