Black Friday (Sophia Al-Maria, 2016) is one of the most intriguing and insightful digital media installations I’ve seen in a while, I saw it at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York last month, and I keep coming back to it in my thoughts.
As an artist, Al-Maria has placed 21st century life in the Gulf Arab nations under examination through writing, art, and video. She is given credit for coining the term “Gulf Futurism” to describe the recent urbanization and economic development in the region. Black Friday continues her examination by focusing on the shopping mall through a cacophony of screens from dozens of consumer media devices on a bed of sand overshadowed by a large video projection with images of these palaces of consumerism that occupy, in her words, “a weirdly neutral shared zone between cultures that are otherwise engaged in a sort of war of information and image,” or as Marc Augé wrote in Non-Places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity (1995), a “non-place.”
This installation presents a fascinating use of the moving image to express a particular zeitgeist providing the visitor a mobilized and hypnotic gaze across a sea of small screens (to me representing alternative narratives) dominated by one large screen (to me representing the dominant narrative of consumption) in a manner than a single channel video could not achieve. Check out more photos of the exhibition on the Whitney web site. This was Al-Maria’s first solo exhibition in the United States.