Moza Almatrooshi (b. United Arab Emirates, works in Sharjah, UAE)
Moza Almatrooshi is a multimedia conceptual artist based in Sharjah, UAE. She obtained an MFA degree from Slade School of Fine Art in London, UK in 2019. Her work centers around storytelling, and power in social dynamics, Her focus on storytelling emerges in a magic realist form, reshaping historical narratives, playing with genres of stories such as fables or the coherence of stories through misaligned or partial translations, and strategically using il/legibility and silences to critique hegemony. The artist’s concern with power in social relations manifests in examinations of hospitality, gender, nation, and military forces. Almatrooshi combines a variety of media to best articulate her message, working across audio, video, performance, food, land art, ceramics, and screenprinting.
Almatrooshi used video and food in “Irreversible Act I: Sugar Rush” (2017), a work that comments on the speed of urban development in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The film captures an aerial view of a pot on the stove. Mounds of white sugar slowly carmelizes into auburn flecks, a small spot at first that darkens and widens as the video continues. The crystals on the edge of the burned spot suddenly become individually visible, white against the brown background, before they too turn brown. The work represents the irreversibility, the irrevocability of some changes; once made, the original can never be recuperated.
After “Irreversible Act I,” Almatrooshi continued to work with film in her piece “To Whom The Sun May Be of Concern” (2018). Almatrooshi produced this 17-minute, 30-second video in response to the news that archaeologists working in the emirate of Sharjah had unearthed coins indicating that the region had once been ruled by a queen. The work recuperates an imaginative history of the region’s possible queens, in the form of a children’s fable that features animals as protagonists. The story recounts a queen bee who is expelled from her hive and once out, finds a coin in the desert, just as the archaeologists in Sharjah did. With the help of other animals, she traverses the desert, and makes her way to a place behind the sun, where she can remain with the desert queen’s belongings.
Almatrooshi shot footage for the work around London’s parks and museums with a low-resolution camera, which she intersperses with cropped YouTube clips of popular but controversial pop singers Ahlam and Fifi Abdouh. The inclusion of these characters comments on the socially enforced performance of gender and gender norms, and also the ways in which women gain public visibility and/or authority. The video is often fragmented, blurry, or thrown into such high contrast it becomes difficult to make out. Woven together, the video does not present a coherent visual narrative, but rather offers fragmented visuals that acquire meaning largely through the voiceover audio and the subtitles.
Almatrooshi’s layering and borrowing of images in her video works also interrogate the processes of meaning-making associated with images, and how stories become legible to audiences. For example, in “To Whom The Sun May Be Of Concern,” the voiceover in Arabic does not always match the English subtitling; at times the subtitles are missing, in glaringly neon font which is difficult to read, or replaced altogether by symbols. The ambient audio of the video is also at times present and at others removed. She thus uses subtitles as material, revealing their power not just to provide access but also to take it away, troubling any easy legibility of the work.
Almatrooshi continued to work with food and look at discourses of nationalization in “Journey to Salsabeel” (2019). The video work includes multilayered audio including military and propaganda songs to offer a reflection on the anxiety of conflict and of war. Salsabeel, the titular fountain in her work, flows with honey, yet Almatrooshi shows that the promise of sweetness can lead to painful things. In a 2019 performance, “Praise Hiya – Belly Full” (media: performance, dates, ceramics, 5 mystical beings), the artist explored nonverbal exchanges of food and the social dynamics between guest and host.
Almatrooshi has also worked in screenprinting, still image, and audio media. Almatrooshi holds an MFA from the Slade School of Fine Art in London, and is an alumna of the Shaikha Salama bint Hamdan Foundation Fellowship. She has also held residencies in Cairo, Dubai, and London.