Sophia Al Maria

The magical state




Single-channel video, 6’9”

Credit Line

Anna Lena Films

Edited by Leo Parmentier

Music by James Kelly

First Assistant Director:
Peter Webber

Casting Director:
Carlos Camacho

Line Producer:
Carolina Barrera

Art Director:
Stephanie Hansen

Sound: Diego Gómez

Work commissioned by curator Nadja Argyropoulou for PCAI, Greece

Object label

Shot in Colombia, the film explores the extraction of fossil
fuels from the desecrated land as a kind of ritualistic, violent
exorcism imposed on the abject ‘female’ body.
Employing the genre/trope of this allegory, the artist, who
hails from the Arabian Gulf region, examines the importance
per se of a spirit that is exigently and aggressively ‘conjured’
to be used intensively until it eventually becomes a sordid
waste, in a process of perpetual conflict with matter and of
ignorance and/or indifference as to what animates matter,
what ultimately constitutes and coheres it.
Sophia Al Maria, who has repeatedly expressed her mounting
fear vis-à-vis the environmental collapse caused by
the excesses of early and late capitalism, was led by her
research to the region of La Guajira, Colombia, near the
borders with Venezuela, the site of one of the largest open
coal mining facilities in Latin America and one of the most
afflicted areas on the planet in the course of the industrial
revolution and globalization. As pointed out by organizations
that have studied the effects on the overall ecosystem,
including its complex socio-political dimensions, after 3O
years of continuous mining the damages are permanent
and accompanied by multiple violations of the ancient
indigenous populations’ rights to life, as they are forced to
relocate or live under the veil of polluting dust that covers
The film by Al Maria features a native young woman who
speaks Wayuunaiki, the rare language of an ancient
matrilineal tribe. Possessed by the spirit of crude, she
unleashes her rage as it is released during the refining
When her family subjects her to the trial of exorcism, her
voice becomes a frightening weapon of alloglossia, her body
bleeds in the iridescent shades of oil as it reflects the light
and, when asked, she does not acknowledge any identity
as her own, instead hurling a strange prophecy, swirling and
scintillating, disproportionate in her dimensions relatively to
the landscape. Half demon, half heroine, the young woman
in the film The Magical State is both the substance and the
outcome of the mining, but also a strong feminist metaphor
for every woman, every being, that is oppressed, suffocating
within the bounds of a forced condition and its violence,
eventually discharging her panic against anyone who crosses
her path.

Nadja Argyropoulou, March 2017