TurkoTek Discussion Boards

Subject  :  Knowledge/Knowing
Author  :  Sophia Gates
Date  :  03-06-2000 on 12:51 a.m.
Knowledge & Knowing - Some Different Perspectives Ladies and Gentlemen: As always, I'm captivated and intrigued by the contributions to this board - particularly when they concern my favorite rugs - Turkomen and other Central Asian creations. I especially appreciated Stephen Louw's essay in the last Salon; I liked his attempt to view Turkomen textiles in an economic context. Too often have we romanticized these horse-warriors and sentimentalized ceremonies about which we have no real knowledge - the internal, emotional/esthetic/ceremonial values embodied in their weddings, for example. Indeed, I suspect that the Turkmen possess or possessed - at the time our pet 19th century pieces were created - great reservoirs of ceremonial wisdom which we can't even name, let alone understand. However, to what extent Islam wiped away the old religions; to what degree capitalism in the West spelled destruction of the old horse cultures of the east; and the roles played by women both in codifying old knowledge and creating new means of income for their families, are subjects which we can study and through which we might add to our store of knowledge about the Turkomen and their art. It is also not impossible for individuals to learn the Turkoman language and in this day and age of open communication and travel between the West and the former Soviet Union, it is unforgivable for rug mavens NOT to promote, support and hopefully even participate in this type of scholarship. Having taken my degree in Art History, I am familiar with the temptation to abstract generalizations about societies or individual artists from the appearance of their artifacts. Equally tempting is the desire to project "meanings" upon abstract art, or, as an outsider, to wax long and brilliant upon the significance of this or that pattern, this or that phrase of song or line of poetry. As a working painter and dancer, I can attest that the creative process is long, murky and usually misunderstood by the artist, let alone by the "audience"! An awful lot of art is made just because it felt good at the moment, or because one was "inspired", or even strictly by accident; or because, as has happened to me on many occasions, one has seen a vision or heard a voice, directing the show, offering guidance - or even laughing derisively at the puny efforts put forth by the unworthy "creator". In the case of "ethnographic" artists such as the Navajo singers whose sandpaintings accompany their complex healing rituals, may I suggest that "interpretation" or real understanding of the motives behind the creation of this art is even more abstruse, and completely beyond the understanding of any but the most serious and humble student of the subject. True understanding requires more than leaps of faith, no matter how well-intended, and it requires perhaps an understanding of LOTS of history, written and otherwise; and it requires the study of languages; and it especially requires the humility to know when you don't know, and finally the ability - even if you only have it for a few split seconds - to look through the curtain of your own preconceived notions and your own experience-based "knowledge" - into the eyes of the stranger who was your long-ago self: cold, hungry, terrified most of the time - but able to track stars across 1,000 miles of desert; able to sing, make fire, chip a flint into a perfect deadly leaf shaped arrowhead; call rainclouds with a dance; make a chant for the male deer to turn his side to your arrow and dance willingly to his death. And finally, you would mourn him, and praise his beauty and the beauty of order in all things. Jim Allen says he makes this leap in the negative spaces, the white shadow partners to the red and blue arrows and mushrooms and birds. I don't doubt him for a minute! And he's changed the way I look at rugs. BUT - I'd like to suggest that we've reached an impasse. We're at the point in our studies of Turkoman weaving where we simply have run out of fuel in the way of Steve's type of knowledge. We need, in the next generation, to acquire some FACTS! I submit, and I challenge those of you well-to-do collectors in the audience to help make this a reality, that a chair in Turkoman studies needs to be funded and that it should be dedicated to doing serious field work where possible; the languages should be codified and transmitted; the interrelation between Shamanism and Islam should be looked at as closely as possible; written records and drawings of Turkomen through time should be catalogued AND, real live Turkomen should be consulted about their art and culture as often as possible. I think it's amusing that one of the most revealing articles about Turkoman weaving I've ever read was written, in Hali, by a couple of horsemen interested in the history of the Akhal Tekke - who actually traveled to Iran - and not by ruggies content to speculate! I'm sure the Russian/former Soviet universities already have a great deal of wisdom on this subject. Perhaps Dr. Valerina Proshpukina will check in? (Just kidding!) Whew. Thunderbird@21stcentury.net

