February 20–April 30, 2016Sleepwalkers_still_6
The Showroom (London) and Institute of Modern Art (Brisbane) present a major new film commission by Lebanese artist Rana Hamadeh.

Co-commissioned by the Institute of Modern Art, Nottingham Contemporary and The Showroom, in collaboration with Flat Time House (London) and Primary (Nottingham), The Sleepwalkers is a film-play re-dramatising the story of Raya and Sakina, the infamous Egyptian sister serial killers, who in 1921 became the first women to be executed by a legal court in the modern history of Egypt.

The two sisters, along with their husbands and two other male accomplices, were found guilty of the murders of 17 women, most of whom were sex workers. Since their execution, an extensive number of plays, soap operas and books have been written about the sisters, reproducing them and their victims as the modern prototypes of female monstrosity emergent from poverty, rurality and immigration, as well as “inherent female depravation and moral apathy.”

The Sleepwalkers explores the figures of Raya and Sakina as a structural dramaturgical framework through which the history of the gendering of the justice system within Egypt and the broader Arab context can be understood. The work’s non-linear script, its dissonant audio track and the constant shifting of its characters re-choreograph the relations of power between the recurrent representations of the female monster, the figure of the state and colonial violence. In so doing, Hamadeh proposes an alternative archive from which to comprehend and locate the histories of injustice in the region.

The Sleepwalkers departs from Hamadeh’s claim that justice can be regarded as the “degree to which one can access the dramatic means of representation—the measure to which one can access theatre.” Drawn from an essay by Julie A. Cassiday on the origins of the legal spectacle genre, this claim plays out in the work through its scrutiny of relations between criminology, epidemiology and theatre.

The Sleepwalkers is the latest chapter of Hamadeh’s overarching project Alien Encounters (2011–ongoing), which aims at further complicating the notion of “alienness,” understood broadly as the condition of estrangement with regard to the law. Throughout the project, the “alien” becomes a recurrent figure and a discursive tool that allows for queer modalities of understanding state-sponsored forms of violence and their enabling legal apparatuses.

The project is generously supported by The Mondriaan Fund, The Embassy of the Netherlands, The Keir Foundation, Maria Sukkar, Australia Council for the Arts, and Arts Queensland. With additional support from B Squared Foundation, Maya Rasamny and Zaha Hadid Foundation.

Rana Hamadeh is a performance and visual artist from Lebanon based in the Netherlands. Interested in a curatorial approach within her artistic practice, she works on long-term discursive research projects that operate as umbrellas to growing series of sound and text-based performances, cartographic works, stage sets, and writing projects. Her work stems from an extended investigation into specific concepts and terms, treating the field of theory as fiction. Selected exhibitions include Nottingham Contemporary, Western Front (Vancouver), TPW (Toronto), Moscow Bienniale, 2015; The New Museum (New York), CCA Wattis Institute (San Francisco), EVA International (Limerick, Ireland), KIOSK (Ghent, Belgium), Liverpool Biennial, 2014; Lisson Gallery (London), Beirut (Cairo), Witte de With (Rotterdam), 2013; Van Abbemuseum (Eindhoven, the Netherlands), 2011; and Beirut Art Center, 2010.

The Showroom is a space for contemporary art that is focused on a collaborative and process-driven approach to production; be that artwork, exhibitions, discussions, publications, knowledge or relationships. For over thirty years, The Showroom has invested in artists to make their first solo show in London, including Lawrence Abu Hamden, Can Altay, the Otolith Group, Ciara Phillips, Eva Rothschild and Emily Wardill.

Institute of Modern Art has been the leading independent forum in Queensland, Australia, for the production, presentation, and circulation of contemporary art and discourse for forty years. Our innovative and diverse programs embed the international in the local and engage the local internationally.