Rana Hamadeh - Interview by Pierre-François Galpin
After meeting for the first time at Rana Hamadeh’s Rotterdam studio in January 2014, she and the curator Pierre-François Galpin met virtually to talk further about Hamadeh’s projects, her work to be featured in Many Places at Once, and her artistic practice in general. This interview is the result of a series of conversations via Skype, Google Docs, and email, sent between San Francisco (in the mornings) and Rotterdam (in the evenings) during February and March 2014.
"Pierre-François Galpin: Within the concept of the exhibition Many Places at Once we, the curators, attempt to identify places (physical and conceptual) of contemporary artistic production. Traditionally, the studio is a physical space where objects are produced. How would you define your studio: as a space, a practice, an idea, or maybe something else?
Rana Hamadeh: I am not sure how to think of the term “studio.” I have never attached this term to my practice, particularly since I have never seen myself as an artist who produces objects (even though I do use objects in my work). I see my practice as an effort to script, map, and choreograph ideas and thoughts, associations, hypothetical and theoretical gestures, conversations, and so on. For me this effort attempts to generate a space within which a discussion can happen—a possibility to open up a discursive space. In this sense, if I have to identify an operational space within which I can think and produce work, I would think of this space as my mapping process.
This mapping involves the construction of particular relations among certain objects, thoughts, texts, and documents that I continually collect over time. But I also obtain and collect many of these elements through this mapping process itself. The collection and the mapping are simultaneous processes. In this sense, I see my space of work as the possibility itself to think. I do not take this possibility for granted.
The way I work now is to construct situations in which objects are displayed and used as part of a story that I create. For instance, take the work Al Karantina (2013), which is part of the project Alien Encounters and will be featured in your exhibition Many Places at Once. In this work, I display some sort of cabinet of wonders—a museum-looking mode of display—whose drawers contain photographs, objects, and artifacts. Yet this cabinet is built particularly as a “stage,” or as the scenography for a play. It is a stage that uses and appropriates its seemingly archival function. In this sense, I am not only appropriating documents and objects, but actively constructing an entirely different meaning of their context: not only what the objects themselves mean, but also how they have been institutionalized and presented.”
Read the rest of Rana Hamadeh’s interview, as well as the catalogue essay and other artists’ interview, in the Many Places at Once online catalogue.
Many Places at Once is on view at the Wattis Institute until July 12.
Image: Rana Hamadeh, Al Karantina, 2013. Lecture-performance; cabinet with various objects from the artist’s collection. Originally commissioned for the Magic of the State exhibition, Beirut in Cairo, Egypt.