Subject  :  RE:Knowledge/Knowing
Author  :  Steve Price
Date  :  03-06-2000 on 06:51 a.m.
sprice@hsc.vcu.edu Dear Sophia, You don't post often, but when you do, you've got something to say! It's hard to know where to begin, so much ground is covered in your posting. Let's hope that you haven't made the mistake Moses made (giving the Israelites all 10 commandments at the same time, with the result that they had trouble remembering any of them). There's no question that if more serious scholarly work were done on Central Asian peoples, there would be more to think about and we'd progress more rapidly. And I agree with your thought that more financial incentives would increase the level of activity in this direction. Generating the financing and administering the funds wisely, is, of course, the big problem. I am highly skeptical about the proposition that by sufficient study of history we can project ourselves into the psyche of peoples of other cultures. I can't even accomplish this with my wife, and we have a damn sight more in common and I know a lot more about her than I could ever hope to know about a Turkmen! Have we run out of information to use for hypothesis testing? I doubt it. That isn't the same as saying that more wouldn't be useful, of course. But the fact is, knowledge progresses stepwise (sometimes forward, sometimes backward) most of the time, and the day when there is simply nothing left to say is probably very far off. Remember, by the beginning of the 20th century it was believed that there was nothing of significance left to discover in the field of physics! Regards, Steve Price

Subject  :  RE:Knowledge/Knowing
Author  :  Marvin Amstey
Date  :  03-06-2000 on 11:23 a.m.
mamstey1@rochester.rr.com Dear Sophia, You state it very well. I've argued for a long time that we need more knowledge and less speculation (although speculation is fun). You just said it better than most of us. Regards, Marvin

Subject  :  RE:Knowledge/Knowing
Author  :  JimAllen
Date  :  03-06-2000 on 08:16 p.m.
Well Sophia you have raised some issues that are not comfortable to deal with. I have talked recently with some serious rug people about the need for reshearch and formal academic status for rug studies. I wanted to approach the issue through my hypothesis that rugs are documents and sometimes the only documents we have of whole peoples. I have come away from this exercise convinced that rug people in general DO NOT want facts. They are having fun and that is the essence of their activity. They have their pet beliefs and their pet attitudes and that is all there is to it. If you want to really get somewhere with this issue I say you must do it yourself. I did my little bit and found that exercise to be like pushing an elephant up the stairs. Some few understood my ideas well enough to go out and find classical material and they did. Do they want to see these ideas popularized? Heck no. They want more goodies and that is all there is to it. Jim

Subject  :  RE:Knowledge/Knowing
Author  :  Sophia Gates
Date  :  03-06-2000 on 10:31 p.m.
Jim, I was afraid you were going to say that! And unfortunately, I think you might be right. As we all know, the desire for goodies has led to unmentionable crimes - not the least of which is the suppression of knowledge. And further: whole worlds have been swept away in the past century alone, repositories of ancient wisdom mindlessly destroyed, or worse, deliberately destroyed! You're right - these weavings are documents, some of the very few we have left of the Turkoman people. Hopefully, they and their unique talents won't have vanished completely by the end of this century. Steve, you raised a question, somewhat humorously, as to whether even dedicated historical study could lead to real understanding when we don't even understand our mates! That's a good point of course - and I think the answer, past a certain point, is no. I believe that real empathy is something you learn with your body, with your senses, with your nerve-endings - rather than with your intellect. This becomes difficult to explain - but it has something to do with why the old Shamanistic healing ceremonies were and can still be effective, and why adepts are capable of reaching ecstatic or enlightened states via the performance of certain rituals. I stumbled across a bit of this ability through years and years of practicing my dance - and it was extremely frightening at first. But I found that, as advertised, the arts of the Mysterious Orient actually work - given time, patience, dedication and courage, the mind can expand via the discipline of the body. However, I think there are easier ways to identify with our Turkoman selves: learn horsemanship; study archery; build a loom and prepare it for weaving; get to know an actual sheep; visit the wolves at the zoo and draw their picture; camp out in the mountains and look at the brilliant, unbelievable starscape which is invisible near our cities. Study raptors; befriend a raccoon; go to Kansas and borrow a horse and ride and ride and ride. I'm afraid the Turkoman - and the Native Americans - and European Jewry - and all the millions and millions and millions who have vanished for "progress", who have died in warfare or been tortured to death in camps; who have been declared "unfit" or "unnecessary" in the Century of Progress, or been found "mentally unfit" - will have taken with them not only their weavings and their songs and their dances and their other "ethnographically interesting" effects - but also the skills which enabled them (us!) to survive on this planet for tens of thousands of years. I worry about us. We don't have the first clue about what these people knew. It's not enough just to admire weavings - some us have to learn how to weave! Dang, Jim! That's one heavy elephant!

