Project Native Informant

Sophia Al-Maria

Tiger Strike Red | 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia

Applied Arts Pavilion at the Sale d’Armi, Arsenale, Venice

Qatari-American artist, writer, and filmmaker Sophia Al-Maria explores the echoes of colonialism and racism as they have bled into the contemporary relationship between humans via the inherent biases of our algorithms and machines. Al-Maria’s work raises questions around the alienation and dysfunction arising from a culture of “alternative facts” and whitewashed history, identifying remnants of colonialism in the fields of quantum computing, virtual space, and artificial intelligence.

Tiger Strike Red (2022) is a new single-channel video created for the Applied Arts Pavilion in response to the Biennale’s theme, The Milk of Dreams. It is the third in an ongoing series of Al-Maria’s video works that include Beast Type Song (2019) and Tender Point Ruin (2021). Taking inspiration from the collection of automata at the V&A, Al-Maria was drawn to the peculiar eroticism of the automaton known as “Tippoo’s Tiger.” Made for Tipu Sultan, an 18th century ruler of Mysore in South India, the mechanical sculpture depicts a tiger mauling a British soldier. In Al-Maria’s eyes, this automaton both demonstrates a yearning for revenge on the colonial oppressor and, in the suggestive entwinement of man and beast, the subconscious fantasy of sexual coupling. Tiger Strike Red proposes that the non-consensual projection of Orientalism’s (white male) gaze is once again at work in our collective vision of the future, suggesting that the imaginary monsters conjured by British colonialism – whether the tiger of Mysore or the image of women wearing niqabs – are deeply entangled in our present-day machines and technologies.

This is the sixth collaboration between La Biennale di Venezia and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, who present a Special Project jointly organised by the two institutions at the Applied Arts Pavilion in the Sale d’Armi, Venice Arsenale: Tiger Strike Red by Sophia Al-Maria, an artist selected by the Curator of the Biennale Arte 2022 Cecilia Alemani.

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