Flattened to a Papery ThinnessExhibition at Beirut Art Centre, 2021
Shakeeb Abu Hamdan’s solo show in BAC’s Gallery 2 is something of a botched crime scene, a literal paper trail.
Through relentless iterations – including discrete drawings, large historical friezes, disorienting spatial experiments, and cryptic dioramas— Shakeeb has been broadening his eclectic library of found, manipulated comic references, decontextualized educational drawings, as well as his own drawings and scribbles.
Throughout, he has honed in on a visual repertoire that not only advances narrative in unexpected ways but also, becomes a structural device that stands in for the act of reading itself. Thus a gap between a character’s teeth becomes an ellipsis, a sandwich becomes a narrative hinge, a window doubles as a vignette, a pothole as a time portal and so on. What is developed through this is a real theory of history. Playing with linear comic structures, line textures, scale and perspective, Shakeeb’s work presents a wry take on disaster as contingency, and the profound unease of history as farce.
Shakeeb Abu Hamdan’s exhibition will be in conjunction with the launch of his new book published with Samandal in English and Arabic. While the book draws narrative threads that take the reader through historical factoids from the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, to the hallucinations of Sirhan Sirhan recounting voices in his head urging him to shoot Robert Kennedy; the installation is meant to function more like a proposition about the legibility of space.