Subject  :  RE:Knowledge/Knowing
Author  :  Steve Price
Date  :  03-06-2000 on 10:32 p.m.
sprice@hsc.vcu.edu Dear Jim, I disagree with the substance of your previous post. My impression is that facts are exactly what most "rug people" want, and they welcome facts when presented to them. They reject and become impatient with ad hoc hypotheses supported by little more than insistence that the person proposing them is gifted with some higher intellect, rather than by facts. I suspect that this is the reason your proposal was rejected by whoever rejected it. Your words, rug people...DO NOT want facts... They have their pet beliefs and their pet attitudes and that is all there is to it is simply offensive. It is not lack of interest in learning or inability to grasp new ideas that distinguishes people who don't agree with you, it is their unwillingness to abandon rigorous thinking. To suggest otherwise is to turn disagreement into incivility. I don't expect to convert you to my way of thinking, and I'm pretty sure you aren't going to convert me to yours. That being the case, it's probably best that no more insults be slung at those with whom you disagree. Steve Price

Subject  :  RE:
Author  :  Steve Price
Date  :  03-06-2000 on 10:42 p.m.
sprice@hsc.vcu.edu Dear Sophia, I agree that there are art-driven experiences we can have, and that we can, to paraphrase your words, get in touch with our Turkmen inner selves. What we can't do is get inside the Turkmen's inner self. We can try, we may even fantasize that we've succeeded and we can emote like hell during the effort. But we can't actually do it. Steve Price

Subject  :  RE:
Author  :  Sophia Gates
Date  :  03-07-2000 on 01:05 a.m.
Steve - Too true, alas! But it's worth a try! Hey - any excuse to look at stars and play with horses... Best wishes all, Sophia

Subject  :  RE: Academic research
Author  :  Jerry+Silverman
Date  :  03-07-2000 on 02:13 a.m.
Dear Sophia, I think I may have more faith than some in the power of an enthusiastic grad student or two to dig up new facts in pursuit of carving out a research niche that will land them a job one day. As with most things it comes down to money. Very few rug-based organizations have the wherewithal to provide fellowships with enough zeros to put people in the field for a couple years. Fewer still are willing to. Perhaps this is more rightfully the province of museums. But without such well-funded efforts, we will - as has been suggested several times in this thread - run out of facts upon which to base our speculations. I'm sorry, but I just don't put much credibility on any of us becoming able to "channel" an 18th century Turkmen warrior. We may feel "something" but whether that is the same "something" won't even survive subjective critique, much less rigorous objective standards of reproducibility, etc. So, absent new facts, it does indeed come down to technical analysis and comparison. -Jerry-

Subject  :  RE:
Author  :  Mike Tschebull
Date  :  03-07-2000 on 08:28 a.m.
Dear Sophia - Sure, field work is important for rug studies, but part of the fun is that it often won't answer some of the questions anyway. With regard to your implication that capitalism led to the demise of horse cultures, I think a less distorted view can be gained if you look at gunpowder and the internal combustion engine as causes.

Subject  :  RE: Gunpowder & Iron Horses
Author  :  Sophia Gates
Date  :  03-07-2000 on 11:06 a.m.
Dear Mike and All: First, let me refer you to an excellent history of the Ottoman Empire: Lords of the Horizons, written by Jason Goodwin. He explains far better than I ever could the rise and fall of this Turkic universe - it's well worth reading. I'm aware of course that the Ottoman Empire and the Turkmen of the steppes were not the same thing, but they were most definitely interrelated and affected by the same economic developments that enriched the West. Of course you are correct that gunpowder and trains damaged the horse cultures - in the West as well as the East. But - I submit that the driving economic mechanism behind the development and widespread use of gunpowder and trains was MONEY, and that we must examine the interraction of American gold with European capitalism in order to truly understand the vast changes on Great Plain and steppe alike. Russia, not wishing to be left behind, and far more intimately involved with both Ottoman Turk and steppe Turk, was drawn both into the enormous engineering project of the TransSiberian and into wars and trade relationships - relationships which had far-reaching economic and sociological consequences for the world of the Turkoman. Indeed, these conflicts have continued into our own time. Mike and all, I'm not an economic historian but it's impossible, as an art historian, not to look dispassionately at economic mechanisms. In the case of Western capitalism, the change from the old feudal/barter systems to the new, money-based system - fueled by the resources of new world, African and Asian empires, and translated into an industrial scale, has had - directly or indirectly - a huge impact on pastoral and tribal economies around the globe. Jerry - as I said I think it would be great if some studies could be funded by the rug community. Perhaps a university or two could be persuaded to help? Wanna go bother the U of C? I promise not to channel any Khans in public!

