Mater’s first solo exhibition in Riyadh explores the kingdom’s culture and Geography over forty years.
Exhibition kick’s off Lakum’s December 8 launch and highly anticipated Misk Art Week and AD-Diriyah Biennale.
RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA | November 24, 2021, Lakum Artspace, the multi-functional contemporary ‘art space for all’ inaugurates its exhibition program with the first-ever solo show by physician turned artist, Ahmed Mater. The exhibition draws its inspiration from Mater’s forthcoming artist book, which explores his personal biography alongside historical events that occurred in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the greater Middle East, spanning 40 years. Prognosis: 1979-2019 will open on December 8, and be on for two months, featuring the global launch of the book.
The exhibition, curated by New York-based Sara Raza, utilizes the term prognosis as a metaphor for the exploration of what might be considered philosophically as an artistic set of predictions or inquiries. It allows one to rethink the ways in which cultural, political, and social events have informed one another as part of a complex multifaceted web of history and insight into the practices of contemporary life in the Kingdom in the 21st century. “With a solid footing in both the medical and art world, Mater has developed a highly respected research-based art practice that combines scientific forensic techniques alongside conceptual fine art tropes to poetically address the changing political and social landscape of the Kingdom,” says Raza.
Prognosis: 1979-2019 will explore different themes in this period through photography, installation, video, and works on paper and presents a chronological institutional critique of four decades of new media
practices depicted through new and older works, including cassette tapes, VHS, televisions, CCTV footage, and social media to document the journey from the analog to the digital era. Imagined as a compact project, the exhibition is spatially designed to reflect the meandering between history and artistic interpretation, which demonstrates how Mater has employed historical qualities that were defined by both ‘facts’ and ‘fictions.’ The exhibition also includes components of Mater’s personal research materials (articles, publications, drawings, and notations) which are presented as both objects and living testimonies and that are grouped by decades: 1979-89, 1990-2000, 2000-10 and 2010-2019. This in turn guides the exhibition with four conceptual themes of Coding, Proxies, Surveillance, and Whistleblowing, which have shaped the curatorial and spatial thinking behind the show.
As the first artist officially appointed by the Saudi government in 2013 to document the Holy City of Mecca, Mater’s research on migratory patterns and topology provided another view on the city’s geopolitical and spatial dynamics from an artistic, conceptual, physical and social angle. Mater says: “After years of research, exploration, and investigation, this exhibition is a culmination of forty years of history which hold a special place in my heart and art career. I hope that viewers take in the individuality of each work, but also appreciate the overarching essence through its message.”
In addition, Mater worked with a classically trained Ottoman Tazhib Islamic art illumination painter to create a series of illustrated works that draw from the ancient book of moral fables Khalila and Dimna, that came into popularity during the 8th-century Abbasid period, also known as the Golden Age of Islam. For these works, Mater replaces the original animal images with symbols featured in his previous works, such as the X-Ray paintings from 2003, which included discarded medical negatives, as well footage from drones and cameras that are inspired by recent geopolitical events and cyber-surveillance. These paradoxical works highlight the language of mythology to produce an entangled map of the real, where the fact and fiction, join forces to reveal interpretations of the ‘truths.’
The establishment of Lakum Artspace builds on Al-Sudairi’s previous experiences of being on the board of Misk Art Institute, which initiated her long-term relationship with Mater, the Institute’s CEO. “One of Lakum’s main missions is to promote and support art for the local community, and to also highlight Saudi talent on a global platform. We are very proud to be able to present Ahmed Mater’s first solo exhibition in Riyadh, and not just through the exhibition duration, but with the launch of his book, which will be available and archived in our research library for all visitors to experience.”
With this exhibition, Mater actively challenges perceptions and opens up alternative paths for accessing history, knowledge, and meaning through his allegorical art practice. More details on the exhibition opening and Lakum’s launch will be available online.