Found in a tourist shop in Mecca, 2013
I’m the new Mecca. Oh yes, I love these changes. I’m all about change. I’m all about thinking big, thinking out of this box I’m limited to. Thinking out, but keeping the riches in. I’m all about possibilities, but the right kind of possibilities. My kind.
‘Look!’, I hear them say, day after day, as I show them the third tallest building behind the Ka’aba in full 3D. ‘Look!’, as I seamlessly remove the old icons and bring in the new! ‘Look!’, as I show them the incredible scale, the grandeur of the tower overshadowing them, the symbols of capitalism, the rise towards the skies and the simultaneous fall towards avarice and pride.
And the tower shouts back to me: ‘I am taller than most buildings in the world. Seated upon a destroyed fortress, I am renewal and change. I am the way forward and the way back. Whilst I tower over you, I am also teetering. To look up at me is to be dizzied by my height.’
I bring you so close to reality that sometimes those who look through me reach out to touch the visions I bear. And in turn I reach in, my third dimension stealing the memories of the people who look through me. I absorb all their thoughts, all the facts and pieces of random but important information. Sometimes I’m given memories, at other times, imaginings or flashes of thoughts that they try quickly to dispel, but little do they know that I take them all in and use them to bolster my spell.
I’m the source of the myriad images you see today, on the magical screens of iPhones and tablets. I’m the start of Instagram, for I hold the key to the trick of the eye on which these new forms play: what you see in front of you isn’t necessarily what actually exists. Just as all humans look at the world from their particular view, my view is that of the anonymous photographer and relies on the preconceptions and dreams of the owner. You might say I’m a jinn, for I conjure and collect all these tales from this little red case in which I sit. My visions appear from nowhere, existing beyond this casing, triggering an endless chain of recounted tales, bringing to life the stories of pilgrims, tales told but not written down of Mecca, the past, the present and glorious future. The minds of pilgrims who have long since passed through are captured forever in this idyll, this view, this magic box.
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 Mater2014