Subject  :  RE: Cultural flux
Author  :  Yon Bard
Date  :  03-07-2000 on 12:19 p.m.
It is a mistake to regard the passing of various cultures as a modern phenomenon. Cultures have arisen and and have been destroyed by other cultures throughout history. There's nothing new under the sun (except perhaps the Internet). Regards, Yon

Subject  :  RE:
Author  :  Marla Mallett
Date  :  03-07-2000 on 04:14 p.m.
Dear Friends, I couldn't agree more with Sophia's statements. I can't resist adding a few purely personal notes, for what they're worth. By the time I first began visiting some of the few remaining traditional nomad and village weavers in Anatolia, I had a long list of things I was eager to talk to those women about. A great many assumptions in the rug literature seemed patently false to me, based purely on my own years of intensive weaving experience. What I found among the women I got to know--old and young, in a variety of circumstances--was closer to my own experience than I would ever have dared to assume in advance. Every conversation confirmed that our creative impulses were the same, that the weaving difficulties encountered were similar, and that the approaches to problem solving were the same. I'm speaking of esthetic, as well as technical and practical problems. I found we even dealt with the incredible boredom inherent in the weaving processes in similar ways. Problems of "burn out" were the same. We talked endlessly of where and how one got ideas, what significance woven patterning might hold, how one evaluated another person's work, and how one's work varied if it was made to keep, versus made for the marketplace--all questions that have concerned every serious weaver I've ever known before. We talked about feeling protective about one's creative innovations and about competitiveness among weaver friends--touchy subjects. The part played by weaving in these women's lives has appeared in most respects to parallel that in mine and that of my weaving acquaintances to an amazing degree, and it has been easy to recognize points of divergence. Abilities and commitment vary among Asian weavers just as they vary among European and American weavers. But differences in life style seem comparatively insignificant. The upshot of my experience is that I now feel much more confident in applying my own knowledge when thinking through the probable structural and technical aspects of design evolution. That kind of study is possible without field research, though it has received little attention in the rug community. From my perspective (as a long-time weaver, but former university teacher of both painting and textiles), I believe that weaving processes dictate the ultimate expression and constrain the ideational content far more than do the processes in virtually any other visual arts medium. In retrospect, I can't believe that without a weaving background I would have gained a comparable understanding of Anatolian country women's attitudes toward their fiber art. Because the conversations were personal, however, I suspect that male researchers face an extra hurdle in those rural Asian societies which discourage contact between unrelated males and females. Circumstances among Central Asian weavers may be different; I can't say. As I study Turkmen weavings more intensely, however, I would love to compare notes with weavers who have spent time in those regions. The sad question is, where are they? Marla marlam@mindspring.com

Subject  :  RE: Rugs
Author  :  Mark Traxler
Date  :  03-07-2000 on 08:27 p.m.
Greetings, All. Sophia, in Greek, means Wisdom. I suppose all the readers are aware of that. I attended a conference today. Anger: Diagnosis, and Treatment I need to obtain some CEUs for my licensure. It became clear from the discussion that it isn't merely the Turkoman culture which is sliding quickly down the greasy shute of perdition. It won't be too many more generations and "Western Civilization" will be pretty well dead. The decline of the family, is resulting in psycho-spiritual fragmentation of unheard of proportions. There is a bit of Hebrew scripture, from the psalms, which reminds us that "the earth will wear out like a blanket." On a personal note, in keeping with Sophia's encouragement to weave rugs of our own, I myself entered into rug weaving as a study in meditative art. To sit for hours in front of a loom tieing knots is to do as my Grandma [Agnes Sophia Krenid] did. She made lace, blankets, clothes. It was a labor of life, love, and who knows what. Now, of course not every textile ever woven was/is a visual legacy. "Commercial weaving" has seen to that. But when we gaze into the night sky we know. If I have any regrets about the hours I have spent weaving, and yes I have felt some kind of weaver spirits with me, its that I didn't spend the time singing songs with Erin, who is seven and loves to sing. Now, on to Jim's comments. Conflict and pain prompt us to say things that we regret later. No man can serve two masters, Jim. On another level, Hratch Kozibeyoukian is at his house tonight working on a Quranic script for my next weaving, a ballist, made of handspun wool, organic dyes, and a lot of prayers. The script will read: La illaha il'Allahu, a millenium old meditation on reality. "There is no God. Allah is." Thanks to you, Sophia, for this little reverie. I hope we get to meet. And if I can help you get started weaving a pile rug I will do my best to get you started. Good night, dear friends. All the best, Mark

