Cast No Evil: A Photography Series by Alia Ali
Floral II, Cast No Evil Series, Hanoi, Vietnam, 2016
Floral, Cast No Evil Series, Hanoi, Vietnam, 2016
Huajes, Cast No Evil Series, Oaxaca, Mexico, 2016
Dots I, Cast No Evil Series, New Orleans, USA, 2016
Dots II, Cast No Evil Series, New Orleans, USA, 2016
News, Cast No Evil Series, Yogyakarta, Indonesia, 2016
Throughout life, we are presented with endless examples in which individuals and groups have been excluded from communities based on appearances, beliefs, and actions. When this happens, there are always two groups, those who impose standards—the decision makers, the “included”—and those they exclude. Communication can be used to both connect and divide, evolve and regress, educate and destroy. Inclusion is, therefore, engaging someone in a dialogue, but not necessarily a verbal one.
In her photographic series, Cast No Evil, Alia Ali invites the viewer to analyze their subjective perception in regards to inclusion and exclusion, and the threshold in which the transition between the two occurs. What are the perimeters that define each?
The artist highlights the notion of the immediate duality that occurs in any given situation; to have one, you must have the other. In this case, understanding inclusion requires us to be critical of what it means to be excluded. In order to be included, must one come from a state of exclusion or vice versa? The theme of duality extends to questioning the moment in which the mysterious becomes apparent, restraint becomes freedom, the underneath becomes the above, and illusion becomes reality.
The characters in the portraits, called—cludes, are wrapped in layers of fabric that shield them from interrelating with anything beyond the material. What are these fabricated barriers in society that inhibit the incorporation of others? Or are the obstacles just that: ideas, intuitions, fear, discriminations, and “understandings?” Does inclusion mean acceptance? If so, does this definition lend itself to exclusion meaning rejection? Or do they both mean different points on the spectrum of tolerance?
What side of the fabric are we on, and can we be on both sides at once? When we exclude, does it come from the fear of being excluded ourselves? Isn’t exclusion a form of security, as well? If so, what is it that we fear from discovering that lies beneath the cloth and behind the curtain? By remaining indifferent, and incommunicative, do we become like one of them, dehumanized? Dummies? Or are we the ones enclosed and what we see is an illusive barrier that we have bestowed on them?
Does the material set a power dynamic? It certainly creates a boundary, but who holds the power; them, for their anonymity, or us, for their confinement?
Who are the ‘includes’ and who are the “excluded?”
Alia Ali (Austria, 1985) is a Yemeni-Bosnian-American multi-media artist and visual storyteller. Having traveled to fifty-three countries, lived in seven, and grown up among five languages, her most comfortable mode of communication is through image and multi-sensory mediums. Her extensive travels have led her to process the world through interactive experiences. As a child of two linguists, Alia believes that the interpretation of verbal and written language has dis-served particular communities and presents more of a threat than a means of understanding. It is for this reason that Alia’s aesthetic interests stem from people, place, and the processes that unite and divide us, all at once. Her work reflects on the politics and poetics of contested notions surrounding the topics of identity, physical borders, universality, mental/physical spaces of confinement, and the inherent dualism that exists in everything. Her work blurs the lines between what we claim to be objective and subjective, illusion and reality, truth and interpretation.
Alia is currently on a transglobal project, called the People of Pattern. She is exploring cultures and their stories through the medium of textile and the processes of making them. Her journey takes her to Oaxaca, Mexico; Bokhara, Uzbekistan; Yogyakarta, Indonesia; SAPA, Vietnam; Kyoto, Japan; Ahmedabad, India; and Dakar, Senegal.
Alia is a graduate of the United World College of the Atlantic (UWCAC) and holds a BA in Studio Art and Middle Eastern Studies from Wellesley College. Her studios are transient, but are for the most part based in New Orleans (Louisiana), Farmington (Maine) and Marrakech (Morocco). Her recent work has been featured at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art as part of PhotoNOLA, the Marrakech Biennale as part of the Swiss-Moroccan KE’CH Collective, at PhotoLondon as part of the LensCulture Exposure Awards, and most recently the Kuala Lumpur International Photo Awards in Malaysia. Most recently, she was awarded the Alice C. Cole ’42 Alumnae Award.
Published on December 1, 2016.