87. Babel’s List


2010 CE
1431 AH
Found in the Royal Makkah Clock Tower, Fairmont Hotel, 2012

You think I’m just a list on a piece of paper. Is that why you believe it’s OK to pick me up with your dirty little mitts, covered in pizza grease and sacrilegious Mecca Cola? Do you not see that I represent the confusion of tongues? That I am all of the possible channels of communication, all the weavings of human diversity that you can access through the screen? I hear you say, ‘But you’re not what’s important. You’re not the TV or the screen, you’re just a slip of paper! Take your delusions and over-sensitivity out on someone else!’ But if you took a moment to think about it, you’d see that I, a simple piece of plastic-coated card, am the key to an important story.

At one point, there was only one tongue in the cradle of civilisation. I am a code to this Mesopotamian land, to a Babylon long lost. Whilst I am the result of the first confusion in human languages, of dispute and misunderstandings, of miscommunications, I can assure you that the channels I show each promise their own truth. Choose the one that you want, and learn about cultural differences, so that you can embrace them. For your eyes may only see the screen I direct you to, but other eyes have seen other things. Balance and harmony are not found through perfection and immaculate duplication; they are found through acceptance of all that is different, without explanation or pardon. That includes an acceptance of all my channels, from the Hilton channel of adverts and gluttony to the BBC, the Qu’ran and Al Jazeera. If you want choice and selection, freedom and reflection all under one roof, then go wash your hands and take note of my position. For I am the key, the directory, to all that the world has to offer to the people who congregate beyond this sacred seat.

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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