Al-Ali’s work has an intermedia character expressed in object and video. However, these media are often combined within installation wholes. The artist creates systems that find ways out in the elements of contemporary social structures. They take the form of the camera obscura, except that they are smaller than their prototypes and invert their contents. The viewer thus experiences a revelation, an insight into internal connections, the opposite of the superficial.
The means by which Al-Ali presents his insights take many different forms. The installation Protiváha / Counterweight (2014) symbolically constructs the process of creating pictures using materials and their relationship. It reacts to the overdetermination of digital images that restrict access to their origin and purpose. The gallery space is polarised into two parts. On one side we see a mechanism, on the other the resulting cold concrete image in the ratio 16:9. The mechanism actually casts the picture and both parts are in both spatial and ideological balance, since they are presented equally and in their integrity to the viewer.
On the other hand, the joint project of Al-Ali, Petr Dub and Tomáš Moravec entitled Stezka odvahy / Trail of Courage (2012) reveals the internal structure of the problematic in concrete instances. The project outcome was an intervention in a typical Prague suburb. Thirteen notice boards containing theoretical texts on contemporary urbanism were joined into an educational trail. The architectural features thus highlighted then created a confrontation between the theoretical level with practical examples. Questions relating to the planning of urban situations are also examined in two others of Al-Ali’s projects, namely Handle with Care and Criticism (2014) and Panic Room (2014). Panic Room consists of several sets of grey concrete blocks that evoke a building site prior to construction. Although they are raw building materials, the blocks themselves resemble architectural models. They can thus be read as both means and end, and this opens up questions regarding the creative role of modern architecture and the standardisation thereof.
Another intervention in public space is Cizinec / Foreigner from 2014, in which Al-Ali wrapped up an ugly, battered looking advertising column in sheepskin. The column thus enrobed encouraged urban features to be looked at in a different way. The intervention Falešné důvody / False Reasons (2011) on the other hand attempts to conceal while expanding the character of the incompleteness of the arcade in which it is installed. The object forms a closed cell with the unfinished floor and blends into its surroundings despite its lack of a raison d’être. Despite the targeted though often sophisticated critique of individual aspects of social life, Al-Ali’s works abound in the absurdity residing in the impossibility of defining the intention of the objects and installations. This aspect of absurdity, i.e. a certain contradiction between expectation and reality, appears in other works. The gallery site-specific installation Čtyřhra / Doubles (2014) confirms this in a simple way. It is a table tennis table divided into four equal fields closed in relation to each other. The very foundation of this platform for a joint game is made impossible. The installation again works with architecture, this time the space of the gallery. The plasterboard that forms the boundaries rises to a height and then naturally blends into the ceiling. We are unsure as to whether the construction emerges from the ceiling, from the table, or whether it has a supporting function that, however, also extends into the field of play.
The installation Příjemná výplň / Pleasant Filling (2012) also works with inexplicability and hidden humour. Four hanging objects are soft and pliable and invite the viewer to embrace them. However, the title is a play on words. Is it a pleasant filling we are embracing or a pleasant way of filling the time we spend embracing the object? This work also reflects other aspects of the artist’s strategy, namely interaction and socialisation. On a basic human level this resides in the fact that Al-Ali often works in tandem with Tomáš Moravec and Petr Dub, though a collective spirit can be found in the work itself. A direct reflection of this theme is clear in the object 17 Points (with Jana Bernartová, Petr Dub and Tomáš Moravec) from 2011. Each artist independently created a spatial object and then by democratic vote collectively decided on the form of the binding material, which was a double sided woodscrew. The result was a collective unit constructed from four different individualities.
The spirit of the collective is contained in the “happening” character of the video Od hlavy k patě / From Head to Toe (2013). We see a group of people enjoying themselves handling a vertical pole and lifting a camera up and down by 90 degrees. This is interspersed with bird’s-eye views. The boundaries of art and everyday life are also blurred in public space of Něco se děje, protože se něco děje, protože se něco děje / Something is Happening, Because Something is Happening, Because Something is Happening (2014). A human intervention in a vertical moment changes into a shelter and finally into four boards on which you can sit on the ground.
An example of a work featuring an element of performance would be Kdybych se zpotil / If I Sweated (2008). The artist walks the city with a narrow wardrobe on his back. When he starts sweating he takes off the wardrobe, takes out a clean shirt and changes into it. These amusing cyclical actions can be viewed within an existential context. We are reminded of Sisyphus, who pushed a boulder up a mountain that then rolled back down again, so that he had to roll it up again, whereupon it rolled back down again, ad infinitum. There is a vicious circle even in the idea of a sweatshirt, because if we did not carry the wardrobe containing the shirts, we would not sweat. Al-Ali metaphorically shows how we are thrown into these situations before voluntarily accepting them, which is why we have no choice.