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Ali Cherri, winner of a Silver Lion at the Venice Biennale

The only real way to experience the world that surrounds me is through the physicality of my own body.

The French-Lebanese artist Ali Cherri won the Silver Lion at the Venice Biennale for his sculpture series Titans. He was able to take part in the international exhibition The Milk of Dreams due to the support of the Institut français’ Relance Export programme for six contemporary artists on the French scene. 

In parallel to this, his feature Le Barrage (The Dam), which received support from Aide aux Cinémas du Monde (CNC – Institut français), was presented at the Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes Film Festival. 

Updated on 16/06/2022

5 min

Ali Cherri was born in 1976 in Beirut, where he experienced the full force of the long civil war that divided Lebanon. This experience formed the crucible for his work, which features the recurrent themes of trauma and ruin.  Having studied at the American University of Beirut and at DasArt - Academy of Theatre and Dance, Amsterdam, he began his career in the sphere of video art and performance. Now based between Paris and Beirut, he was recently artist in residence at the National Gallery in London, where his exhibition If you prick us, do we not bleed? focuses on artworks in the museum that were vandalised while on display, treating them like injured bodies that bear the psychological scars of this violence. His latest film to date, Le Barrage (The Dam), has also just been selected to be shown at the Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes Film Festival. 

Cherri’s work explores the traces of the Lebanese Civil War, particularly those found on the landscape, on bodies and in collective memory. He forges links between this past, marked by physical and psychological trauma, and how the actions of men are inscribed in the city and in nature. Archaeology and museology are also productive fields of investigation and contribute to his exploration of the link between works of art and the establishment of national narratives, as well as colonial and neoliberal dynamics. This aspect was particularly present in his recent exhibition in Marseille, The Gatekeepers / Les gardien·ne·s du portail (2020) commissioned by Manifesta 13. For this exhibition, the French-Lebanese artist created a series of sculptures in the form of totems, which appeared to guard the gates to the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Marseille, while also evoking stuffed animals. 

Cherri has just won the Silver Lion at the Venice Biennale for his sculpture series Titans (2022), inspired by the ancient gods of Assyria and shown as part of the international exhibition The Milk of Dreams. These three statues are presented alongside three films, Of Men and Gods and Mud (2022), which consider Man’s relationship with water, mud and the stars. As such, the ensemble focuses on our relationship with the natural world, and the elements of it that we carry within ourselves. This almost sensual relationship between the body and the elements is also present in the film Le Barrage (The Dam), which was selected this year for Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes. It follows the story of Maher, who works in a traditional brickworks fed by the waters of the Nile, in Sudan. There, he builds a mysterious construction from mud that seems to come alive, at the same time as the revolution that is sending shockwaves through the country. 

The Dam / Le Barrage (2022) - Clip 1 (English subs)
The Dam / Le Barrage (2022) - Clip 1 (English subs)
  • 1976

    1976

    Born in Beirut.

  • 2016

    2016

    Is awarded Harvard University’s Robert E. Fulton Fellowship.

  • 2017

    2017

    The exhibition Somniculus is shown at the Jeu de Paume in Paris and the CAPC Musée d’Art Contemporain in Bordeaux.

  • 2021

    2021

    He is artist in residence at the National Gallery in London.

  • 2022

    2022

    Cherri receives a Silver Lion and presents Le Barrage (The Dam) at Directors’ Fortnight.

The Institut français and the artist

The Institut français supports a significant French presence in Cecilia Alemani's international exhibition The Milk of Dreams at the 2022 Biennale di Venezia, within the framework of its annual call for projects "Relance Export". Ali CHERRI is part of the artists supported. 

Find out more 

 

The Dam, by Ali Cherri, benefited from the support of the Aide aux cinémas du monde fund, co-managed by the Institut français and the Centre National du Cinéma. The Aide aux Cinémas du monde is a selective fund reserved for projects involving feature films, animated films and creative documentaries aiming to be screened for the first time in cinemas. 

Find out more about the Aide aux cinémas du monde 

L'institut français, LAB