Donia Human Rights Center Digital Artwork Presentation: “We Are Fragmented”, by Amira Hanafi

November 4, 2019 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm
110 Weiser Hall, 500 Church St., Ann Arbor, MI 48109

“We Are Fragmented,” a new work by Amira Hanafi, New Media Artist, was commissioned by the Centre for Applied Human Rights at the University of York, as part of the Navigating Risk, Managing Security, and Receiving Support research project. It was made in response to research conducted in five countries (Colombia, Egypt, Indonesia, Kenya, and Mexico), where researchers spoke with human rights defenders around issues of security, wellbeing, and perceptions of ‘human rights defenders’ in their countries.

Born 1979 in the US, Amira Hanafi has lived and worked in Cairo since 2010. Her work has been exhibited internationally, most recently at Dokk1 Library in Aarhus, Sodų 4 in Vilnius, Studio XX in Montréal, Flux Factory in New York, and at the Lisbon Consortium in Portugal. Her texts have appeared in Ibraaz, Matrix, Makhzin, Fence, American Letters & Commentary, and Index on Censorship, among other publications. She is the author of the books Forgery and Minced English, a number of limited edition artist’s books, and several works of electronic literature, including ‘A dictionary of the revolution,’ which won the Public Library Prize for Electronic Literature 2019, the New Media Writing Prize 2018, and the Artraker Award for Changing the Narrative 2017. She earned a Master of Fine Arts in Writing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2008) and a Bachelor of Political Science from Rutgers College (2000).


“We Are Fragmented” is a digital artwork made in response to research conducted in five countries by the Centre for Applied Human Rights at the University of York. Researchers spoke with human rights defenders around issues of security and wellbeing. I was given access to a collection of fragmented transcriptions of these interviews, already organized according to an academic methodology, and commissioned to make a work about them. Reading through these transcribed and anonymized interviews, I was struck by the range and depth of emotions expressed. The speakers’ experiences resonated with me in their resemblance to emotions I feel as a practicing artist in Cairo. I made this work as I was completing the long-term project ‘A dictionary of the revolution,’ an experiment in polyvocal story-telling of the 2011 uprising in Egypt and its aftermath. I had collected over 200 hours of recorded conversation and woven transcriptions of this speech into 125 entries in ‘A dictionary’. Thinking through the questions and complications that arose when assembling a text entirely from other people’s voices, I chose to approach ‘We are fragmented’ by highlighting my own subjectivity. My work translates the material into visual patterns, through a system of classifying sentences by emotions expressed and evoked. What remains of the classification system are visual traces. By further including the source text for the work, the website also presents a new format for reading the research, where something beyond my subjectivity might be legible.

If you are a person with a disability who requires an accommodation to attend this event, please reach out to us at least 2 weeks in advance of this event: [email protected]. Please be aware that advance notice is necessary as some accommodations may require more time for the university to arrange.

For more information, visit Donia Human Rights Center Digital Artwork Presentation. “We Are Fragmented”.