In previous works, Al-Sabah, whose family was exiled from Baghdad after the Iraq War, reflected on geographical dislocation through reference to Japanese anime cartoons broadcast throughout the Middle East during his childhood. By embedding imagery of warfare within these visual frameworks, anime cartoons and video culture take on a heightened political significance within Al-Sabah’s practice.
I AM ERROR explores the construction of masculinity in action-adventure video games. Presented in an immersive cinematic environment, Al-Sabah’s new CGI films confront the armouring of the male body in gaming culture by queering its military ethos from within.
The centrepiece of the exhibition is a 30-minute-long animation projected on to a large curved screen. It features a collection of cinematic sequences from an imaginary video game in which the hero’s body is constantly in flux, undergoing metamorphoses as a result of his encounter with other lifeforms, whose physical touch makes him vulnerable to change, threatening his identity and selfhood.
Combining the genres of fantasy erotica and body horror, Al-Sabah’s film celebrates the hero’s physical growth and transformation, as his body sprouts and blends into its surroundings, among writhing flowers and tentacular creatures. The tactile, hyper-realistic quality of the footage contrasts with the immersive architecture of the film installation, which engulfs the viewer and confronts them with the constantly mutating bodies of Al-Sabah’s films. The show is punctuated by digitally sculpted objects that explore the materiality of organic decay, extending the eerie atmosphere of Al-Sabah’s animations into the gallery space.