Ali Cherri The Watchman, 2023 Video Still Courtesy the artist, Fondazione In Between Art Film, and Galerie Imane Farès, Paris

ALI CHERRI / DREAMLESS NIGHT

GAMeC Bergamo / October 8, 2023 – January 14, 2024

GAMeC – the Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art in Bergamo, in collaboration with the In Between Art Film Foundation and Frac Bretagne, is thrilled to announce Dreamless Night, an innovative exhibition created by the esteemed artist and director Ali Cherri (born in Beirut in 1976). Cherri was honored with the Silver Lion for Promising Young Participant at the 2022 Venice Biennale.

This exhibition, premiering at GAMeC in October and journeying to Frac Bretagne, Rennes, in February 2024, represents the most comprehensive showcase to date of Cherri’s diverse multimedia oeuvre, encompassing film, video installations, drawing, and sculpture.

Unison, a novel biennial initiative established by the In Between Art Film Foundation has given life to Dreamless Night. It is the first project launched under this initiative, focusing on the creation and presentation of moving-image exhibitions in collaboration with both Italian and international institutions. Curated by Alessandro Rabottini and Leonardo Bigazzi, the Artistic Director and Curator, respectively, at the In Between Art Film Fondation, Dreamless Night promises a captivating exploration of Ali Cherri’s unique artistic vision.

At GAMeC’s Spazio Zero, visitors will encounter The Watchman (2023), a captivating new video work commissioned and produced by the Fondation. This piece will be presented as an expansive video installation. Set against the backdrop of Cyprus, a key player in the long-standing tensions between the local Greek and Turkish communities in the East Mediterranean, the film delves into the political history of this tumultuous region and the personal narratives of its inhabitants. The objective is to provoke contemplation about the politics surrounding border recognition and the resulting poignant implications for sovereignty, identity, and, ultimately, peace. Cherri selected Cyprus due to the historical migration ties between the island and Lebanon, as well as the geopolitical parallels between Nicosia, the divided capital of Cyprus, and Cherri’s native Beirut, which experienced its own division during the Lebanese Civil War.

The Watchman centers around a soldier entrusted with guarding the border of the unrecognized Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Like those who came before him, he endures long, monotonous shifts stationed in a watchtower, remaining vigilant for potential “enemies” who may or may not emerge from the hills of the recognized Republic of Cyprus under Greek-Cypriot rule. The stagnant landscape entraps the protagonist in a physical and metaphorical liminal space, where the boundaries between alertness and drowsiness, reality and imagination, are continuously traversed. Eventually, his daydreams and reveries take control, leading to unexpected events. Employing a speculative fictional approach characteristic of Cherri’s cinematic artistry, “The Watchman” extends the artist’s critical exploration of conflicts surrounding acknowledgment, the inheritance of historical trauma, and the transformative potential of the imagination.

Ali Cherri The Watchman, 2023 Video Still Courtesy the artist, Fondazione In Between Art Film, and Galerie Imane Farès, Paris

Within the exhibition spaces, a series of original sculptures and drawings, inspired by the film’s iconography, characters, and the cultural landscape of Cyprus, will be on display. Cherri amplifies the theatricality and fragility of power ideologies by magnifying their symbols while infusing them with material vulnerability. This includes local military structures painted on fabric curtains, majestic figures sculpted from mud, and resin-cast cacti, commonly used as fencing plants in the Mediterranean region.

Cherri’s artistic practice unveils both the visible and invisible manifestations of violence etched into the landscape, metaphorically addressing the political, socio-economic, and cultural violence embedded in its history. The exhibition raises timely questions about reimagining traumatic events and enduring hostilities while embracing the transformative potential of imagination. This aligns with the artist’s research into archaeology, heritage, and preservation, exploring their politics of categorization, displacement, and exhibition. In this context, landscapes, bodies, and ancient artifacts are presented as witnesses to forms of destruction and as tools for reimagining their past and present.

Ali Cherri The Watchman, 2023 Video Still Courtesy the artist, Fondazione In Between Art Film, and Galerie Imane Farès, Paris

Dreamless Night will be accompanied by a monographic catalog edited by Alessandro Rabottini and Leonardo Bigazzi in collaboration with Bianca Stoppani, published by Lenz Press. The catalog will include newly commissioned contributions by Cecilia Alemani, Erika Balsom, Étienne Bernard, Lorenzo Giusti, Priyesh Mistry, and Sohrab Mohebbi. It will be released to coincide with the exhibition opening at Frac Bretagne and will feature photographic documentation of the GAMeC exhibition, along with newly commissioned essays focusing on Cherri’s multimedia practice, particularly “Dreamless Night” and his 2022 projects for the Venice Biennale and the National Gallery in London.

The Watchman is commissioned and produced by In Between Art Film Fondation and co-produced by The Vega Foundation and KinoElektron. Additional support for the film was provided by Galerie Imane Farès, Robert Matta – Fondation RAM, Arab Fund for Arts and Culture, and Frac Bretagne.

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