Images, videos and research material collected by Mater chronicle Mecca’s (Makkah’s) past to its present identity. Throughout his research, Mater has gathered a rich archive of conversations. They include personal references and continuous recordings of the urban developments and expansion of Mecca.
In the city of Mecca (Makkah) a new future is being plotted and planned. The contours of that future are becoming visible amidst a landscape teeming with initiatives to develop and reinvent seemingly immutable rituals, states, and assumptions. The redevelopment of a site shaped by its own narrative may culminate in the re-imagining of life at the centre of the Islamic world. Amid a rapidly changing economic landscape, Mecca is re-examining its methods and its relationships with itself and with the rest of the world.
In early 2013, Mater began a series of experimental and meandering journeys within this most visited yet most exclusive of sites. These flâneur-like expeditions — by foot, by car, rarely covering the same route twice and at all times open to creative happenstance — have their roots in psycho-geography, the conceptualisation of rudderless urban motion as a form of self-expression that began in post-war Paris and took as its starting point Walter Benjamin’s fascination with the poetic wanderings of Baudelaire. On the other hand, they refer back to the work of Mecca’s first photographer, the nineteenth-century ‘Meccan doctor’ ‘Abd al-Ghaffar. As a practising doctor himself, Mater feels an implicit affinity with al-Ghaffar and his work. Yet his explorations go beyond the artistic derive. Mater’s emphasis is on his own progress, as well as the social evolution of the people around him, a subject that has acquired deeper significance in recent years.
Mater’s privileged access and roving gaze incisively synthesise stories of this symbolic city through encountered materials. The paraphernalia that accumulate are his 100 Found Objects, a shifting kaleidoscope from which the narratives of history billow. Like a genealogy, these pieces illuminate productive combinations. Drawing on the official and unofficial, the documented and the remembered, the archive composes and uncovers roots and foundations to allow potential histories to be read and new futures to be imagined.
Presented first at a 2014 exhibition at Sharjah Art Foundation, UAE as well as in a forthcoming book, this unique archive draws on wider political and familiar histories of communities that once lived in Mecca’s vicinity. Along with distinctive pilgrims' tales, both the intimacy and the anonymity implicit in mass congregations of peoples from all over the world is revealed. We are taken on a passage that encompasses individual recollections of broad social and political events. Personal and collective dreams and ideologies are reflected through symbolism associated with a site that draws on the visions of every man, woman and child interconnected by a shared religious faith.
100 Found Objects is an ongoing work which will be completed once the entire expansion and development of Mecca is accomplished.
100 Found Objects
© 2016 Copyright | Ahmed Mater | All Rights Reserved.
"This work transcends the objects in that, ultimately, what I’m working with isn’t only the objects themselves, but the stories I’ve attached to them. For me, each tale is the manifestation of the object, and each object is a tangible materialisation of an underlying narrative. The work finds its equilibrium somewhere between the stories and chronology they’re chaptered into, the objects becoming knots or points along the timeline, woven into the stories as part of the language of this artwork. The result of this process, I hope, is a collection that encompasses subjective interpretations of broader socially and politically instrumental events, collective dreams and ideologies through to the innate mythology and iconography associated with a site that draws on the visions of every man or woman, child or elder interconnected by a shared faith. I’ve woven an intricate web with these objects, making connections through the texts that accompany them. Each story draws out a tale that intends to trigger imagination and memory, mixing fact with fiction, ultimately with the aim of straddling, conflating and confusing notions of history and memory."