Subject  :  RE:empathy and gun-power
Author  :  JimAllen
Date  :  03-07-2000 on 08:56 p.m.
Marla before I get into this thread let me pull a quote from your message."I believe that weaving processes dictate the ultimate expression and constrain the ideational content far more than do the processes in virtually any other visual arts." In all humility I guess if you are picturing a matrix that might seem logical but I picture it with asymmetric weft packing and a fluididity that obviates your statement. Certainly there are movements that are better accompished by other means, a hand held paint brush for instance, but there is a precision in weaving, precisely because of its boring nature, that allows for a high degree of precision. I hope I don't sound negative as I loved your whole post except for this one little thing. As for gunpowder that was smuggled from the Chinese by the Horesmen of Central Asia. I believe it was St. John De Caprini who managed to both get the formula and see its implications bringing it back from the Khans court to Europe. It was then transported in the Jesuit order to Sir. Francis Bacon and the West was surely on its way to being number one. Steve has decided on apriori grounds that our empathrtic inductive way to knowledge is invalid and has shut himself off from our type of experience. As you and Sophia know, without faith there is no communion. I particularily liked the comments about going to the zoo and looking at the animals. I promise that if you look at wolves, raptors, camels, elephants and tigers you will see relationships among the elements of Turkoman design, the white and colored reliefs, which resembles profiles and head on shots of these animals. Look especially at the spacing and geometry of the eyes and mouth of each animal. This is real important patterning to acquire. The next step towards empathetic participation is to read as many first hand accounts of interrealtions with the Turkomen. Vambrey and O'Doonovan are absolutely must reading. I practice archery and am pretty good at it. I see the bow, arrow, feathers,nock all represented in Turkoman art. Learn their festrivals and customs, fears and pallitives. Then you can begin to develop a consistency of seeing which will allow you to at least feel some satisfaction in these matters.

Subject  :  RE:
Author  :  Steve Price
Date  :  03-07-2000 on 09:22 p.m.
sprice@hsc.vcu.edu Dear Jim, You wrote: Steve has decided on apriori grounds that our empathrtic inductive way to knowledge is invalid and has shut himself off from our type of experience. I find your insistence that disagreement is tantamount to ignorance (or worse) offensive and counter to a spirit of open discussion. It is recurrent in your postings, and you are now informed that I will not tolerate any more of it. Furthermore, I would like to have my opinions rendered as accurately as I render those of others with whom I disagree. I do not reject, a priori or otherwise, the opinions expressed by Marla and Sophia to the effect that artists share psychological traits and ways of perceiving their experiences, and that the bond between artists working in the same medium can be very strong, indeed. Neither of them say that they believe that being artists gives them the peculiar ability to experience the cultures from which other artists come or to know the cultural significance of the art. Neither suggest that being artistically sensitive or extensively read in traveler's reports makes someone better able to decide, for example, whether the "cowled monk in lotus position" is a correct interpretation of the weaver's intention (I offered about a dozen alternatives, none of which I take seriously, all of which seem more relevant to the Turkmen culture) in the motif we kicked around a couple of days ago. The thing I reject a priori is the notion that you (or anyone else), by virtue of having read traveler's reports and thinking long and hard, have attained the gift of being able to read the minds of someone who lived more than 100 years ago in a culture different than our own. Steve Price

Subject  :  RE:Knowledge/Knowing
Author  :  JimAllen
Date  :  03-07-2000 on 09:49 p.m.
I respectfully disagree with you. I find the logic of the founder of social studies, Giambatista Vico, whose ideas you have flatly rejected, to be far superior in my persuit of meaningfullness in designs on Turkoman weavings. I don't mean to get personal but you are obviously trying to obviate what I am trying to say by drawing on a "scientific" metaphor you feel has greatly superior jurisdiction. We call it being the judge, jury, and executioner down here. Jim

