17. The Pocket Watch


c. 1900 CE
c. 1317 AH
Donated to the artist by a Mecca guard, 2013

You are afraid of me, yet you keep me close at all times, for I show you time, the longest distance between two places or the shortest. Time ticks. It keeps moving. My hands never stop, for time keeps them stirring, and when they do stop, the world will stop with them.

Every second you watch is a moment lost and gone. Every second to come is a tomorrow that has not yet risen. I am a reminder that we have only today. I am a reminder that we must begin. Some say I am an illusion; some that I am a trap made of nothing but the embers of the moment; others that we are all living within a Block Universe. Yet none can deny that as I tick the hours go by and the past increases as the future recedes.

You may delay, but I will not. You can fear me, but what good will that do you? You are afraid of not having enough time to understand people, to be understood yourself. You are afraid of quick judgments or mistakes. You are afraid not to have the time to fix them and see them be fixed. You are afraid of glimpsing only snapshots and not the full film. Is that why you race to a finishing line you cannot see? To an unknown destination? I say, take your time, take each second and fill it to the brim; absorb, digest, look around you and let it all sink in.

‘When did this clock start?’, you ask. I do not know. I am just a transmitter, letting you know that it did.

Your time is ticking past and I cannot stop it.

‘Why be so cold?’, you ask. ‘No sympathy?’, you say as you rush along, checking my face every few seconds. Somewhere deep down you are hoping I may have stopped for you. But one thing you can be certain of, if nothing else, is time. It ticks at the same rate every day and will stop for no man.

I exist in massive forms like the Mecca Clock Tower, yet I prefer to be a small watch in your jacket pocket, warm and snug. There your heart and I perform own little drumbeat, counting out time within split seconds of each other. Racing to the next beat, one before the other. Falling like footsteps, like dominoes.

This work transcends the objects. Ultimately, what I’m working with isn’t only the artefacts themselves, but the stories 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 stories as part of the language of this artwork. Each story draws out a tale that intends to trigger imagination and memory, mixing fact with fiction, with the ultimate aim of straddling, conflating and confusing fixed notions of history to open up the unofficial histories that shape the character of place and memory.
Ahmed Mater
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