78. Cold cement


2012 CE
1433 AH
Found in the Haram expansion, Mecca, 2012

My name is Fast. I move fast, I set fast. My innards morph from powder to moist, damp, sandy grit, to hard, cold walls. My soul is poured over the earth, setting to a weight that no man can lift because I am the strongest. I am the thing that will change the face of the planet. Streets, river banks, sea shores and foundations are now filled with me. Originally, they would use clay, the stuff that humans are said to be made of, to bind the cities and roads, like those the Romans built. But I am superhuman; I am better than human. They pile me up and mix the water in and paste me out. My texture when wet is beautiful and smooth, luscious and cool, inviting you to dive in. But be warned, I will set you to stone. For nothing can stop me. Your only option is to try and destroy me with weapons and machinery, crush me back to the powder from which I came.

This bag you see here is just my casing, the skin on the endless potential within, a Bin Laden skin. And through it, I saw everything on my journey from the factory to the truck, the one-hour drive from Jeddah, then on towards Mecca’s towers. Who knew I would end up here in a five-star hotel with a brilliant view? Ha! And the things I saw on the way … phew, thank goodness I didn’t end up there: the desert, the endless tents on cement foundations, satellites of boring compound homes, estates both posh and fancy and dark and dingy. I knew I was destined for greatness! Through the checkpoint for Muslims and non-Muslims, separation and segregation, some bags got taken off, but I ended up on the road to the Hajj. Past countless petrol stations, food stalls, billboards advertising hotels, Islamic TV channels reminding everyone to praise the Lord! And boy have I praised the Lord … For here I am, on the fortieth floor of a sweet hotel.

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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