GAMeC – Galleria d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Bergamo and Fondazione In Between Art Film, with Frac Bretagne, are delighted to announce Dreamless Night, a newly commissioned exhibition by artist and director Ali Cherri (Beirut, b. 1976), who was awarded the Silver Lion for Promising Young Participant at the Biennale Arte 2022 in Venice.

Opening in October at GAMeC, and traveling to Frac Bretagne, Rennes, in February 2024, the exhibition will be the largest presentation to date of Cherri’s multimedia practice, which encompasses film, video installation, drawing, and sculpture.

Curated by Alessandro Rabottini and Leonardo Bigazzi, respectively Artistic Director and Curator at the Fondazione In Between Art Film, Dreamless Night isthe first project launched under Unison, a new biennial initiative created by the Fondazione to commission and produce moving image-based exhibitions together with Italian and international institutions.

GAMeC’s Spazio Zero will host The Watchman (2023), a new video work by the artist commissioned and produced by the Fondazione, which will be presented as a large-scale video installation.

Set in Cyprus, the East Mediterranean island at the core of decades-long tensions between local Greek and Turkish communities, the film sets out from the political history of this troubled territory and the personal stories of its inhabitants. The aim is to propose a wider reflection on the politics of the recognition of borders and their painful consequences with regard of sovereignty, identity, and ultimately peace. Cyprus was chosen by the artist because of the historical relationships of migration between the island and Lebanon, as well as the geopolitical similarities between Nicosia, the divided capital of Cyprus, and the artist’s native Beirut, which was also divided during the Lebanese Civil War.

The Watchman is centered around the figure of a soldier whose job is to guard the border of the unrecognized Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. This soldier, like many others before him, spends his prolonged and dull shifts perched on a watchtower looking out for “the enemy,” who may or may not arrive down the hills of the recognized Republic of Cyprus under Greek-Cypriot rule. The stagnating landscape traps the protagonist in a physical and metaphorical threshold where the edges between alertness and sleepiness, reality and imagination are constantly trespassed until his fantasies and reveries take over and unleash unexpected events. Through a speculative fictional approach typical of Cherri’s filmic practice, The Watchman continues the artist’s critical investigation into conflicts of acknowledgment, the inheritance of historical trauma, and the radical potential of the imagination.

The exhibition rooms will also host a series of original sculptures and drawings that emanate from the iconography and characters in the film as well as the geographical and cultural landscape of Cyprus. From local military infrastructures painted on a fabric curtain to spectral soldiers majestically sculpted out of mud, to resin-casted cacti commonly used in the Mediterranean area as fencing plants, Cherri frames the theatricality and fragility of the ideologies of power by enlarging their symbols while imbuing them with material weakness.

The artist’s practice unearths the visible and invisible forms of violence inscribed in the landscape to metaphorically address the forms of political, socio-economic, and cultural violence inscribed in its history. It poses timely questions about the ways in which traumatic events and sustained hostilities may be represented anew, as much as opening up to the emancipatory potential of the imagination. This has a counterpart in the artist’s research into archaeology, heritage, and preservation and their inherent politics of classification, displacement, and display. In this sense, landscapes, bodies, and ancient artifacts are presented simultaneously as witnesses of forms of destruction and tools with which to imagine their past and present otherwise.

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

The exhibition and the publication are made possible also thanks to the support of Galerie Imane Farès.

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

Ali Cherri (Beirut, Lebanon, b. 1976) lives and works in Paris. His works have been shown in solo exhibitions at the Swiss Institute, New York City; CAC La Travers, Alfortville; National Gallery, London; Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, Coventry; Jönköping County Museum; CAPC Musée d’art Contemporain de Bordeaux; Jeu de Paume, Paris; Sursock Museum, Beirut; as well as in group exhibitions at Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York City; Jameel Arts Center, Dubai; Para Site, Hong Kong; MAXXI Museum, Rome; and the Centre Pompidou, Paris. He also participated at Sharjah Biennial 15; Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2022; Biennale Arte 2022; Manifesta 13, Marseille; the Fifth Ural Industrial Biennial of Contemporary Art, Ekaterinburg, 2019; and Sharjah Biennial 13. He received the Robert E. Fulton Fellowship from Harvard University (2016), the Rockefeller Foundation Prize (2017), and was nominated for the Abraaj Group Art Prize (2018). In 2022, he received the Silver Lion for his participation in the main exhibition of the Biennale Arte 2022, titled The Milk of Dreams.