Subject  :  RE:Knowledge/Knowing
Author  :  Michael Wendorf
Date  :  03-07-2000 on 10:46 p.m.
Dear All: I promised myself that I would stay out of this Salon for personal reasons. I am compelled to break that promise. Like Steve, I find Jim Allen's comment that rug people do not want facts to be offensive. I find it also ironic coming from Jim Allen. Mr. Allen's disdain both for facts and the many researchers in a variety of disciplines who seek them is well documented. The past Salons, including the Salon he hosted, are archived and available for everyone to read. The facts are that Mr. Allen's personal "pet" theories are based on anything and something other than facts and that when the facts are presented that expose Mr. Allen's theories as nonsense they and the persons who labor quietly and diligently to present them are either ignored or ridiculed in order to promote these same theories. I am quite certain that Marla Mallett is too civil to confront Mr. Allen directly. His response to her post, however, is typical. The probable technical and structural aspects of design evolution that Marla mentions and has spent a great deal of time studying and teaching are, in my view, truly eye opening. For example, the significance of this on the design evolution of something as fundamental to rug design and the topic of this Salon as the ashik or serrated medallion is unmistakeable. It is, to use Marla's words, the weaving process that dictates the ultimate expression that is the genesis of this and many other basic designs and it probably comes out, in this case, of a slit tapestry tradition that is as old as weaving. Styling himself a "guru," Mr. Allen would like to put his own "pet ideas," the ideational content referred to by Marla, before the weaving process. In the case of the ashik, we are asked to see bows and arrows and men turned 90 degrees and 180 degrees and, well, forget common sense. And now we are told to forget Marla's work because of asymmetric weft packing. If I didn't know better I'd say he must be kidding. Asymmetric weft packing hardly obviates Marla's views about anything or supports Mr. Allen's "pet" ideas. It is a quintessential Allenism, an example of how someone's lifelong labor to apply a rigor, a framework and a syntax for beginning to understand weavings on their own terms is dismissed with the wave of a hand by someone whose few and often repeated interpretive ideas, based wholly on speculation of a people he doesn't know and the superficial reading of a handful of source material, are offered as a substitute. What's next Jim, glasses of Kool-Aid? If this is empathetic participation, count me out. Michael Wendorf

Subject  :  RE:Knowledge/Knowing
Author  :  Mike Tschebull
Date  :  03-08-2000 on 06:21 a.m.
tschebull@cshore.com It's quite true that a male foreiger doing field work in a rug weaving area can't get the insights that a trained woman - either an anthropologist or a weaver - will get, but Rashomon-like, he gets a completely different set, including a commercial overview that women have no access to. The trick is to meld the different views and not be rigid.

Subject  :  RE:Knowledge/Knowing
Author  :  JimAllen
Date  :  03-08-2000 on 09:52 a.m.
The reason I was upset about Marlas statement about design being derivitive of the constraints of weaving is that it almost precludes or obstructs the idea that weaving is a linguistic process whose constituent bits of information are encoded mentally and expressed through the fingers in the wool. You see nomadic design is carried in the mind and not transcribed onto paper and into a grid. There is no grid. There are only the ideas these people needed to express. I said needed and not wanted because that is the relative importance these artifacts held. They needed to transmit information in the stable milieu of the weavings and they did. There is no grid in the sense that through asymmetric weft packing and alterations in the loom tensions the fact is they could represent anything they wanted. This is what mastery is all about and the Turkomen were masters. Michael I know you are a good lawyer and you can make anybody look silly. You always manage to put a bad spin on everything I write. I congragulate you on your ability. I wish you would take what I write a little more seriously and try and understand what I am saying. Have you read Vico? I think you have. Do you know what projective imagination under rigerous constraints is all about. Then there was the shamanic thread in these posts. Nobody said a word yet nothing could be more unscientific. I agree however with the assertion that through dance and penetrating imagination one can embrace the very spirit of the desert nomads. Have any of you danced on a really old Turkoman carpet tracing the steps worn into the pile? Kurt Munkacsi has an ancient Kepsie carpet he bought from Elmby that has the dance steps worn obviously into its surface. This rug was published in the 1930's in its present condition. It is authentic. They danced on the rugs just like southwest Indians danced. How do I know? Because O'Donovan served among them, the southwest Indians, before he served among the Turkomen, he was a military man. You see reading these travel accounts is extremely important. Reading them closely is even more important. Sorry I offended anybody. I have something far more important to prove than my supposed guru status. I am out to prove that nomadism was an outstanding alternative way of life and we collect their art because we all secretly admire them. I love the seriousness of the medium and the divine intentionality I see played out on their surfaces. I see their world as through a window when viewing their art and I wish everybody had as rich an experience as I do when appreciating them. Jim

