Mecca … The city that never sleeps

Mecca is a fundamental element in my identity. I was born in Mecca and I fell in love with it. The holiest city of Islam. Those places where I have always cherished played, laughed, smiled. My love for Mecca drowns me in longing and those in love with Mecca can be accused of feeling the same. Whatever, I miss Mecca and whoever visits it will know the adoration I feel.

Through the ages, Mecca has undergone vast improvements. The area around it has been cleared, the mosque enlarged, housing improved, transport facilities enhanced. As a result, Mecca can accommodate the continually increasing number of pilgrims. Nearly two and a half million pilgrims visit Mecca over a period of ten days each year and one and a half million of them come from all countries around the world in different colours, blond and blue-eyed, black-skinned, all performing a single rite in the spirit of unity and brotherhood. This means that Mecca is the only city which celebrates many nationalities in one place for ten days. Arguably, there is no way to consider any pure culture-specific to Mecca.  Various nationalities in Mecca have been hybridized in a process of continually changing over the centuries. Makkah is becoming a global statement through the annual Hajj.  

The Haram Mosque is magnificent in its size and architecture and has been embellished and enlarged on numerous occasions through the centuries, most recently in a series of massive expansions carried out by the government of Saudi Arabia in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. The state-of-the-art complex contains numerous aesthetic and artistic elements. The Kaaba, a cube-shaped structure, is roughly fifteen metres high, constructed of grey stone and marble covered with an enormous cloth of black brocade, the Kiawah.

All of these multiplicities which lead to the complex diversity in Mecca inspired me to think deeply about how I can simulate it through my artwork.  I am trying to enhance my expression by using the emerging technology of artificial intelligence and deep learning in art. This is giving me a holistic vision to narrate every single element in Saudi culture and the temporal change over the decades.

Through AI, a collective memory of the Kaaba can be drawn. The machine interpolates the proliferation of information drawn from the internet to create a neutral way of thinking which represents the entire life cycle of Mecca from many perspectives and from multiple angles at different times of the year. It could be an honest memory for a machine to create an alternative reality to make a closer connection with the recent past to make it more sustainable over the long term.

Through my practice, I shall investigate how machine learning can be used to create intelligent systems which enhance artistic expression and with which people can interact. The aim is to argue whether or not a machine does have an agency. How have media technologies changed our concept of culture? How is our experience of culture-changing when there are digital objects ranging from all other cultures through smartphones to urban screens? We live in a changing world of constant activity and technological breakthroughs. This culture transformation through history requires a rethinking of the new aesthetic, technique and dynamic perception of heritage.