Sophia Al-Maria's Beast Type Song at Tate Britain presents a new film exploring the erasure and revision of identities and histories past and future. The work features performances by Yumna Marwan, Elizabeth Peace and boychild, and by Al-Maria herself. Each one is cast against the science fiction backdrop of a solar battle, as evoked by Etel Adnan in her 1989 war poem, The Arab Apocalypse. Beast Type Song was shot in the derelict former campus of Central Saint Martins School of Art and Design in Holborn, London.
In the poem, Adnan uses drawing to communicate what cannot be expressed in words. Similarly, Al-Maria explores the revision of history through graphic and bodily gestures. When words cannot express trauma, a new language of drawings, movement and music gives voice to the speechless.
Drawing on personal heritage and fictional future projections, the protagonists reflect on the narratives and languages they have inherited as children of various colonial legacies. Each figure encounters some form of violence either through the hostile gaze of the camera or through the imposition of narrative. We are told stories of a violence inflicted on the body, but at the same time are asked to consider the violence of the storytelling itself.
By weaving together music, literature, oral history, film and dance, Beast Type Song serves as an escape route from the repetition of dominant narratives of an oppressive past.