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Jananne Al-Ani
Jananne Al-Ani tells stories of violence, separation and commonality. Not that she, or she alone, does the telling.

Her stories, for the most part, are shared. They are at once stories and histories-and they are jointly told. They are batted back and forth, repeated, puzzled over and refined. They attest not just to displacement and loss but also, in their collective telling, to the power of social and familial bonds. They tell of the need to reclaim history from the banalities of the media and to present it in the first person, singular or plural. And they suggest that stories play a part in articulating and cementing existing connections. In fact, the storytellers who feature in her work can appear so well attuned, so united in the business of remembering and recounting, that the viewer is occasionally left feeling uncomfortably like a gatecrasher.

Al-Ani, who is of mixed Iraqi and Irish parentage, regularly works with a cast of five, appearing alongside her mother and sisters in pieces that are formally severe but loosely choreographed, often allowing a measure of improvisation. And as the women play games, recount dreams, have their hair combed or just stare at the camera, the viewer is at once drawn in and kept at arm's length, fascinated by and excluded from the tacit communion and confident stage presence of the artist and her collaborators. The exclusion is at times pointed. The orientation of Al-Ani's figures, who generally face their audience, creates a vague sense of confrontation, as if the viewer were being held to account for his or her intrusion.

Still from Fair by Jananne Al-Ani, 2002
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