Sophia Al-Maria is a Qatari-American artist, writer, and filmmaker living and working in London. Though her work spans many disciplines including drawing, collage, sculpture and film it is united by a preoccupation with the power of storytelling and myth, and in particular with imagining revisionist histories and alternative futures.
With her friend and collaborator Fatima Al Qadiri, Al-Maria coined the term “Gulf Futurism” to describe the growing atomisation of individuals and the shifting ground of urban planning, aesthetics, and media, and their impact on everyday life in the post-oil Persian Gulf. Her cinematic artist’s videos are fuelled by the combination of critical rigour with an affective charge in their explorations of language, imperialism, and counter-histories – a deep investigation and dramatisation of the sociopolitical, economic, and environmental present.
Al-Maria’s debut exhibition in the United States, at the Whitney Museum of Art, 2016, attends to the Gulf’s embrace of consumerism. Black Friday features primarily of shots of empty shopping centres in Doha. An unseen narrator declares the mall as the place “where the glamorous heart of evil is born”, a place of entrapment and confusion complete with faces blurred beyond recognition and bodies collapsed on the floor.
Al-Maria was Whitechapel Gallery’s Writer in Residence 2018, resulting in her exhibition BCE comprising of films, performances and readings, including her first collaboration with the artist Sin Wai Kin. Her most recent collection of essays and writings, Sad Sack, was published by Book Works in 2019.
In 2021, Al-Maria debuted a new video work, Tender Point Ruin, at the Luma Foundation, Arles. The sequel and concluding chapter to a trilogy of videos that began with Beast Type Song, Tate Britain, 2019, Tiger Strike Red, is currently on show at Applied Arts Pavilion as part of The Milk Of Dreams | 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia.
In 2023, Al-Maria will present the trilogy of videos together for the first time in the a solo exhibition, Not My Bag, at the Henry Art Gallery, Seattle.