Published December 18, 2017
Photos & Words by Alia Ali, 2017 Flash Forward Winner

Alia Ali highlights fabric as something that is of our earth, a manifestation of our imagination, a reflection of our environment and an archive of our stories.

This on-going project, inspired by hatred spouted out during the U.S. Elections, delves into a variety of cultures around the world and discovers them through their unique textiles, artisans, and processes in making them. In response to the volatile political forecast of today, Alia concentrates on what we have in common- skin and textile.

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?

How does photography participate in processes of inclusion and exclusion?

The artist highlights the notion of the immediate duality that occurs in any given situation; to have one, you must have the other for either to exist. 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.

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.