Sophia Al Maria


Sophia Al Maria is an artist, writer, and filmmaker. She grew up between the United States and Qatar before moving to Egypt to study comparative literature at the American University in Cairo. She next completed a graduate degree in aural and visual cultures at Goldsmiths, London. 


The seemingly disparate sources of inspiration for Al Maria’s multidisciplinary practice include pop culture, anime, Arabic poetry, sci-fi, and her personal experience of pollution and climate change. Working primarily with film and narrative text, the artist weaves captivating tales as a way to process her thoughts and feelings about the future, particularly in the current extinction climate. Her recent work focuses increasingly on the isolation of individuals via technology, consumerism as proxy religion, and how agency and chance play in the blinding approach of an uncertain future. 


Growing up between the Pacific Northwest and the Gulf, Al Maria saw firsthand the effects of pollution and global warming. Her sci-fi and fantasy style depictions for the future do not focus on a utopia but rather, recognize the possibility of the end of life as we know it. Despite her fear of an apocalyptic future for mankind, Al Maria remains fascinated by ruins. Pre-Islamic poetry often begins with al-atlal(literally ‘the ruins’) in which the poet may describe a site abandoned by his great love; the ash of a burnt-out fire, the evidence of a tent in which she laid down her head. This method of elevating the detritus of existence had a profound effect on the artist, informing much of her work.


Along with friend and musician Fatima Al Qadiri, Al Maria coined the concept of Gulf Futurism. In Sad Sack, a recently published collection of writings, Al Maria explores the possibility that, in some respects, the Gulf is already living within the future imagined by those in the West. She investigates the various ways in which this future is not evenly distributed or that it is simply misunderstood, particularly with regards to feminism. Misunderstanding and bias are partly responsible for Al Maria’s mistrust in narratives and experiments with works told from the viewpoint of an omega character, giving a worm’s-eye perspective. In her richly imaginative works, Al Maria demonstrates the fascinating way in which storytelling is used to understand the past and to imagine the future.


Her work has been shown in various international exhibitions including but not limited to: Beast Type Song, GARAGE, Moscow (2021); taraxos, Serpentine x Modern Forms Sculpture Commission, London (2021); Bitch Omega, Julia Stoschek, Dusseldorf, Germany (2020); Beast Type Song, Tate Britain, London, UK (2019); Project Room #10, Sophia Al-Maria, Mirror Cookie, Fondazione Pomodoro, Milan, Italy (2019); Sophia Al-Maria: BCE, Whitechapel Gallery, London, UK (2019); Sophia Al Maria: Black Friday, Mercer Union, Images Festival, Toronto, Canada (2018); Biennale of Moving Images, Miami, USA (2017); Axis Mundi, High Line Art, New York, USA (2017); No to the Invasion: Breakdowns and Side Effect, CCS Bard Gallery, NY, USA (2017); Mondialite, Villa Empain Boghossian Foundation, Brussels, Belgium (2017); The New Normal, Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art, Beijing China (2017); Seeds of Time, Shanghai Project, Shanghai, China (2017); Transmissions from the Etherspace, La Casa Encendida, Madrid, Spain (2017); Paratoxic Paradoxes, Benaki Museum, Athens, Greece (2017); Eternal Youth, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, USA (2017); Black Friday, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY, USA (2016); Repetition, Villa Empain, Boghossian Foundation, Brussels, Belgium (2016); Imitation of Life at HOME, Manchester, UK (2016); In Search of Lost Time, The Brunei Gallery, London (2016); 89plus: Filter Bubble, LUMA Westbau, Zurich, Switzerland (2015); 2015 Triennial: Surround Audience, New Museum, New York, NY, USA  (2015); Common Grounds, Villa Stuck, Munich, Germany (2015); Extinctions Marathon: Visions of the Future, Serpentine Gallery, London, UK (2014); Virgin with a memory, Cornerhouse, Manchester, UK (2014); Do It, Manchester Art Gallery, Manchester, UK (2013); The 9th Gwangju Biennale, South Korea (2012); For your Eyes Only, St. Paul Street Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand (2012); Genre Specific Xperience, New Museum, New York, USA (2011); Bendari & the Bunduqia, Waqif Art Centre, Doha, Qatar (2007) and We Few: A Comic Palindrome, Townhouse Gallery, Cairo, Egypt  (2005).


Her writing has appeared in Harper's Magazine, Five Dials, Triple Canopy, and Bidoun. In 2007, she published her first autobiographical novel, The Girl Who Fell to Earth (Harper Collins Perennial). She was invited to participate in the 2016 Biennial of Moving Images in Geneva, Switzerland. The artist has also participated in the Inhabitation residency at Villa Empain, Boghossian Foundation, Brussels (2016).


Al Maria is the author of Sad Sack, Virgin With A Memory and The Girl Who Fell To Earth and has also guest edited an issue of the experimental art-writing journal The Happy Hypocrite, entitled Fresh Hell.


She was the Whitechapel gallery’s writer in residence 2018.


Al Maria currently lives and works in London, UK.