Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme, Only the beloved keep our secrets, 2016. Video Still. Courtesy of the artists and Abraaj Art Prize

The Incidental Insurgents

Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme

A Space Main Gallery

May 4 – June 30, 2018

Curated by: Vicky Moufawad-Paul

Copresented by: CONTACT Photography Festival

Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme create collaborative projects that take the contemporary Palestinian landscape as their location, and its contested history and uncertain future as their research material. They use aural, textual, and visual poetry to focus on the peripheral, and work with the notion of déjà vu—an experience that is uncomfortably familiar yet strange and new—to welcome slippages.

The Incidental Insurgents (2012 – 2015) is a multi-channel video that searches for new political relationships and courses of action. Performing a search for, sitting with, and looking at Palestinian land and history, the project bears the fruit of a relationship with the Young Arab Theatre Fund and Al-Ma’mal Foundation. The texts that appear onscreen are reworked fragments from the published writing of Russian revolutionary Victor Serge and Chilean socialist novelist Roberto Bolaño. These sampled materials allow poetic juxtapositions between disparate locations and histories. Caught between the impulse for radical action and the need to overcome the capitalist-colonial present, there is an uneasy sense of that which is unfulfilled.

Only the beloved keeps our secrets (2016) is a single-channel video that layers images and sounds into a dense tapestry of the rituals associated with mourning. The video is structured around footage taken from March 19, 2014 when an Israeli military surveillance camera captured the Israeli forces killing a 14-year-old boy named Yusuf Shawamreh. The boy was crossing the Israeli “separation fence” near Hebron in order to pick Akub, an edible, wild-growing plant considered a delicacy in Palestinian cuisine that is found at high altitudes. A court injunction forced the military to release the surveillance footage, and it was then shared online. The artists use visual strategies of accumulation and density in order to consider the relationship between testament, uncounted bodies, and the erasure of images.

Abbas and Abou-Rahme live and work between Ramallah and New York. This is their first exhibition in Canada; it pairs these two projects, both of which set adrift histories of conflict that we think we know, into altogether new, poetic, and painful narratives.


Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme work together across a range of sound, image, text, installation and performance practices. Their practice is engaged in the intersections between performativity, political imaginaries, the body and virtuality. Across their works they probe a contemporary landscape marked by seemingly perpetual crisis and an endless ‘present’, one that is shaped by a politics of desire and disaster. They have been developing a body of work that questions this suspension of the present and searches for ways in which an altogether different imaginary and language can emerge that is not bound within colonial/capitalist narrative and discourse. In their projects, they find themselves excavating, activating and inventing incidental narratives, figures, gestures and sites as material for re- imagining the possibilities of the present. Often reflecting on ideas of non-linearity in the form of returns, amnesia and deja vu, and in the process unfolding the slippages between actuality and projection (fiction, myth, wish), what is and what could be. Largely their approach has been one of sampling materials both existing and self-authored in the form of sound, image, text, objects and recasting them into altogether new ‘scripts’. The result is a practice that investigates the political, visceral, material possibilities of sound, image, text and site, taking on the form of multi-media installations and live sound/image performances.

Vicky Moufawad-Paul is a Toronto based curator and writer. She is the Director/Curator at A Space Gallery. She has curated exhibitions at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Carlton University Art Gallery, Gallery 101, MAI: Montreal arts interculturels, Latitude 53, Museum London, McIntosh Gallery, Contact Photography Festival, InterAccess Electronic Media Arts Centre, Prefix Institute of Contemporary Art, A Space Gallery, and 16 Beaver. She has an undergraduate degree from the University of Western Ontario and an MFA in Film and Video from York University. Moufawad-Paul has published texts on several artists including Harun Farocki, James Luna, Emily Jacir, Wafaa Bilal, Paul Dennis Miller, Deirdre Logue, Mohammed Mohsen, Jacqueline Hoang Nguyen, Juan Ortiz-Apuy, Basil AlZeri, Erica Lord, John Halak, Rehab Nazzal, Adam Broomberg, Oliver Chanarin, Akram Zaatari, and Yto Barrada.