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Ali Cherri. Somniculus

Ali Cherri is a video and visual artist. His current project looks at the place of the archaeological object in the construction of historical narratives. In recent years, he has unearthed systems of archaeological preservation, exploring the history of ruins and cartography in the context of the Middle East and North Africa’s pre- and post-colonial histories.

Filmed inside a series of empty museum galleries across Paris, Ali Cherri’s Somniculus (the Latin word for “light sleep”) articulates the tension between the lives of dead objects and the living world that surrounds them. Artefacts from museums of ethnography, archaeology and natural sciences are all presented in their existing cultural context as the surviving objects of human interest. Preserved inside this structure of historiographic display, each object is representative of a place or a time and each artefact lives on as a container of its own history. What if we suspended these objects outside this constructed framework of controlled meaning? Would their ideological value become any less tangible?

As a result of periods of Enlightenment, imperialism and colonial expansion over the course of the 18th and 19th centuries, museums in Paris became some of the world’s most encyclopaedic institutions. The trajectory of the modern museum, from the cabinet of curiosities to a nationalist project to the colonial institution, and on to the neoliberal structure of the present day, reflects the shifting ideologies of our civilization. In Somniculus, the viewer is presented with a series of windows through which the objects in the museum escape these ideological regimes altogether. We see how these objects might relate to us in a pre-modern sense, as objects endowed with their own autonomy and agency. […]

Osei Bonsu



Ali Cherri was born in 1976 in Beirut. He received a BA in graphic design from the American University in Beirut in 2000, and an MA in performing arts from DasArts, Amsterdam, in 2005. Cherri has participated in the exhibitions But a Storm Is Blowing from Paradise (Guggenheim New York, 2016), A Taxonomy of Fallacies: The Life of Dead Objects (solo exhibition, Sursock Museum, Beirut, 2016), Matérialité de l’Invisible (Centquatre, Paris, 2016), Time out of Joint (Sharjah Art Space, 2016), Earth and Ever After (Saudi Art Council, Jeddah, 2016), Desires and Necessities (MACBA, Spain, 2015), Lest the Two Seas Meet (Warsaw Museum of Modern Art, Poland, 2015), Mare Medi Terra (Es Baluard Museu d’Art Modern i Contemporani de Palma, Spain, 2015) and Songs of Loss and Songs of Love (Gwangju Museum of Art, South Korea, 2014). Ali Cherri lives and works in Paris and Beirut.

Curator: Osei Bonsu.

Partners: The exhibition is co-produced by the Jeu de Paume, The Fondation Nationale des Arts Graphiques et Plastiques and the CAPC musée d'art contemporain de Bordeaux.
The Fondation Nationale des Arts Graphiques et Plastiques is a permanent partner in the Satellite program.
The Friends of CAPC contribute to the production of works in the Satellite program.
Media Partners: Art press, paris-art.com, Souvenirs from earth TV.

With the collaboration of musée de la Chasse et de la Nature, Paris, musée du Louvre, Paris, Muséum national d’histoire naturelle, Paris and musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac, Paris.

Somniculus / 2017
Ali Cherri
Photographie de tournage, courtesy de l'artiste. Coproduction : Jeu de Paume, Paris, Fondation Nationale des Arts Graphiques et Plastiques et CAPC musée d’art contemporain de Bordeaux