Originally Posted by Steve Price
I don't disagree
about the fallibility of science and the generally poor reliability
of C14 dating in the usual period of interest with regard to rugs.
Nor do I doubt that Jim perceives the illusion of depth in some
Turkmen weavings. In fact, nearly all of what you say makes sense in
terms of the goals in appreciating any art form.
I do run
into potholes in how you believe they can be achieved. Knowing when
and where a piece was woven is, as you note, central to getting to
those goals. Let me look a bit at how you propose to get
... change our observations to pick up the elements
that establish for the piece in question it's place in time and in
the history of that people.
Until we know when and where
those people lived, we can't get very far. Most tribal and rustic
weavings don't come with documentaion. We can't look in the
historical records the way you can with, say, wars and military
artifacts. The records don't exist.
... develop new faculties
of perception and also become more intimately acquainted with those
people, their history, their customs, their perceptions and with
that piece, itself.
How do we get from where we are to that?
How can we possibly know what some semi-nomadic woman perceives
about anything in her surroundings when we don't know when and where
she was or anything about her culture except the recorded
observations of European travelers?
... This involves
intuition, inspiration and the hard work of acquaintanceship by
observation and study.
Intuition? If we accept it, anyone's
intuition is as good as anyone else's. Or is there some way of
segregating good intuition from bad intuition? Inspiration? How do
you do that? How do you tell whether it's right or wrong? Gambling
addicts base their decisions on intuition and inspiration. They're
usually wrong. Observation? Observation of what? The daily life of
an unknown person in an unknown place at an unknown time?
discover the physical characteristics that distinguish the change in
eras and, as far as possible, learn how and why these
This, in principle, could be achieved and is
usually the basis on which ruggies arrive at attributions. But if
you don't mean "physical characteristics" in the scientific sense,
what do you mean? Those are the only physical characteristics I know
Here's a bulletin: women aren't the
only human beings who resist oppression. Shhh! That will be our
You also wrote, ... there does seem to be a
lack of scientific bases for some of the theories, particularly the
stoned women of the house weaving space-ships, that doesn't
necessarily make it untrue (does the name Galileo ring a bell)
Galileo rejected the notion that the path to truth was to
find out what somebody who had devoted his life to pondering the
subject believed and accept it (Scholasticism). He insisted that
making observations, measurements, and experiments and interpreting
them rigorously was a better path to truth. That position, the
intellectual step central to the Renaissance, got him (and many
others) into plenty of hot water. But I like to believe that we've
gotten over the notion that he was just a troublemaker for believing
such things. In fact, I suspect that you, Jim, and Michael believe
this, too. Any argument of the form, "you can't prove that it's
wrong, so it must be given serious consideration" is, by the rules
of truth testing that developed from the Renaissance, wrong. The
reason is simple: If, a proposition can't be tested even in
principle, it's regarded as wrong. Otherwise, the explanation
for every phenomenon would be, "It was a miracle." Nobody can prove
that it's wrong, since it basically denies the existence of
verifiable physical laws. That's exactly why it's
Hi Steve and all,
true that everyone is not equal here in this discussion. Everyone's
intuition is not the same. Everyone's experience is different. Everyone's
understanding is different. Some know more than others. Even the rugs are
not equal. Some are great, others not. Some are ancient, others not so
The Turkmen culture is (was) not the same as our culture.
Their science is (was) not the same as our science. They look (looked) at
What is the same is that we are all human
beings and I believe that counts for a lot. That means that however
different we are, there exists the possibility, on the highest level, of
mutual understanding and illumination. Art is one means of doing this.
Oriental rugs and carpets (at least the great ones) are meant for this
type of communication. They are meant for full participation by the
observer, that is, a two-way communication. They are not
It is true, Steve, that most rugs have no documentation,
no records, nothing of that sort according to our understanding. I like
that. It forces us to take another tack. That tack is not easy, nor do I
believe that everyone has the same capacity to learn and connect.
Nevertheless, it is possible. My point is that by trying to follow the
thread by means of the tools we are used to will not work, or will work
badly. I believe that the way I outlined has a better chance of success in
this endeavor, or at least some hope of success. It is not a foolproof
blueprint by any means. For some, any means are doomed to failure. For
others, a way will be found.
Having said all the above, I hope it
is understood, Steve, that, yes, I do believe there is a way of
"segregating good intuition from bad intuition", but "anyone's intuition
is" not necessarily "as good as anyone else's". By that, I mean that there
are inner and outer prerequisites, qualities and levels of understanding
that make intuition more or less reliable. The obvious conclusion being
that we should work on developing those things which strengthen intuition.
Certainly gamblers are not good examples of intuition and inspiration.
Einstein, on the other hand, is. Obviously, the difference is
intelligence, study, comprehension, experience, etc. Everyone can't be an
Einstein. Neither is everyone a gambler. The object is to be more on the
Einstein side than the gambler side. Of course, it is those most on the
Einstein side who move the study of oriental rugs forward the most. Also,
all scientists can't be Einstein. That doesn't mean they throw up their
arms and give up. Einstein is still the template.
"How do we get
from where we are to that?" as the cabbie said about getting to Carnegie
Hall: "Practice, practice, practice!" or "Study, study,
Physical characteristics in the scientific sense...Two
people look at the actual physical rug. The eye of a TRUE connoisseur sees
one thing the inexperienced eye sees another. Same rug. Different eyes. We
have to learn to see through the Connoisseur's eyes. Probably this means
we have to change our way of perception. Also, I mean that when the true
connoisseur looks at the very physical aspects of the rug, such as weave
and structure, color and iconography, wool quality, etc....each one of
these open an understanding for him or her that most of us do not possess
and probably cannot even imagine.
I hope it is understood that
there is no substitute for long experience and for true knowledge gained
on the field. Long familiarity with these weavings, their structure and
its evolution looms large. But there is also no substitute for inspiration
and inner connectedness.