The capacity of human memory is always impressive. An image can come in a glimpse, revealing a story that consciousness reads as a nightmare. We can try to hide from reality to forget the pain but when we close our eyes, we may come to face with a conflicting memory; an entangled vision of reality and fiction where the mind denies that this might happened in the past.
In his exhibition, Muhammad Ali reconfigures portraits and bodies based on the stories of people who refuse to recognize their past but cannot let go of painful memories.
Did these stories happened, or the artist's mind invented them?
The exhibition begins with three objects installed in a broken wall in the hall. The story of "Keep them alive in our memories" recreates a tradition that took place during the Middle Ages where some families would salvage part of their beloved’s scalp to frame and hang on the wall.
On the second wall in the hall, there are several drawings on paper and two video screens. "After Mask" retells the story of a gang perpetrating crime while wearing masks to hide their identity. As punishment for their crime, they were imprisoned in a room with distorted mirrors. When released, the prisoners were unable to recover their natural faces, and when looking into any mirror their distorted images were reflected back.
"Sleep like the dead" are three portraits on canvas inspired by a story from the police archive that contains a report and undeveloped film sent anonymously by someone who confessed to killing the man in the photographs. After processing the film, it became evident that the images were of someone sleeping.
In the middle of hallway, we find two sculptures and an assemblage on the left wall that together embody "Breathing in harmony" which echoes the story of a factory owner who created a system to limit the workers' ambition. He dedicated part of the factory to allow freedom for the workers. However, they were punished in their isolation and ignored by the factory community if they moved or acted freely in other parts in the building.
"Black Sponge" is a story about a tribe that believes the myth of a black sponge that has special powers to stop ageing in humans. It lived between rocks in the seabed and only small hands could reach it. The lives of so many children were sacrificed during this quest of eternal youth for others
"Ear", is an assemblage of mixed media. The story revolves around a scientist who lived centuries ago, and who carried out hundreds of scientific experiments on the dead to understand the mechanism of the ear and its connection to the body. He believed in sacrificing a life to benefit research and enlighten the world. On occasion, he conducted experiments on living bodies.
The last piece, "Keep it light, but Deep" is a video installation that tells the story of a man who heard a voice in his dream that asked him to let go of painful memories and go inward to discover what was hurting him. In his dream, the man can see himself in deep contemplation striving to understand what he saw in the dreams.
Curated by Abir Boukhari/2021