Re: Definition of ethnographic

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Posted by James allen on December 02, 1998 at 21:32:12:

In Reply to: Definition of ethnographic posted by Fred Mushkat on December 02, 1998 at 01:01:31:

: This discussion of what makes a textile ethnographic is very intruiging, and the sweater and eagle kazak arguments are no doubt true. The only exception I have with the discussion is the belief that a textile has to be "relatively high quality." Many ethnographic textiles were no doubt made by weavers who made nothing but textiles for indiginous use. I believe that it is safe to assume that these weavers did not begin making relatively high quality textiles, but learned through practice. It is the higher quality pieces that survive, simply because they were better cared for during their useful life, and selectively collected thereafter. We should be cautious in assuming that ethnographic textiles are necessarily more beautiful or of higher quality than their commercial counterparts. Nearly all collectors have seen hideous textiles that one wonders if anyone would buy...surely not all such textiles were made for the commercial markets!

: Couldn't agree with you more. Well maybe I would even go a step further. The degree of difference between the expression of a weaving and our understanding of it is not a defineable parameter. The intentions of the weaver are forever closed to us due to solipsism. The best approach is to project ones imagination through intensive study of the available literatur backwards through time into their world. this is Giambatistta Vico's great strategem. It does work in so far as afetr years of intensive study the iconography does begin to make sense, at least it did for me. I know now that technique is totally independant of this discussion.The weavers imagination is vastly more important than the technique she uses to realize it. That is solely froma work of art standpoint. A very coarse flat weave can have tremendous impact if the imagination of the weaver is firmly planted in a native and highly evolved millieu. This is why we should demand ethnographic pieces be woven during the most representative and intact period of production. These will always be the best examples. There will also always be weavers in any given medium who reach the old aesthetic but usually some material change or dye aberation will ruin the value of such a piece. This is why one sees workmen at work in the rug centers removing synthetic orange and replacing it with an old looking madder. Making them into 200 year old masterpieces. I am sure you got the satire. JIM

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