TurkoTek Discussion Boards

Subject  :  Creativity and its support
Author  :  Sophia Gates
Date  :  04-12-2000 on 03:47 p.m.
Ladies and Gentlemen:

I think Marla raised an extremely important point in her thread, and it ties in well with the discussion posted on the last Salon - the issue of new production and the future of rug weaving.

I believe she's right on about the current state of rug literature, which if anything tends to stifle creativity in collecting if nothing else: people don't want to gamble their money, so they tend to buy what other people have blessed. This leads naturally to a lack of rug community support for more recent or contemporary production, which could lead to the eventual death of weaving - period. Of course, lack of support for contemporary art isn't limited to weaving in third world countries - check out the difficulty people in the "first world" have surviving as creative artists! And the fearful attitude of many collectors isn't limited to rugs - that goes for painting, sculpture, music, ad infinitum. Curiously, esthestics often has nothing whatsover to do with what contemporary art is collected - sanctified critical opinion is at least as important in the world of the modern art collector as in the sphere of the Turkoman collector! Frankly, I think people should absolutely support contemporary weavers. And they should use their own eyes, and make their own decisions. If I were the President, rug collectors would be required to buy a newer piece every time they buy an antique!- or a painting, or a pot - anything, just so some LIVING artist gets a bone.

Seriously - I'll get off my horse now, and get back to the topic. Attempts to link ancient motifs to more recent ones are interesting and thought-provoking, and this one certainly fills the bill on that score. But - so many of the "Memling" gul derivatives, as well as the architectural forms the rugs are proposed to imitate, I feel are so basic, so inherently logical to the way humans deal with geometry AS WELL AS WITH THE TECHNIQUES OF WEAVING, that I feel they were more than likely spontaneous expressions of the same simple concepts, which recur again and again in the history of art, and in cultures half a planet away from one another. Nevertheless, it would be interesting to see if further research along these particular lines could shed more light on Central Asian history in general - it's one of those regions which could be considered a crossroads, rich in ideological and artistic confluences, and certainly under studied.

The question was asked, if we could provide an example of creativity in the rug world. Well, here's one, closer to home - but all the easier to verify and understand for that very reason: the appearance of sandpainting and Yei rugs in the Navajo production early in the 20th century. Sandpaintings are ritual, absolutely traditional aspects of Navajo curing chants, and until fairly recently the reproduction of them was held to be taboo, as was the representation of the spirit figures, the Yei, which appear prominently within the sandpaintings. However, commercial demand - and here's a case where I would argue that commercial demand spurred a great flowering of creativity - as with Pueblo pottery - led to the creation of rugs which carried sandpainting motifs. It was agreed within the tribe that sandpainting rugs - or any type of reproduction, for that matter - must differ in some crucial respect from the "real thing" - in order that the magic they embody would not be lost or misused. These rugs remain some of the most beautiful and moving of all Navajo weavings, and carry a great deal of "ethnographic" power and authenticity as well as a high degree of esthetic excellence. In the world of Oriental carpets, the productions of of modern "gabbehs" and the folkloric productions of Turkey - the Azeri line, for example, strike me as being really stunning in many cases and certainly well worth buying. They too, draw upon ancient motifs but the weavers have been encouraged to use their own creativity - and the results are often spectacular. Finally, Marla has some examples of Egyptian tapestry weaving on her website which break ALL the rules, and which I find quite wonderful.

Breaking rules carries with it a lot of risks - both for artists and for collectors. Artists risk being left out in the cold and starving to death, or exiled from their tribes, or driven mad by nasty critics - and collectors, of course, risk "losing" money - or worse, being laughed at when they show their treasure to the Rug Society. But - I wholeheartedly agree with Marla that we should be looking for the innovators, for the innovative moments - in weaving history, as well as understanding and valuing the traditional norm - if for no other reason than these breakthroughs - large or small - do drive the art forward, and may even ensure its survival.

Subject  :  RE:Creativity, New Production, and Ethnographic Collecting
Author  :  Sophia Gates
Date  :  04-12-2000 on 03:49 p.m.
Whoops - forgot my e-mail: Thunderbird@21stcentury.net

Subject  :  RE:Creativity, New Production, and Ethnographic Collecting
Author  :  Marvin Amstey
Date  :  04-13-2000 on 09:43 a.m.
Dear Sophia, A well laid argument. But how to you reconcile this with the fact that "starving artists have existed "forever" only to find that they are "discovered" after they are dead, e.g. Van Gogh? The same could be said for rugs. The 16th and 17th c. Ushaks were bought as decorative floor covering, not as collectables when they were made. It was only later, when there weren't anymore that people wanted them because there was some rarity to them - not necessarily an aesthetic quality (another well-worn example of collecting with lack of aesthetic quality are Toby mugs). The reverse is also true. The 17th-19th c. Turkish prayer rugs were "collected" because that was the thing to do in the late 19th and early 20th century. Now they are passe' even though they are rare and harder to find, e.g. Ghiordes and Kula rugs. The aesthetic has not changed -only the collector. This may be due to peer pressure, but some of these rugs are substantially cheaper than they were in the 1920's. It's a very complex problem. Best regards, Marvin

