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Sand Begets Glass

Sophia Al-Maria and I talk shopping malls, war, climate change and Gulf futurism for Frieze...

In the 1990s, Sophia Al-Maria exiled herself from American teenhood by choosing to live in her grandmother’s home in the Qatari capital, Doha. There, she had a front-row seat for the cataclysmic cultural and environmental changes unleashed on the Gulf by extraction industries, climate change and mobile technologies – the subjects that have become the focus of her work. The dark sides of technology and late capitalism are the thematic hallmarks of her films, installations and writings. She first discussed these issues in her essays on ‘Gulf futurism’ – a concept she initially articulated in 2007 – and in her memoir-as-novel The Girl Who Fell to Earth (2012). The fragmenting identities explored in her writing continue to inform her installations and film projects, while her unfinished feature film, the rape-revenge fantasy Beretta, looks at sexual violence in Egypt. Characterized by a pessimism she calls ‘doomy’, her work certainly has a dark seam running through it but, in conversation, Al-Maria reveals a lively sense of history and family, as well as a profound curiosity about the world. She talks, too, about her first US solo show, which opens in July at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.


Views from a Height: Technologies of Surveillance from the Photographic Survey to the Predator Drone

Since I've moved to the Catskills, I've been obsessed with all the values invested in the landscape where I live. Once the stomping grounds for the Hudson River School, the area held the values for a new nation. Living here and looking at the landscapes, I wondered how those values manifested now and what the landscape might mean, what the very nature of vision that landscape could hold. The Los Angeles Review of Books is running my essay on drones and the American landscape tradition, from Kaaterskill Falls to the American West and Western Pakistan, via vision, the landscape, art...

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"Beautifully crafted meditation..."

Yes, that is what the reviewer at Shiny New Books, said about my essay "The Rainmakers Flood." One of the editors of the British site Shiny New Books, also said other fine things like this: "But a brief outline of the plot of this essay doesn’t do it justice. It’s a charmingly interwined rope of connected ideas – snow, mud, rain, damage in its various forms, including war, the seductive beauty of science, the recalcitrant and yet unexpectedly fragile environment."

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I'm interested in what place says about us – interview in the Gulf Times.

This fall, I had the luck and honor to get to go to Qatar and teach and give a lecture as part of VCU Qatar's Crossing Boundaries series. I got to take people on a journey from my office and the kingfisher in the stream behind it and talk about art, theft, war, drones, the landscape, snow and curiosity. It was a voyage from rural upstate New York through all the things that fascinate me. Oh and if you click the link, the cutout photo in the Gulf Times makes me look like I've got a halo...

In Anand Holla's interview with me about writing and essays in the Gulf Times he writes, "For American essayist-writer Jennifer Kabat, writing is the definitive means to process the world. The fact that she is exceedingly good at it merely stokes the fire of her unwavering fascination and deep-running curiosity for subjects that range from rural life to contemporary art — and occasionally, as Kabat puts it, 'the two together.'" You can read it here.


Alchemy, travel and the essay – Ellie Ga in Frieze

Ellie Ga makes visual essays. They interlace myth, history and journeys, personal and profound. As she explores ideas she'll travel to the literal ends of the earth, get lodged in ice in the Arctic for months, learn to dive to try to find the world's first lighthouse. The work ends up being profound meditations on time, place, work, language all held together by her hypnotic voice ...I write about her for the October issue of Frieze:

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