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Portraits From the Kochi Biennale: Multimedia Artist Ahmed Mater
At the Kochi-Muziris Biennale in the Kerala State city of Kochi, India Ink interviewed several exhibiting artists about their work, their expectations for the biennale and the politics of art. The fair will continue until March 13.
Ahmed Mater, 33, from Abha, Saudi Arabia, is showing “Desert of Pharan/Adam” at the biennale. He uses photographs, video installations and
December 18, 2013 | The newyork Times
paintings to tell a powerful story of the obliteration of culture in the face of encroaching development.
Can you tell us more about “Desert of Pharan/Adam”?
Behind the hajj pilgrimage is the first love story, which also connects Mecca to India. It follows immediately after Adam and Eve were expelled from Paradise.
As the Islamic scholar Ibn Abbas, cousin of Prophet Muhammad, recounts: Adam was cast down in India and Eve in Jeddah. Adam went in search of her until they met and Eve drew near to him. With this story in mind,
the hajj becomes the collective quest of more than three million people for the original love, converging on the spot of Mecca. “Desert of Adam” explores the complex movements of these pilgrims through an elaborate ritual, conducted on an infrastructure defying the human scale of the pilgrimage.
Through my photo and video installations I have tried to capture the manner in which Mecca is changing, as it is now controlled by real-estate agents. And much of the labor that is transforming Mecca comes from the state of Kerala.
How are you finding the biennale?
For me to install my work here is important because I wanted to trace the connection of the first man in the world in India to Mecca and understand our cultures, trade routes and the exchange of religious ideas.
It is interesting to know how the first church in India and the first mosque were built in Muziris. Unlike in other biennales, every artist is helping each other. It is very rare and the synergy is evident. And it is very important it is not commercial.
How do you like the space?
I relate to the grass roots and to the streets in this place very well.
Is art political?
Contemporary art is a political and social statement. The young people of Saudi Arabia are experimenting with art and trying to push for a better future. They are trying to make a bridge between Saudi and other countries.