UCCA Beijing

Future Desert: Desert Imageries in Contemporary Productions


Cinema Arts
Location:  Auditorium
Language:  English with Chinese subtitles

UCCA is pleased to present the China debut of The Future Was Desert Part I & II and NUII, two recent films by Qatari-American artist Sophia Al-Maria and French artist Cyril Duval (aka ITEM IDEM) respectively. The screening will be followed by a conversation between ITEM IDEM, “The New Normal: China, Art, and 2017” co-curator Alvin Li, and Al-Maria, who will join the talk from London via Skype.

While occupying nearly one third of the land surface of the world, deserts are widely considered a nowhere that lies entirely antithetical to human inhabitation. Meanwhile in literature and art, the desert is frequently invoked and have since accumulated manifold representations. In a conversation after the screening, Al-Maria, ITEM IDEM, and Li will discuss the permeation of desert imageries in film history and the nuanced symbolism of the desert in their recent works.

Ticketing: Free


*Collect your ticket from reception 45 minutes before the event begins;

*Please no late entry;

*Seating is limited, and tickets must be collected individually;

*Please keep mobile devices on silent.

UCCA Membership Benefits

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For this event, UCCA members will enjoy:

• Exclusive seats reservation service

• Members-only guided tour

For UCCA members, please send us your name and mobile number to RSVP (ve@ or call UCCA membership hotline: +86 10 5780 0200


13:30-13:50 Ticket pick-up at the reception desk (for UCCA members who RSVPed)

13:50-14:20 Exclusive UCCA members-only guided tour

14:00-14:30 ticket distribution at the reception desk (for UCCA members who didn’t RSVP and non-members)

14:30-16:00 Screening

16:00-17:30 Conversation

*Please arrive promptly.


Cyril Duval

Working under the fictional alter-ego brand name ITEM IDEM, Cyril Duval is an artist, designer, and filmmaker producing work situated within the intersection of conceptual practices, visual communication, industrial design, marketing/branding, and public art. Duval’s work has been exhibited at Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Garage Center for Contemporary Culture, Moscow; MoMA PS1, New York; Mori Art Museum, Tokyo; Palais de Tokyo, Paris; Performa 13, New York; Frieze Art Fair, London; NADA Art Fair, Miami; and the New Museum, New York; among others. He is also the founding member and co-president of Shanzhai Biennial.

Sophia Al-Maria

Sophia Al-Maria (b. 1983, Qatar) is a Qatari-American contemporary artist and writer living and working in London. Al-Maria studied comparative literature at the American University in Cairo, and aural and visual cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London. For nearly a decade, Al-Maria has been finding ways to describe 21st century life in the Gulf Arab nations through art, writing, and filmmaking. Her recent solo exhibitions include “Everything Must Go” (The Third Line, Dubai, 2017); “Black Friday” (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 2016); and “Virgin with a Memory” (Cornerhouse, Manchester, 2014). Recent group exhibitions include Répétition (Boghossian Foundation, Brussels, 2016); “89plus: Filter Bubble” (LUMA Westbau, Zurich, 2015); “2015 Triennial: Surround Audience” (New Museum, New York, 2015); “The 9th Gwangju Biennale: Roundtable” (2012). Al-Maria is a root researcher in the Shanghai Project (Shanghai Himalayas Museum, 2016-17). In 2015 she guest-edited issue eight of The Happy Hypocrite, entitled “Fresh Hell.” Her memoir, The Girl Who Fell to Earth (2012), was published by Harper Perennial. Her writing has also appeared in Harper’s, Five Dials, Triple Canopy, a nd Bidoun.

About the Film



Runtime: 35 min

NUII (2016) is artist ITEM IDEM’s (aka Cyril Duval) first foray into medium-length film. Following in the footsteps of JOSS (2014), directed in collaboration with Chinese artist Cheng Ran; NUlI expands upon the cathartic promise of ritualization. Just as JOSS depicted the fiery destruction of Chinese funeral ritual paper objects related to contemporary images of wealth, NUII explores the dark Dionysian rapture of blowing up Piñatas crafted as corporate logos, political figures, as well as sectarian and terrorist organizations. Directly referencing the final moments of Antonioni’s Zabriskie Point (1970), ITEM IDEM sets the scene in a Californian desert ghost city where two otherworldly protagonists wander in a romantic search for ideological folklore. The screening marks the China debut of NUII, and the first stop on its tour through China.

The Future Was Desert Part I & II

Artist: Sophia Al-Maria

Runtime: 5 min 23 sec; 4 min 35 sec

Sophia al Maria's time-travelling alter ego Sci-fi Wahabi makes pilgrimages to desert petroglyphs and other sites of deep human history in Namibia, Oman and Australia. Points of interest include the desert as time machine, as future dream, and as Tatooine.