El Alto

Elian Chali – Argentina


Cripping urban characteristics across the world.

A portrait of Elian Chali, looking directly at the camera with a straight expression, in a wash of pink light.

Elian Chali, portrait. Córdoba, Argentina, 2018. Photo: Julieta Ferreria. Courtesy of Elian Chali. 

Before art, I am interested in the world. The city exerts a strange magnetism on me, not only on account of its political potency, but also as a social theatre. My exposed body reveals to me how we humans deal with the different things life throws at us. 

Art provides me with the possibility of establishing various levels of connection in urban contexts. I try to set my practice apart from everyday procedures, stereotyped interpretations and identifications. I am not specifically concerned about whether my work operates within certain canons, and prefer hybrid, ambivalent terrains. 

My artistic intuition is pictorial. It characterizes my approach to performance, writing, painting, and photography as different disciplines that merge in my practice. Since I materialize my ideas on the basis of pre-existing work, I consider architecture as a collaborator of my work, rather than as its basis. 

Although cities are depicted today as large institutional artifacts, each crack through which my oeuvre might find its place is an opportunity to maintain the vitality and ethos of my work. The focus is found on the sensible instead of the commonplace that occurs on the margins of the art system. 

I think that an artistic puncture can reveal the dreary and gray qualities of a “normative city,” archetypical to the landscape of late stage capitalism. I interrogate the forms of social life proposed by these contemporary urban machines. 

Scale, location, sociocultural context, urban characteristics, object of intervention, epoch, motivation, and working conditions are all fundamental aspects of ethical resonance of my praxis. 

My hope is that my art might sustain questions, rather than seek responses. I believe in a political mode of producing art; a politicized art that stands against political art as an alienated and disengaged category. When I try to decipher my work I realize that I do not control what I do, I am only the assistant of a force that I do not fully understand but that grants me a freedom that accompanies me, looks after me, instructs me. A freedom that can be socialized. In exchange, it demands my cooperation and an emotional body in the imagination of another possible world. 

Wide angle profile shot of artist Elian Chali standing on scaffolding painting a mural in brown, black, yellow and red.

Work in progress for “Repeating Shapes” during PUBLIC organized by Form – Perth, Australia. April 2015. Photo: Jean Paul Horre. Courtesy of Elian Chali.

Photo of the side of a tall, brick apartment building in a mid-sized city. On the side of the building is painted a colourful mural, broad strokes of yellow, blue, green, red and black

“Tajo/Costura”, Tandil, Argentina. Acrylic paint on brick wall. 35×20 meters. 2020. Courtesy of Elian Chali.





















Elian Chali at work. Montblanc, France, 2017. 2km3 Contemporary Art Platform. Photo: German Rigol. Courtesy of Elian Chali.

A photo of Elian Chali wearing goggles and looking up at the ceiling above him, which he is spraying with a power washer. The image is lit in a green fluorescent light.

Elian Chali is a self-taught artist that lives in Córdoba, Argentina. As a disability rights activist, Elian is part of Torceduras & Bifurcaciones, a forum on the politics of corporality. He has exhibited work internationally in more than 30 different countries. He founded and co-directed Kosovo Gallery (2012-2015), and was the curator-in-chief of MAC contemporary art fair (2018) in Buenos Aires. In 2016, he published his first book “Habitat”, and his work can be found in various publications and editorial projects about art, design and architecture.