Tender Point Ruin

Through Arabic poetry, collective history and what artist Sophia Al-Maria calls “an assemblage of exquisite cadaver moments”, Tender Point Ruin traverses the gifts, the vulnerabilities and the detritus of art-making.

How do we make and remake ourselves? The body of Tender Point Ruin unravels through a series of aural and textual encounters. Beginning with the rogue test (a behavioural experiment using mirrors and make up from the 70s, which mapped how self recognition develops in young children) and ending with a conversation with her frequent collaborator drag performance artist Sin Wai Kin.

In many ways, the film is a companion piece to her recent video work Beast Type Song, in which she began to explore her profound loss of faith in the written form. In Tender Point Ruin, Al-Maria returns to many of the same references and texts. An essay written to reject speechlessness by Jamaican-American writer Michelle Cliff entitled Caliban’s Daughter is this time recited by American artist Kelsey Lu. Etel Adnan, whose epic 1989 poem The Arab Apocalypse, so foundational to Beast Type Song, is here cast in the role of the poet. Her gravelly voice accompanies images of the moon as she tells us of the recurring images of desolate lovers in Arabic poetry, their yearning telling us of the “tender point of a ruin.” In between, we see Umm Kulthum, the iconic Egyptian singer’s only 1970 performance in Paris, performing Al-Atlal. Describing heartbreak, the song was originally a poem by Ibrahim Nagi and its title translates as ‘the ruins’.

In a text exchange in Tender Point Ruin, Al Maria asks “wtf is the point of art?”—gesturing to the inevitability of ruination when in love with something that cannot love you back. But like the poetry that finally shores up her faith in language, the artist’s CGI renderings of future landscapes turn technologies of hyper-vigilance into spiritual openings. Cameras and pineal eyes become composite and night vision cameras give way to another world that invites us to enter into the spaces between the ruins, to wander and discover, and to reach for the moon. —Jemma Desai

Director Biography

Sophia Al-Maria (1983) studied comparative literature at the American University in Cairo, and aural and visual cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London. Her work spans many disciplines including drawing, film and screenwriting for TV. Her cinematic videos explore postcolonial identity, imperialism, and counter-histories weaving together music, literature, oral history, film and dance. Her fractured, nonlinear works are often cast against a science fiction backdrop and explore the revision of history, the isolation of individuals through technology, and the corrosive elements of consumerism and industry. Recent solo exhibitions include Julia Stoschek Collection, (Düsseldorf, 2020), Tate Britain, (London, 2019–20) and Whitney Museum of American Art, (New York, 2016). In 2018, she was the Writer-In-Residence at Whitechapel Gallery, London and she has a forthcoming Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, (Moscow, 2021).

Al-Maria was BFMAF’s 2018 Artist in Profile and included the world premiere of her film The Magical State as well as a wide-ranging selection of her moving image work.

Director Filmography

Tender Point Ruin (2021), Astral Bodies Electric, Makeup! (2019), Beast Type Song (2019), Not Really in Reality Reality TV (2018), Mirror Cookie (2018), Major Motions (2018), The Magical State (2017), Wayuu Creation Myth (2017), Spiral (Fatima Al Qadiri music video, 2017), Mothership (2017), Black Friday (2016), The Limerant Object (2016), The Future Was Desert Parts I-II (2016), The Litany (2016), Little Sister (2015), Sisters (2015), A Whale is a Whale is a Whale (2014), The Watchers 1–5 (2014), Class A (2014), Your Sister (2014), Evil Eye (2014), Choque (2014), Slaughter (2013), Schrodinger’s Girl (2013), Scout (2012)

Production Year



World Festival Premiere


Sophia Al-Maria


United Kingdom

Dialogue Language


Primary Contact

Christopher Eperjesi


Christopher Eperjesi

Distribution (Worldwide)

Project Native Informant, London