Alien Technology II. Image credit: Monira Al Qadiri
The first Alien Technology sculpture, in Dubai. Photo: Monira Al Qadiri
A single pearl, hand-carved into the shape of a drill bit. Photo: Monira Al Qadiri
“Big oil” brings to mind images of faceless corporations, drilling operations in far-flung territories, pipelines and oil spills, the Gulf of Mexico, the Persian Gulf, global industries, limited resources. But this sublimely out-of-proportion sculpture of an oil drill bit alludes to much more. Come step into its monolithic orbit; conjure its multiple meanings through a close encounter.
Alien Technology II is Kuwaiti artist Monira Al Qadiri’s second large-scale piece about the Gulf’s and her own family’s pearl-diving past, the massive oil industry that displaced it, and their shared environments, narratives and aesthetics—pearls and oil are two rare, uniquely iridescent materials. Their physical and geographic overlaps suggest deeper entwinements the artist draws us to explore.
The Gulf pearl industry is invisible to most, a forgotten history after the economic transformation triggered by oil. But for possibly the previous 2,000 years, the coastal Gulf economy was largely based on pearls: pearl diving, pearl trading, even pearl music. It was a culture founded on a coveted resource, like oil.
With entrancing colors and strange appendages, Al Qadiri’s giant shimmering drill bit also evokes bioluminescent marine life, or some futuristic organic machine—alien technology, forged here through a history of pearls, an era of oil, and an environmental future open and unknown.
Kuwaiti artist Monira Al Qadiri was born in Senegal and has an inter-media PhD from Tokyo University of the Arts, focusing on Middle-Eastern aesthetics of sadness in arts and religious practices. Her work explores unconventional gender identities and petro-cultures, their future and legacies. She is part of GCC artist collective.