97. Living below ground (Plans for Mecca)


2010 CE
1431 AH
Found at the Development Commission of Mecca Al Mukarramah and Mashaaer (DCOMM), 2011

I am the denial of all that came before and all that exists. I am dreams that negate the reality, the truth of the site, the land, its use and its congregation. My places only exist as models, renderings, secret and imagined corners.

I was meant as a coffee-table book, brimming with dreams. But now, I am lost memories, places and futures that will only ever exist in a few imaginations.

Many dreamed these impossible territories, some of whom you may know – Zaha Hadid, Tadao Ando, Norman Foster, Santiago Calatrava, Shigeru Ban – others who have fallen by the wayside.

Here on these walls, I am scrutinised and dissected, reality driving through my potential like a sword. For the viewers of these plans know that these ideas, influenced by cities like Dubai and Doha, were born of a competition for all the big star architects, who cannot enter the site about which they were asked to dream. So they plotted and planned from a Google map, trying to imagine what it must be like – this most visited yet most exclusive of places. They left themselves open to ridicule, for how can you plot and plan the positioning of a mass of people without true context, without immediate and real information?

But do not dismiss me, for whilst these dreams may not be founded on Islam, they represent concepts of space, freedom of speech and movement, greenery and sanctuaries. Towers of content. Towers of perfection, filled to the brim with health and prosperity. For to the outsider, this is how it should be: divorced from politics and social strictures. They see the pilgrims as all being one, bowing as one, moving as one, even the plants, trees and creatures growing as one – harmony on earth. I am the illusion of this heaven, this good place. There is no traffic, save the passage of feet. No fumes and stench, just the sweet scents of flora and running water. I am not about alienation from the root of nature, but about the fusion of man and earth. But it would be dangerous to say that one day, I could not be built.

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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