Aicon Gallery is proud to present SpaceMosque, the first major U. S. solo exhibition by New York-based artist Saks Afridi. This exhibit serves as a memorial and exploration of a para-fictional phenomenon and time period that occurred here on Earth in the near past. Due to the arrival of a strange vessel from outer space, every human being on the planet was granted a prayer answered every 24 hours. Yet somehow this phenomenon has been erased from our memories. The exhibition explores a new genre Saks calls 'Sci-fi Sufism', in which he investigates the idea of ‘spiritual machines’ that fuse mysticism and technology, bringing humanity closer to understanding itself. The works comprising the exhibition include painstakingly acquired found artifacts, multi-media documentation of various incidents surrounding the phenomenon, and photographs of the vessel’s many manifestations, in an effort to piece together the events that transpired during this period.
In the phenomenon’s early days, due to the vessel’s resemblance to a mosque, the media immediately dubbed it SpaceMosque, however it was really called The Miraj Mission. It is now believed that the vessel was a spiritually conscious spaceship, energy station, and prayer gateway. Its divine algorithms and foresight technology determined the selection of prayers it chose to answer. The ship was led by a captain and manned by a crew from the future, however, our findings show that they had no control over the vessel’s spiritual functionality. During it’s time here, the Miraj Mission answered billions of prayers. Our reality changed overnight. The impact of this arrival led to both miracles as well as tragedies. Greed and morality were at constant war and prayer eventually became the de facto global currency.
And then one day, the vessel vanished, along with any memory of its existence, except for a few remnants of stories and artifacts scattered around the globe. This is the first time that some of these artifacts and stories are being shared with the world. We do not know the reason for the vessel’s departure, but our findings reveal that global riots due to the commoditization of prayers may have led to it. Perhaps enough people grew tired of the chaos and prayed for it all to go away and be forgotten, or perhaps it was an overdue lesson for humanity. At the heart of the exhibition, however, stands a central question; If all your prayers were answered, would it change the world, or just yours?
According to Saks, the project has had countless early influences ranging from Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End, Hiroshi Sugimoto’s Lost Human Genetic Archive, and the Islamic mythological story of Isra and Mi’raj - The Night Journey. Partially inspired by AfroFuturism, Saks sees this para-fictional approach to Islamic folklore and mythology as a contemporary sister movement he calls Subcontinental Futurism. Addressing the broader intent of the project, which is intended to grow over time into ever more ambitious exhibition iterations, Saks has stated:
“In today’s political climate, I believe it’s very important for people, especially Americans, to experience something associated with the Islamic world that is not connected to extremism and terrorism. Sadly, the religion of Islam is secretly feared in the hearts of many, and I want to show that Islamic folklore and mythology can also have a contemporary and imaginative voice. Let’s expand old perceptions. This project uses science fiction and Islamic mysticism to create a new thought-provoking experience aiming to promote cultural understanding and challenge stigmas in an engaging and current way. It tackles the biggest ‘what if’ scenario through a para-fictional (fiction made to look real) style of narrative and intends to remind us that no matter what belief system we follow, we are all vulnerable.”
Saks Afridi is a multi-disciplinary artist, born in Pakistan and raised in several countries; he now lives and works in New York City. Saks's art practice is two-fold: Collaborative and Personal. His personal work investigates the predicaments and perplexities of the life of an ‘Insider Outsider’. This is the practice of achieving a sense of belonging while being out of place, finding happiness in a state of temporary permanence, and re-contextualizing existing historical and cultural narratives with the contemporary. His collaborative work has tackled themes around human rights, Islamophobia, drone warfare and social justice in general. Saks comes to art with a background in advertising, as a Creative Director on brands such as Mercedes-Benz and MTV. He studied at the Academy of Art and later sculpture at the Art Students League of New York. He speaks English, Arabic, Urdu and Pashto. Saks is the proud recipient of 2 Gold Cannes Lion Awards, 3 D&AD Pencils, 2 OneShow pencils and a United Nations Award for Peace & Understanding. His work has also been featured in The New York Times, The Guardian, Al Jazeera, CNN and The Colbert Report.