Sophia Al Maria’s exhibition, Black Friday, foregrounds the artist’s ongoing investigation into the accelerated development of the Gulf nations and the sobering signs of a hyper-capitalist future to come.
The large-scale, single-channel video installation Black Friday (2016) features hypnotic renderings of Qatari shopping malls that are often distorted and refracted, creating a dizzying disorientation of space. Through its vertical projection, booming soundtrack, and ominous voice-over, the work offers a distinctly apocalyptic take on the mall as consumer sanctuary. Al Maria’s likening of the mall to a sacred temple is linked to her decade-long examination of Gulf culture with its ideological mistrust of Western values and simultaneous embrace of American-style consumerism. The Qatari-American artist and writer coined the phrase “Gulf Futurism” in 2007 to describe the coexistence of these cultural extremes, and the dystopic future that they profess.
The installation of Black Friday will be paired with The Future was Desert, Parts 1 & 2 (2016), a two-channel video that pays homage to the desert as a harsh fictional landscape, serving as an impending site for human civilization. By pairing the two works, the exhibition at Mercer Union depicts Al-Maria’s imagined Gulf future, one punctuated by prophetic isolation.
Curated by and presented in partnership with Mercer Union and the Images Festival