Workplace Foundation, Newcastle 2022
Images by Matt Denham
Reverse Defence plays with Alrai’s ongoing exploration into appropriation and object displays in the western museological system. Her work uses techniques of forgery and mimicry, creating ceramics and sculpture which uses everyday materials to refer to artefacts and archaeological digs. Traditional willow weaving techniques have been reimagined in cardboard, whilst straw and plaster have been used to emulate traditional techniques of wattle and daub.
The works bring together multiple narratives to create an installation which positions the viewer as intruder, hunter or voyeur. Using medieval hunting arenas as a starting point, a maze like structure is used to house sculptures punctured by arrows. Interlacing multiple themes, Alrai references: the etymologies and histories of courting; the coveting of gigantic artefacts held by the British Museum; ancient gravesite constructions; and the melancholic romanticisation of wounds by the Pre-Raphaelites. Through doing so she creates a maze, which dictates how the body is led through its journey and references how history has been constructed in a linear format.
Each time one of Alrai’s installations is displayed and reconfigured, elements of previous exhibitions begin to deteriorate, adding to the faux archaeological environment, whilst new elements are added. In doing so she creates works that reverse a museological convention of preservation, shedding previous narratives at the same time as imbuing them with memory and autonomy.