Subject  :  RE:Creativity, New Production, and Ethnographic Collecting
Author  :  Steve Price
Date  :  04-13-2000 on 10:38 a.m.
sprice@hsc.vcu.edu Dear Sophia, While I appreciate and understand your point, and regret that life isn't as bountiful to artists as it ought to be, the fact is that we can't abolish the influence of fashion on preferences. As for governmental prescription of what ought to be bought, it has been tried already. We can all admire Soviet art (Yeccch!) as the product of such an approach to the problem. Steve Price

Subject  :  RE:
Author  :  Sophia Gates
Date  :  04-13-2000 on 05:46 p.m.
Steve, Marvin et.al.: I appreciate your comments and will respond - but you've raised some important questions and I would like to think before I write - so I'll comment as soon as possible. Thanks, Sophia Thunderbird@21stcentury.net

Subject  :  RE:Some Thoughts in Response to Steve and Marvin
Author  :  Sophia+Gates
Date  :  04-15-2000 on 11:45 a.m.
I'm going to respond to Steve's comments first. Steve, you're right of course - fashion will always play a significant role, modifying both what collectors collect and what artists create. And that's fine! It's part of the fun of being human. Even if it means that people collect things like Toby Mugs! But please, don't take my wisecracks about Government Taste Police seriously! However, I absolutely believe that art is a fundamental aspect of humanity, and the creative act, the process of using the mind and body in concert , should be valued, and valued highly. In the last Salon, Mr. Wendorf, I believe, made a statement that chilled my blood - something to the effect that gluing pieces of plastic onto plastic computer boards is more valuable than weaving! Lord, what have we come to! Because within the scheme of our current value system, he's right, and the fact that he's right is threatening to extinguish all that we hold dear, including our planet. Those of us who do value the arts, who value humanity and the environment, have got to face this situation. Think about it for a moment: what it's like to do factory work. How many of you have done that? I have, and it was a soul deadening, terrible, mindless experience - is this what we want? To reduce human beings to parts in an assembly line? Cookie cutouts making cookie cutouts? While tasks that demand creativity, physical skill and intelligence are deemed "worthless"? Amazing. My yaps and yelps are hardly original. People have been wailing about the negative effects of industrialization since its inception. But we're at a point now when we can - ironically, due to our advanced technology - really see and really communicate about the world we've invented and come to rely upon, and the effects it's having on the world we were given, and perhaps seek ways to balance this conundrum, to neutralize its poisons. We need to restore harmony, as the Navajo would say. But first the people rolling along in their Mercedes need to think. They need to think about the people who made the Mercedes, and about the pollutants they're blithely putting into the air, and how we can distribute global resources equitably. We all need to think about developing humanity, making people more creative, more aware, stronger, more compassionate - and not simply rewarding them for giving up their lives to an assembly line, and mindlessly buying Coke, buying cigarettes, buying cars, mindlessly buying buying buying! When the mullahs squall about the Great Satan, they are not merely speaking of some antiquated ideas of sin. No. They are speaking of values shattered, of balance and harmony destroyed. They are worried that the Great Satan will make us less than human. Which brings me to Van Gogh, and Marvin's thoughtful comments. Marvin, Van Gogh is an excellent example of a risk taker - and in his day was regarded as - A Destroyer - his was a true "barbaric yawp"! Another conundrum: destruction is part of the creative process - death, and flowering, and regrowth. And if Delacroix was accused of painting with a broom, Van Gogh painted with a back hoe! Compare his work to Bougereau the Slick, or even to the relatively genteel Impressionists. Artists are frequently a little ahead of their time - we could call it the Cassandra syndrome - she was the seer who could see the future, and who was ignored by her people. But Van Gogh was also emblematic of his time: the artist outcast from the newly industrial, capitalistic world, meaningless compared to the great Iron Horse, the coal mine, the huffing factory. In tribal cultures, even in the feudal world, the world of the guilds, creative people had a place. People who are marginalized today were yesterdays shamans, weavers, potters and painters. Can we really afford to throw them away? We can't go backwards - we can't dismantle our economic system, nor should we, if for no other reason than we can now communicate with ease. But we need to think, and think hard, about how we can help each other evolve. We need to counterbalance the demons that have murdered hundreds of millions in the past century alone. We need to respect the fact that human creativity has enabled us to survive so far - and that we'd better foster it, or we'll survive no longer. The primary thesis of this Salon, that ancient designs may have influenced Turkoman weavings, is provocative and exciting. But I find it exciting not because a definite link can be proved. Rather, I think it's exciting because it shows people reaching, again and again, for an ideal, using their minds and skills to find solutions to the problems which confronted them. In other words, they were artists, these people, architects, weavers, shamans and mullahs. They wove tentbags and tents, poems and songs, and left us traces of their genius to marvel over. But it's not enough to sing over their bones. We must make our own songs, and weave our own designs, and leave poems for our children, with starmaps for them to follow. Who knows - maybe they'll look like Turkoman rugs.

Subject  :  RE:
Author  :  Marvin Amstey
Date  :  04-15-2000 on 09:40 p.m.
Dear Sophia, A welldone essay - and of course - it's all correct. Your posts are among the most thoughtful. Thanks, Marvin

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