Kochi Muziris Biennale​

Desert of Pharan / Adam is the first in a series of exhibitions which will explore the subject of Makkah’s transformation. It is the result of an intense collaboration between the artist and the curator. This first installment of the project consists of five photographs (180 x 120 cm) and five videos, and it documents the movement of crowds and individual experiences during the 2012 Hajj pilgrimage. The prime mystical experience that Hajj-goers recount is the dissolution of the self in the community of believers: a powerful individual experience. Through the medium of large scale photography, and a combination of wide-angle and close-up videos, Ahmed manages to simultaneously capture the personal and the collective levels of experience.

There is however a subjacent narrative which explains the presence of this exhibition in India. Behind the Hajj is a little-known love story, which connects the Hajj to the most primordial myth on earth, and Makkah to India. It follows immediately upon the expulsion from Paradise of Adam and Eve. 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 [izdalifat] and therefore the place was called Muzdalifah. They knew each other [ta’arifa] at ‘Arafat and hence the name ‘Arafat…

With this story in mind the Hajj becomes the shared quest of more than three million people simultaneously for the original love. Desert of Pharan / Adam follows the complex movements of these millions through an elaborate ritual, conducted on an infrastructure defying the human scale of the pilgrimage.

After this first installment, Ahmed Mater and the curator Robert Kluijver plan to continue their collaboration on the following installments of Desert of Pharan. Topics and titles may include the 3000$/night room, the invisible city, the American Islamic dream and the ‘umma village. Discussions are ongoing with major contemporary art institutions and publishers in the East and West to identify or create appropriate contexts for the coming chapters.

For further information - Kochi Muziris Biennale

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December 2012 - March 2013|Various locations, Kochi, India