Henry Art Gallery
Northeast Seattle, Seattle

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Sophia Al-Maria's work interrogates the enduring orientalist gaze and residual histories of resource extraction and colonial authority in the context of contemporary culture and society. Not My Bag brings together Al-Maria’s recent trilogy of films and new collages that grapple with the violence of empire across individual and generational time scales, and animate the persistence of the rebellious, creative spirit amid the ruins of crisis. This will be Al-Maria’s first exhibition in the Pacific Northwest, a region central to shaping the artist’s youth and the trajectory of her art practice.

Al-Maria’s film trilogy includes BEAST TYPE SONG (2019), TENDER POINT RUIN (2021), and TIGER STRIKE RED (2022), and features a recurring cast of friends and fellow artists who play both themselves and scripted characters. Al-Maria weaves together personal lore and geopolitical legend by using film genre ranging from science fiction and horror to adventure, as her material. Her resulting films are multi-layered and unspool the power dynamics of writing history with only unreliable narrators to tell it. These counter-narratives confront problems of erasure and misrepresentation and create portals to envision alternative futures.

The title, Not My Bag, is a dynamic expression of Al-Maria’s approach to history, writing, and language, evoking a colloquial phrase of disavowal, and simultaneously alluding to Ursula K. Le Guin’s essay “The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction,” in which Le Guin advocates for writing narratives that hold the multiplicity of human experience. The metaphor of the bag recurs throughout Al-Maria’s work and points to her refusal of monolithic hero stories in favor of narratives that enfold the entangled relationship between pain and beauty and grapple with the complex, continual process of being and existing together on Earth.

During the first year of the COVID-19 lockdown, Al-Maria returned to her first loves of drawing and collage. What emerged were “paper videos,” which often complement the subject matter in her films and explore the ways cultural inheritance, fragmentation, and memory shape narrative and a sense of self. For this exhibition at the Henry, Al-Maria made a site-specific installation titled Al Atlal (2023), which collects together photography, excerpts from reference texts, film production ephemera, and other precious remains of the often-invisible work that goes into making the art itself. This spread of materials extends across the gallery walls, creating an impression but no clear outline of the creative process. These references include Arabic literature, American pop culture, and experimental punk cinema, alongside childhood drawings and photographs related to Al-Maria’s experience of growing up between Washington State and the Middle East. This nonlinear storyboard is composed of the remnants of Al-Maria’s life and work since leaving both her homes to immigrate to the United Kingdom. It maps her capacious view of the world forged across national borders, offering a way to reckon with the past and find pathways to survive in the present.

Upcoming Dates

  • Sun, Oct 1, 2023 10:00am
  • Thu, Oct 5, 2023 10:00am
  • Fri, Oct 6, 2023 10:00am
  • Sat, Oct 7, 2023 10:00am
  • Sun, Oct 8, 2023 10:00am
  • Thu, Oct 12, 2023 10:00am
  • Fri, Oct 13, 2023 10:00am
  • Sat, Oct 14, 2023 10:00am
  • Sun, Oct 15, 2023 10:00am
  • Thu, Oct 19, 2023 10:00am
  • Fri, Oct 20, 2023 10:00am
  • Sat, Oct 21, 2023 10:00am
  • Sun, Oct 22, 2023 10:00am
  • Thu, Oct 26, 2023 10:00am
  • Fri, Oct 27, 2023 10:00am
  • Sat, Oct 28, 2023 10:00am
  • Sun, Oct 29, 2023 10:00am
  • Thu, Nov 2, 2023 10:00am
  • Fri, Nov 3, 2023 10:00am
  • Sat, Nov 4, 2023 10:00am
  • Sun, Nov 5, 2023 10:00am
  • Thu, Nov 9, 2023 10:00am
  • Fri, Nov 10, 2023 10:00am
  • Sat, Nov 11, 2023 10:00am
  • Sun, Nov 12, 2023 10:00am
  • Thu, Nov 16, 2023 10:00am
  • Fri, Nov 17, 2023 10:00am
  • Sat, Nov 18, 2023 10:00am
  • Sun, Nov 19, 2023 10:00am
  • Thu, Nov 23, 2023 10:00am
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