Clock Tower (Mecca Time)

2015

Laserchrome print on kodak real photopaper

122 × 182.8 cm

In 2011, Ahmed started a series of deliberately experimental journeys across, around, and within Mecca. The epic project documented the unofficial histories of the most important site in the Muslim world.

Across hundreds of photographs and films, Desert of Pharan documents the rapid development of Islam’s holiest city, a place in a state of constant transformation. Ahmed focuses his lens on the shifting urban environment, as well as the lives lived amid the tumult. The title is taken from the ancient name for Mecca, or the wilderness and mountains surrounding it – the Desert of Paran, or Wilderness of Paran, mentioned in the Old Testament.

The project maps the tension between public and private space. While Mecca is home to more than a million residents, it is being transformed to cater to the needs of millions more pilgrims and tourists. Existing models of urban development have been implemented on a vast scale. Equipped with imported financial and development know-how, Mecca is attempting a transformation in order to adapt to the geopolitical, technological, environmental, geomorphological and religious context in which it exists.

In the city of Mecca, a new future is being drawn up. Its contours are becoming visible amidst a landscape teeming with initiatives – from the most public to the most private – aimed at developing and reinventing seemingly fixed rituals, states and assumptions; culminating, perhaps, in the re-imagining of life at the centre of the Islamic world.

This body of work asks: Is public space in the Islamic city becoming a luxury item? Is the courtyard becoming a commercial?

I flew in a helicopter over the new hotel complex built near the Grand Mosque. The seven towers of the Abraj Al-Bait are massive, casting their shadows over the whole city; looming and dominant, they dwarf everything around them. The Clock Tower, at 1,972 feet (601 meters), is the third-tallest building in the world and includes a mall that occupies twenty floors.

The complex is situated on the former location of the old Turkish fortress known as the Jiyad Fort. Seeing it lit like this, with neon in the early evening light, feels like looking at the future – it’s hard to imagine the many layers of time, of histories, that were until recently all here.
Ahmed Mater
2011

A Prayer for Mecca

Like few other cities on earth, Mecca seems to buckle under the weight of its own dramatic symbolism. Mecca is rarely seen as a living city with its own inhabitants and historical development. Instead, it is almost exclusively seen as a site of pilgrimage, as a timeless, emblematic city.

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From Dream to Reality 2013 Desert of Pharan 2008 2015 Ahmed Mater Pg 005 01

Provenance

Ahmed Mater Mecca Journeys

December 1, 2017 – April 8, 2018 Brooklyn Museum, New York USA

Mitochondria: Powerhouses

September 23,2017 San Gimignano, Italy

Cities of Conviction

August 25, 2017 – January 6, 2018 Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, Salt Lake City

Epicenter X

December 1, 2017 – April 8, 2018 Brooklyn Museum, New York USA

Epicenter X

Arab American National Museum, Detroit, USA

Desert to Delta

Art Museum of University of Memphis (AMUM)

Stand in The Pathway and See

Galleria Continua, Les Moulins, Paris

Mitochondria: Powerhouses

Galleria Continua, San Gimignano, Italy

Drum roll, please

King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia

Ahmed Mater: Mecca Journeys

Brooklyn Museum, New York
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