Sophia Al-Maria’s videos, installations, and writing consider the ways in which we are becoming increasingly intertwined with the technology that surrounds us, particularly through the lens of the Gulf region where the artist is based. In particular, Al-Maria is interested in the strange juxtaposition of those living relatively simple, rural lives with their utter obsession with their phones and screens, and the different kinds of isolation each situation creates. Al-Maria also explores the topic of Gulf Futurism, a term she coined to explore the futuristic aesthetics of art, architecture, and culture in the Persian Gulf. Al-Maria’s “futurism” references the shining skyscrapers of the Gulf region, but also alludes to a form of time travel, expressed through collaging together film and pop cultural references to paint a picture of our own conception of the future.
For her program on the High Line, Al-Maria presents The Future Was Desert, Parts I & II (2016), and her new work, Britney Axis Mundi (2017). The paired works that open the program imagine the desert as the paradigmatic site for visualizing the 4.5 billion-year history of the planet of which human history is but a fleeting blip. Suggesting both the minuteness of our presence on this scale, but also our capacity for destroying the planet as we know it, Al-Maria points to the strange timelessness of deserts, as the sand that comprises them both shifts constantly in the wind to cover its tracks, while preserving for eons anything caught beneath. Al-Maria’s newest work, Britney Axis Mundi, centers on found footage of Britney Spears’s stomach – the object of pop culture obsession that embodies her trajectory from “pop princess” to “unfit mother” – the “Ur slave” for you.
Images: Sophia Al-Maria, The Future Was Desert, Part II, 2016. HD video, color, sound; 4 minutes, 35 seconds. Courtesy of the artist and The Third Line, Dubai