The first works in the Atlas Ark series were created in residency with Culturunners at Edge of Arabia, London in the summer of 2015, as part of the development of the Ark Re-imagined project by Rashad Salim. Inspired by the artist’s concept of a gathering of many boats into a unified Ark rather than a singular Noah’s Ark, the Atlas Ark series reflects the hexagonal geometric pattern at the Re-imagined Ark’s conceptual core.
The work references the Islamic architectural practice of Muqarnas in the transition from curve to plane, and Islamic ceramic mosaic (Maghrabi Zillage) in the fractal unit of the paper boat joined to generate a pattern of hexagons and pentagons creating the piece. The making of Atlas Ark pieces also references the artisanal practice of making as well as the repeat rhythm of a motion such as rowing or paddling on a journey. The Atlas Ark series was worked against a background of the news reports of refugees fleeing in boats across the Mediterranean.
The large spherical and wall-mounted works in the series are each formed of 360 origami paper boats; each boat from a single page of the Atlas. The pattern of hexagons and pentagons has been used to construct a globe; while in the wall-mounted works the same pattern is laid flat and tessellated in a Z shaped strip much as one would single peel a tangerine.
Though identical in size and form, the Atlas pages with their different landscapes imprint each paper boat with individuality as parts of a greater whole; “we are all in the same boat”. As a landscape the fragmentation of the Atlas and its re-arrangement in a topographic gradient reinvents continents into a geography that emphasises commonality and overcomes distance. A landscape of surprise and recognition unfolds with textual references from the original Atlas pages and margins creating a sign posted path throughout.
Smaller Atlas Ark works have been created as performance and photographic pieces in the marshes of southern Iraq. Further works are planned as outdoor performance pieces on the waterways of London.