Subject  :  RE:Knowledge/Knowing
Author  :  Steve Price
Date  :  03-08-2000 on 11:05 a.m.
sprice@hsc.vcu.edu Dear Jim, Your most recent posting contains another series of ex cathedra assertions, of which some may be true, some not. Some examples: "weaving is a linguistic process whose constituent bits of information are encoded mentally and expressed through the fingers in the wool"..."They needed to transmit information in the stable milieu of the weavings and they did"..."they could represent anything they wanted..." These three assertions are your opinions, and I'd be the last one to deny your right to hold them. But presenting them as facts, essentially self-evident and needing no clarification, is unacceptable. This isn't a once in a while kind of occurrence, it is a regular practice. "Then there was the shamanic thread in these posts. Nobody said a word yet nothing could be more unscientific". This seems to be some kind of a protest that you are being picked on. There is no shamanic thread in these posts except for a brief mention of shamanism and an implication that shamanic healing works sometimes. I find nothing objectionable or unscientific in the statements. "Do you know what projective imagination under rigerous constraints is all about" seems to be directed at Michael Wendorf, but I'll address it as though it were directed at me. Yes, I do. And the key word in there is "rigorous". That means starting with facts, not with fantasies, and critically examining where they lead you at every step. Doing so, for instance, would prevent someone from leaping to accept the notion that Turkmen rolled up their rugs and stored them in elephant trunks the minute he was presented with this absurdity. Giambattista Vico (for the benefit of those who don't know, an Italian philosopher in the first half of the 18th century) is hardly the final word on how to prove that we know something, and the repeated assertions that it is impossible to reject an idea that he held is becoming tiresome. "I am out to prove that nomadism was an outstanding alternative way of life and we collect their art because we all secretly admire them." I don't think anyone needs to have proven to them that nomadism was a different way of life, or that it was preferable in some ways to our own. I also think that most of our readers are aware that this "outstanding alternative lifestyle" included banditry, kidnapping and slave trading well into the 20th century, and some of us don't admire these practices, secretly or otherwise. If you are out to prove that we do admire them secretly, I cannot imagine what form that proof might take or why you even imagine that the proposition is true. Finally, "I see their world as through a window when viewing their art and I wish everybody had as rich an experience as I do when appreciating them." I'm sure everyone wishes they had as rich an experience with rugs as you appear to have. What holds me back is that so much of that experience seems to be based on fantasy, and I have trouble understanding why you believe that your fantasy life is gratifying (much less, illuminating) to anyone else. Steve Price

Subject  :  RE:Knowledge/Knowing
Author  :  Marla Mallett
Date  :  03-08-2000 on 03:56 p.m.
Jim, you have said: "Weaving is a linguistic process whose constituent bits of information are encoded mentally and expressed through the fingers in the wool. You see nomadic design is carried in the mind and not transcribed onto paper and into a grid. There is not grid. There are only the ideas these people needed to express." To me, this statement displays a gross misunderstanding of weaving processes--both mental and physical. Knotted pile weaving is a construction process that of course uses a grid, no matter how fine or how unbalanced--a grid on which designs are built up sequentially row by row. Where's the "fluidity" in that? Just ask any painter if THAT approach wouldn't cramp his style! And limit his creative processes in severe ways! It's no wonder that woven designs are so frequently just copied, ad nauseum, all around the world. Asian tribal knotted pile weavings use combinations of numerical sequences--in sometimes careful, sometimes careless, sequences. Whether the design is recorded, copied, or kept in one's head, the process for constructing any given kind of textile is the same. The grid is a constant factor--and a critically important one--in both conceptualizing and executing the work. Slit tapestry is the one process that is often handled in a radically different way. Any competent weaver internalizes structurally- and techically-forced or encouraged design conventions and uses them when building her images. Unimaginative weavers only "mentally encode" the means of copying the designs of others; more creative individuals "mentally encode" the means of constructing a variety of forms. Ideational content is a separate matter. That implies that symbolic meanings are attached to constructed forms--always a possibility. But "expressed through the fingers in the wool!" Come on! Get real! That might make an effective sales pitch, but it doesn't convey any real meaning. individuals who cannot accept that much tribal knotted-pile imagery has its roots in slit tapestry, brocading and the warp-pattern weaves will surely never understand those elements of design in Central Asian tribal weaving that are the most ancient and the most clearly indigenous. And THOSE design elements entail truly rigourous technical and structural constraints. When such design material is transferred to the less restrictive medium of knotted pile, features dictated or encouraged by structural and technical constraints are often lost, and along with them, the essence of the archetypal forms. So much for important "encoded bits of information." Marla

