Middle East & Africa

Ali Cherri
Endless Falls

As a discipline born at the same time as colonialism, archeology is struggling to rid itself of this sad context. It is simultaneously the science of the creation and the restoration of ruins. Ali Cherri is interested in auctions of archaeological objects and the desire they inspire in this context. Some, outside the museum, dated vaguely or from obscure sources, are as if they are declassed archeological objects. With his installation Fragments (2016), which combines artifacts and stuffed animals, the artist “rehabilitates” these objects by making them enter the museum without seeking to (re)historicize them, but rather by addressing another form of taxonomy, all commenting on the notion of a “universal museum” that the Louvre can claim. Continuing this work around the value of “found” objects; Ali Cherri began to intervene directly on artifacts, going against their integrity. He produced Endless Falls from a broken pre-Columbian pot, which he repaired with “foreign” elements, from a different provenance and history, creating a sort of mutant out of time. The brass staples emphasize this scarification, and recall that for some cultures the repair is an art, and that the value can be in the imperfection, following Japanese kintsugi. The artist recalls that restoration is an investment in the museum’s liberal system; he strategically chooses what object will be repaired, it will be the one that will attract the public, the one that will contribute to the valuation of the institution itself.

The work of Ali Cherri, currently based in Beirut and in Paris, travers the traces of war in Lebanon in the landscape and in the collective memory. Like other artists of his generation, and unlike Walid Raad's established generation, Ali Cherri makes more metaphorical correspondences with this story, including linking political and geological catastrophes. He places the place of the landscape and the object in the writing of history, through films and installations. Ali Cherri has developed several works about archeology, exploring and showing how this field is at the heart of the construction of nation-states, notably when nationalist projects write their narrative relying on archaeological heritage. The artist through his practice emphasizes the instrumentalization of objects in different political, cultural and scientific discourses.