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Sophia Al-Maria

Axis Mundi

April 2017 – June 2017

High Line Channel 14, 14th Street Passage, on the High Line at 14th Street

April 27 – June 20, 2017
6:00 PM daily until the park closes

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.

Organized by Melanie Kress, High Line Art Associate Curator.

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

Artist bio

Sophia Al-Maria (b. 1983 Tacoma, Washington) lives and works in London, United Kingdom. Al-Maria’s work has been presented internationally at institutions including the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2016); Boghossian Foundation, Brussels, Belgium (2016); and at the Serpentine Gallery, London, United Kingdom (2014). Her work was included in the 2015 Triennial at the New Museum, New York (2015) and in the 9th Gwangju Biennale, Gwangju, South Korea (2012).


Major support for High Line Art comes from Donald R. Mullen, Jr. and The Brown Foundation, Inc. of Houston. Additional funding is provided by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. High Line Art is supported, in part, with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the New York City Council and from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.