Empty Lands

© 2016 Copyright | Ahmed Mater | All Rights Reserved 

The inertia of beige occludes images that survey barren places. Here, the sand accumulates, filling up spaces otherwise evacuated of civilization and of purpose. These are Saudi desertscapes scarred by departure, the decrepit lingering ghosts of a former way of life. We witness aerial perspectives on vacancy, lands abandoned by populations migrating to the Kingdom’s designated, growing centres of industry and commerce. Eerie stasis halts the Ferris wheel. The regimen of bald white lines in an unoccupied parking lot is flooded with silence, futile devices to order a void. Elsewhere, tanks and trailers are haphazard, as if ignition crunched treads into motion before being abruptly and permanently cut.


These documentations are structured by distance, their detached, elevated perspectives cloak each scene in pallid silence. Mater caught these vacuums as he passed over in a helicopter, heightening a sense of utter geographical and temporal detachment from the new epicentres of determined, fervent productivity and change.


Though silence reigns, these empty lands are populated by more than abandoned remnants; we can also discern the waning traces of a former way of life. A tumble of empty red barrels flash warning, artefacts which sound the clarion that increasingly informs the future of the Kingdom. Since Mater conducted his surveillance of these empty lands, new visions and plans have been formulated,
far-reaching and ambitious they are founded on a tacit acknowledgement: the essential and pressing need to depart from the single-mindedness of the rentier economy.


When black gold sprung from these blasted places, flooding the Kingdom with petrodollars, Saudi established itself as a monumental economic force – a rentier state entirely dependent on its precious resource. Yet, like this flush of empty barrels, this abundance will, ultimately, run dry; without the diversification envisioned, the Kingdom will run out