Qatari-American Artist Showcases Sculptural Artwork
The sculpture called taraxos is an ongoing project by artist, writer Sophia Al-Maria at Serpentine. The sculpture (2021) is inspired by the resilient qualities of the self-seeding dandelion and is used as a form of a meditative installation with multiple performances and programmes around it.
Artist Sophia Al-Maria considers the dandelion as an emblem of freedom and resistance, as each seed has the potential to become an agent of resilience and change. Visitors can sit beneath and stand amongst a constellation of 12 metal stems, called Taraxos, which take the form of futuristic dandelion ‘seeds’, to listen to the sculpture. Serpentine invites visitors to enter the sculpture, to touch, to breathe, and to make a wish.
Played by the wind, the sculpture can be activated by touching the stems which are covered in copper, a material selected for its antimicrobial qualities. The central node of Taraxos is a piece of reclaimed titanium from an airplane. This metal connects the sculpture on the ground with the sky above; titanium is used in air and space travel for its strength and lightness, qualities similar to the apparently fragile airborne dandelion seed. During a year without air travel, these connections with the sky hold meaning, according to the artist. Taraxos is a meditative place for anyone to slow down time and make space to listen. Taking the dandelion’s ability to thrive in inhospitable places at its centre, Sophia Al-Maria proposes the weed as a model for freedom, resistance, and understanding in the world today. The sculpture was commissioned by Serpentine with Modern Forms in 2019 and now the experience of the COVID-19 pandemic has shaped its final form to become a point of pilgrimage.
Against the politics of division, alienation from the natural world, and the isolation brought by the pandemic, this installation provides a ritual space for self-expression, reflection, and connection, open to everyone. It is an inspirational and timely reminder of the power of culture to bring us together.
Taraxos is an ongoing project at Serpentine inspired. Begun in 2019, it continues to pollinate different areas of the programme. On the Winter Solstice in 2020, the project took seed as a meditative audio exercise of breathwork titled tarax’sup?, written and performed by Al-Maria, with a musical score by Kelsey Lu and cover artwork by Tosh Basco (fka boychild). Available online and as a podcast, tarax’sup? can be listened to en route to the sculpture. On the Spring Equinox in 2021 an online text conversation, A Wish Is A Form Of Travel, between Al-Maria and artist Leila Dear, considered the sacred geometry of flowers, and included new drawings by Dear. To listen and read these commissions, click here. tarax.live to listen to and read these commissions.
The arrival of the sculpture at the Serpentine marks the Summer Solstice on 21 June; on the Autumn Equinox Sophia Al-Maria and her collaborators were invited to produce a Park Night, part of Serpentine’s experimental, interdisciplinary live series in the Serpentine Pavilion.
“Following our work with Sophia Al-Maria on previous Serpentine Marathons and Serpentine Cinema programmes, we are delighted to be continuing our collaboration with the artist, filmmaker, and writer this summer. Al-Maria’s sculptural public artwork, the third part of the Taraxos project, could not come at a better time than these early days of reopening – we invite you all to come to Kensington Gardens to sit with this work, to spend time in this space to rest and reset. We are proud to be working with Modern Forms to make this public sculpture commission possible,” says Hans Ulrich Obrist, Artistic Director, and Bettina Korek, CEO, Serpentine.
Sophia Al-Maria was selected for this new public sculpture commission by Hans Ulrich Obrist, Artistic Director, Melissa Blanchflower, Curator, Exhibitions and Public Art, Serpentine, and Nick Hackworth, Director, Modern Forms.
All Images courtesy Serpentine Gallery.