AUDIBLE INAUDIBLE: Hayv Kahraman
The Third Line is pleased to present Audible Inaudible, Hayv Kahraman’s fourth solo show in Dubai. Hayv returns with a new body of works on linen, wood and paper through which she narrates the violence of sound and the sonic trauma connected to her past—and that of many others—as an Iraqi immigrant.
Using her own experiences during the Iraq war as the backdrop, Hayv is exploring visual and verbal military elements that the American army employs in conflict zones. More specifically, Hayv is looking into the sound of war and revisiting the trauma of association with the sounding of a siren, an audible imprint that continues to trigger the same sense of terror that she experienced as a child when she first heard them in Baghdad. War sirens, unlike those heard in fire emergencies or ambulances, warn of far grimmer consequences fast approaching—destruction and death—and warns all those in vicinity to find shelter.
During her research on sound, Hayv discovered how sound can also be manipulated to take the form of sonic weaponry—now becoming both the bearer and executioner of devastation. The notion of sound as a harbinger of doom in Hayv’s work is taken apart and studied with the help of scholarly research undertaken by Martin Daughtry, an ethnomusicologist at NYU Abu Dhabi. In this book Listening to War: Sound, Music, Trauma and Survival in Wartime Iraq, Daughtry mentions the body as a microorganism that can “shield” sounds. In one of his interviews, an Iraqi woman says that she shielded her children from the sound of sirens by holding them tight and pressing her arms against their ears. Hayv takes this concept to incorporate acoustic foam into her paintings, treating them as bodies that detain, absorb and deflect sound. The act of cutting the meticulously prepared linen and pushing the foam through enacts its own form of violence, but because this new surface will deter sound waves that could potentially be harmful it becomes an act of resistance. The paintings then become hybrid shields of their own.
Also part of the new body is Smart Card, Hayv’s interpretations of found US military cheat-sheets, complete with phrases and accompanying illustrations. Originally used during the Iraq war, the pamphlets provided visually aided tools to military personnel for dealing quickly with situations most commonly expected to arise. These guides provided a shortcut vocabulary for everything from negotiating for information, to searching suspects and other administrative directives for wartime circumstances; forming useful guides for military personnel, as well as communication tools between them and non-English speaking Iraqis. They also included violent or aggressive images demonstrating, for example, IED tactics or negotiating hostage/reward deals. Hayv’s rendering moves the illustrations towards a more intimate construal, one that nods towards experiential injury and imagery. Alongside these new works on paper, the Iraq smart cards have also informed the majority of the works on linen in the show.
The exhibition includes interactive works, Would you like to play? 1 and 2, made with magnet-mounted, hand painted wood sections displaying visuals also adopted from the tactical smart cards. These octagonal pieces of wood have been meticulously illustrated with geometrical patterns, red splashes suggestive of blood, and various symbols and female figures in different positions—the latter two taken directly from the smart cards. Visitors will be able to re-arrange the symbols to create a battle scene. This work is traveling to The Third Line from the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco.