Late 1990s CE
Late 1411s AH
Found on a street stall near the Grand Mosque, Mecca, 2013
I may be only a little box, a plastic toy, but for those of you from Mecca and the Kingdom, I know what nervous excitement I trigger in you. For I represent something much bigger. My volume can be turned up to smother voices. I channel power and wealth, lead trends and collective thought. I represent easy, no-strings-attached freedom of voice.
There was a time when the king welcomed me in, allowing me to screen music, films from the West, comedies. Children would crowd around me for the next cartoon, women for the romances from Egypt, teenagers for the westerns. Now I channel Mecca live. The government broadcasts their messages far and wide.
You people, so hell-bent on watching the news and following politics, you have no idea that the stories you’re fed are just one end of a long rope that they’ll eventually use to hang you with. Even those millions of you with big white satellite dishes that contaminate the city skyline, you’re still being fed only versions of a story. Channels for the Sunni, channels for the Shia, channels for reciting the Holy Qu’ran, channels for fashion, products and gossip shows … In some ways, perhaps Angry Face was right.
So, you ask, what channel would you have us watch then? I say none at all. Feed your imaginations with the city, build your own dreams and make them a reality. Make your own steps and bring your voices to the web instead – where at least amongst the delusions you’ll find a few honest truths – before that, too, loses all remnants of its democracy.
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