TurkoTek Discussion Boards

Subject  :  Restatement of the matter at hand
Author  :  Steve Price
Date  :  09-15-2000 on 08:51 a.m.
sprice@hsc.vcu.edu Dear People, Most of the discussion thus far has revolved around identification of species of birds on rugs and, in some instances, the question of whether some of them even are birds. These are relevant issues, of course, but what I thought was the heart of the topic has barely been touched. Perhaps it isn't that interesting to most of you; perhaps there simply isnt anything worthwhile to say about it. Either of those possibilities would account for the fact that it isn't getting much obvious attention. On the other hand, perhaps I didn't do a very good job of explaining it, so I'll try again here. First, I believe that there are some general principles applicable to tribal arts, some commonalities between different forms. And, I think it would be interesting to know what some of them are. One is obvious enough, and everyone already knows it: most tribal art is not intended to simply be decorative or to provide an outlet for the creative energies of the person who made it. It is usually done with some utilitarian (interpreting the word very broadly) intent. What are some of the others? One artistic convention that seems to be true for much of the art of Subsaharan Africa is that parts of the body have sizes that are not in proportion to their anatomical sizes, but to their importance (as seen within the cultures). For instance, the spirit resides in the head, so the head is larger than normal relative to the rest of the body. I wonder whether some similar principle applies in textile arts of central and western Asia. That is, are body parts of figures stylized in such a way as to give extra prominence to the parts perceived to be most important? I recognize the problems in trying to answer this question. Perhaps it is unanswerable. But it does seem to me that it's reasonable to assume that conventions of stylization have some historical origins and some rationale by which they were preserved. That is, they do not appear to be random nor are they always the simple stick figures that might reflect naivete of the artist nor are they always easily explained as structure driven. I chose birds as the starting point; perhaps it's a poor choice. My reason for doing so is that many cultures hold birds of one sort or another in awe or reverence, and there are some rather well defined conventions in their stylization by different cultures. This seemed to me to be a promising starting point. It hasn't worked out that way. What about flowers, then? There are a variety of stylizations of flowering plants in textiles, some of which emphasize the blossom to the near-exclusion of stems nd leaves. To me, the blossom is the really important part of those plants because of the aesthetics. I can easily imagine somebody in another culture emphasizing parts that include drugs or that are edible. Does the emphasis on the blossoms in so many depictions of flowering plants suggest that the people making the objects find the aesthetic of the flowering plant a very important element? I think it probably does, which suggests that there is germ of truth in the basic notion from which I started. Does anyone want to run with this, or offer another line through which the issue might be pursued? Regards, Steve Price

Subject  : 
Author  : 
Date  :  on

Subject  :  RE:Restatement of the matter at hand
Author  :  FilibertoBoncompagni
Date  :  09-15-2000 on 12:58 p.m.
filibert@go.com.jo Dear Steve, I found an "ethnic" link: that is somebody (Armenian, in this case) speaking about the tradition of rug making of his people. Not a tribal tradition, still quite rustic. The exposition we can see on this site is to be taken "cum grano salis" because I have absolutely no idea of the writer’s competence. Still it gives us an idea of the complexity of the task you are up to. The part concerning design and totemistic symbols is just at the beginning of the 3rd section, the one I send the link: http://www.armsite.com/rugs/index3.html Regards, Filiberto Boncompagni

Subject  :  RE:Restatement of the matter at hand
Author  :  Mark+Hopkins
Date  :  09-15-2000 on 11:18 p.m.
mopkins@shore.net Steve: When I read some of the recent Turkotalk about symbol interpretation, I couldn't help but think how it would amuse the pants off the weavers whose work we're discussing. I write poetry on occasion, and I have had occasion at readings to listen to others have to say about my poems, and sometimes it's funny as hell. I listen to things like: "I really like your metaphor about the snow which is clearly a deep statement of frustrated love...." and think "What the _____ are you people talking about??? