Friday Dispatch – 11 November 2022
Sophia Al-Maria, Pidge
Project Native Informant, Three Colts Ln
2 November – 10 December 2022
A vintage clock stands in the middle of the gallery. It is used in pigeon racing — a sport where the birds return to their homes after traveling a set distance. The clock points to the back of the gallery, ushering you onwards to a pigeon-predator replica atop a broken Apple phone. The circular trajectory mimics the distance that pigeons travel when flying back home. Today, London pigeons lose their way back due to phone radiation. How can they find their way back? As technological devices continue to evolve within human life, they begin to affect the habits of other species. Humans and non-humans become intwined.
Physical and emotional journeys, distances, magic, and longing are present in the new works of Sophia Al-Maria. A drawing of pigeons is at the heart of the tryptic remain, leaving, indefinitely (2022) – a collage referencing the options given to foreigners ruminating permanent stay in the UK. Two ionic columns stand side by side, superimposed by lines of poetry by the Arab philosopher, poet and writer Al-Ma’arri. It is referencing the Abbasid dynasty, the centre of Arab-Muslim culture where the assimilation of Persian, Indian, and Greek thought which produced a rich and diverse cultural scene. An image of a woman taking a selfie while flexing her fist and showing her lean muscular leg is repeated on the panels. Her head is veiled and her body is visible, underlining a sensual strength. Al-Maria explores the temporal collapse between a distant past and a feminist technological future.
Such elements give clues to Al-Maria herself, an Iraqi-American based in London, and a recent British citizen. Her practice consists of writing, videos, and collages which often focus on themes of belonging, migration, colonisation, feminism and technology. Al-Maria creates links between these themes using non-narrative elements which create alternative ways of thinking. Images of pigeons, female figures, nazars (charms against bad luck), bird excrement, henna, actresses and family members.
These are all separate pieces of a jigsaw, not yet put together. In the press release Al-Maria describes her own feeling of being “un-homed from the world, from my home, from myself”. Having lived in different places, one finds themselves physically far from your own roots, yet perpetually close to them.
In prophylactic device (2022), a woman is raising her red hand while taking a selfie with her Apple phone. One eye of the Lebanese actress Yumna Marwan is visible. Her phone cuts her portrait. The palm of her hand is decorated with red henna, perhaps a sign of happiness, or a further filter to the self. Does the phone become a projection or is it a protection against bad luck?
This reflected image connects back to London pigeons who, disrupted by technological devices, struggle to find their way home. Like the birds, there are times in life when we can also feel strangely out of touch with ourselves, with the city we live in. Then we also can’t find our way home anymore as that home is ever-changing, non-existent or comprised. Al-Maria articulates that feeling of what this means geographically and emotionally in each one of her works.
Ilaria Pur Purini
Curator of National Programme
Dressage Court, 48 Three Colts Lane, London E2 6GQ
Opening Times: Wednesday – Saturday, 12:00 – 18:00
Exhibition open until 10 December 2022