Subject  :  RE:Knowledge/Knowing
Author  :  Marla Mallett
Date  :  03-08-2000 on 04:38 p.m.
Jim, Bowled over by "asymmetric weft packing," and mystified by the supposed significance of that, I somehow sailed right past your suggestion that "alterations in loom tension" was a reason why Turkmen weavers could "represent anything they wanted!" As if sloppy craftsmanship aids in artistic expression! No weaver anywhere ever tampers with loom tension for such a purpose. Uneven warp tension merely results in a crooked weaving that has to be straightened in one of several ways. Marla

Subject  :  RE:Structure and Design
Author  :  Yon Bard
Date  :  03-08-2000 on 04:54 p.m.
Marla, with all due respect, I think you overstate the role of structural constraints in the development of pile weaving designs. Yes, you make a fine case for blaming structural constraints for many of the distortions that one finds when 'primitive' weavers copy 'advanced' designs, and undoubtedly some prevalent motifs found in pile weavings are the legacy of structural constraints encountered in other media. But just one look at the Pazyrik rug will convince you that already 2400 years ago people could weave in pile just about any image they wanted, a fact further reinforced by the Lenin rugs that were only woven yesterday, or the Afghan war rugs. So when we do look for origins of pile designs, let us not narrow our search within the narrow confines of technical constraints! Regards, Yon

Subject  :  RE:Knowledge/Knowing
Author  :  Marla Mallett
Date  :  03-08-2000 on 06:12 p.m.
Yon, I agree: No reason to narrow the search. But why not try to recognize whatever's in front of us for what it is? Could you produce that Lenin portrait without a cartoon? With such an aid, any beginning weaver could easily do so-- just as young children can knot the most intricate Persian workshop carpets. The mental processes required are entirely different from those utilized by those tribal weavers who customarily did not work with cartoons. Marla

Subject  :  RE:Knowledge/Knowing
Author  :  JimAllen
Date  :  03-08-2000 on 09:35 p.m.
Marla you are a wonderful scholar. My comments about the fluidity of the nomadic master weavers foundation were taken listening to Nobiku Kajitani, curator of textiles at the MET., talk about my 17th century Tekke chuval while she examined it under the microscope. I might have been a little loose in my explanation but what I said was simply a fact. She talked about how with the asymmetric weft packing they could thicken or thin a line. The tension is like an instrument not like packing up and moving, tuning an instrument not causing a catastrophe. Sorry you misunderstood me. I agree with Yon, the facts are self-evident. They had no real grid, only what they wanted to express. The synapse is in the prefrontal cortex down the pyramidal tract neurons to finally instruct the fingers how to tie the knot. I was quite correct about that to. Jim

Subject  :  RE:Knowledge/Knowing
Author  :  Yon Bard
Date  :  03-08-2000 on 10:09 p.m.
Marla, Lenin's face probably required a cartoon (though a coarsely printed version of the portrait could act as its own cartoon) but I suspect that the Afghan war rugs were done without one. And I have seen some quite elaborate pictorial scenes produced by members of one of those revival Anatolian cottage industries (I forget which particular one), which also were done (I suspect) without cartoons. And why is the question of cartoons so important? A chess master can play blindfolded simultaneous games against multiple opponents. Is it too outlandish to believe that a gifted tribal weaver could translate her vision into designs at the loom? And once a design is created, everyone else can easily enough copy it, with or without intended or unintended modifications. Regards, Yon

Subject  :  RE:Knowledge/Knowing
Author  :  Steve Price
Date  :  03-09-2000 on 06:45 a.m.
sprice@hsc.vcu.edu Dear Friends, For reasons that I prefer not to discuss, I am asking that no further posts be made to this thread. It seems to have pretty much run its course in terms of useful information anyway. Thanks. Steve Price

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