Ahmed Mater: Symbolic Cities - Exhibition

Ahmed Mater: Symbolic Cities

The Sackler Gallery – Smithsonian Institute

19 Mar 201618 Sep 2016

Against the backdrop of the US Presidential election, renowned Saudi artist, Ahmed Mater, will present his first U.S. solo exhibition at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C.

The exhibition, “Symbolic Cities” explores economic, cultural and urban change in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Today, Saudi Arabia looms large in the collective American consciousness, eliciting effusive intrigue and occluded by misinformation in equal measure.These exterior narratives, often spun by media or politicians, are in flux; so too the perspective from the opposite end of the telescope – from inside looking out. By all accounts, it is a kingdom in rapid, irrepressible political, economic and social transformation.
As a young boy, the artist Ahmed Mater stood on the roof of his rural home,
holding an antenna to the sky in search of music and dancing (banned on Saudi TV at that time, via a signal from Yemen or across the red-sea to Egypt; now he has easy access to the thoughts and ephemera of other cultures via the internet; it is a very different world. Yet, this swollen access demands its own negotiations; truths are lain bare as unilaterally as untruths and it is left to the reader, viewer, listener, online seeker on both sides of the border to make their own judgements amidst an overload of conflicting information.
For the first time in the U.S. capital, the works of Ahmed Mater (b. 1979) are presented with a solo exhibition of his sculptural works, photographs and videos. These perceptive documentary journeys open a new window to the geographical heart of Islam. ‘Symbolic Cities: The Work of Ahmed Mater’ presents unbiased visions from these unfamiliar territories. These are taught terrains riven by tension as traditional foundations confront and elide with contemporary life. Inside the frame, Mater captures the trauma of rapid development, seeks lost landscapes once familiarly navigated and maps the strange topography of vast empty deserts set obliquely against overcrowdeded, thronging cities. Unapologetic and honest, these representations of life in the Kingdom are exposed for American viewers.


  • Ahmed Mater, Antenna, 2010Ahmed Mater, Antenna, 2010
  • Ahmed Mater, Desert of Pharan, 2012Ahmed Mater, Desert of Pharan, 2012

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