Black Stone, 100 Found Objects
In Mecca, a new future is being plotted and planned. Amid a rapidly transforming urban landscape, the city’s identity is reconfigured – so too its relationship to the rest of the world. Amid major redevelopment, Ahmed Mater chronicles the diverse past and tumultuous present of this remarkable place, accumulating an unprecedented archive of artefacts with poetic, associative narratives.
In early 2013, Ahmed began a series of experimental and meandering journeys within this most visited, yet most exclusive of sites. These flâneur-like expeditions – by foot, by car, rarely covering the same route twice and at all times open to creative happenstance – have their roots in psychogeography. Mater adopts this mode of urban wandering as a form of self-expression and historical encounter, following the Situationists in post-war Paris, and Walter Benjamin’s fascination with the poetic perambulations of Baudelaire.
As a practising doctor, Mater also follows in the footsteps Mecca’s first photographer, the nineteenth-century ‘Meccan doctor’ ‘Abd al-Ghaffar who traversed and recorded the life of the city.
The paraphernalia rescued and accumulated are the 100 Found Objects, a time capsule from which narratives of Mecca’s untold past emanate. Like a genealogy, these pieces illuminate productive new combinations that chart the unofficial histories of this remarkable place. Drawing on the documented and the remembered, the living archive composes, uncovers and recovers the roots and foundations of tradition and ritual, personal lives, momentous events in the city’s history and fragments of an urban landscape that is being reshaped beyond recognition.
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 materialization 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. The result of this process is a collection that encompasses subjective interpretations of broader socially and politically instrumental events, collective dreams and ideologies as well as the innate mythology and iconography associated with a site that draws on the visions of every man or woman, child or elder connected by their shared faith. These objects weave a complex web, making connections through the texts that accompany them. 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