Chinese-American actress Bai Ling (The Crow, Sharknado 5: Global Swarming, Entourage, Wild Wild West) is the protagonist of the new suite of works that make up ilysm. This show picks up where Al-Maria’s first solo show Virgin With a Memory* left off, taking a person’s lived experience in the entertainment business as a starting point.
For Project Native Informant, Al-Maria sought to work with an actor who is a veteran and survivor of the misogyny industrial complex of Hollywood. Inspired by Bai’s apparent indifference to the racism, homophobia and sexism of the violent gaze she is subjected to in social and tabloid media, the works in ilysm invite Bai to explore the boundaries of the in-screen matrix she occupies. The presentation seeks to free her public persona from the abjection projected onto her in the popular imagination of tabloids such as TMZ whose stock-in-trade is to troll.
A fan of Bai Ling’s blog since the early 2000s, Al-Maria was curious about a recurring motif in Bai’s posts referencing ‘cookie’. For a long time Sophia assumed that this ‘cookie’ was a person, perhaps a secret lover. But in fact Bai was writing positive, loving self-affirmations. In 2005 Bai became the first Asian woman to be on the cover of Playboy. However this was allegedly the reason George Lucas cut her from his film Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. The piece White Man’s Bible (Revenge Porn) (2018) references this moment in Bai’s career. Major Motions (2018) is a fictional studio ident preceding a film we will never see. Bai holds the torch of self-love (a Hitachi Magic Wand) as a prophylactic against shame. And Not Really in Reality Reality TV(2018) is a surreal interview with Bai cast as a ‘love goddess’ being interviewed on the subject of vengefulness.