The Freedom of Speech Itself
The Showroom, London
1 Febrary – 17 March 2012
Lawrence Abu Hamdan
Since 2010, The Showroom has been working with the artist Lawrence Abu Hamdan on the ongoing research project Aural Contract, commissioned as part of the gallery’s participatory programme Communal Knowledge. Here the exhibition presents the most recent stages of the project as an installation featuring a new commission The Freedom of Speech Itself, excerpts from Abu Hamdan’s audio archive, and a workshop led by the artist on Harold Pinter’s play Mountain Language. To accompany the exhibition is a series of events titled The Right to Silence that focus on the legal status of the voice, programmed in collaboration with Electra.
The Freedom of Speech Itself is an audio documentary looking at the the history and contemporary application of forensic speech analysis and voice-prints, focusing on the UK’s controversial use of voice analysis to determine the origins and authenticity of asylum seekers’ accents. Testimonies from lawyers, phonetic experts, asylum seekers and Home Office officials reveal the geo-politics of accents and the practice of listening that led to shocking stories of wrongful deportations. When combined with the experimental audio composition these interviews are designed to fully immerse the listener in the heart of a discussion that profoundly problematises the nature of listening, forensics, free speech, migration, borders and the law.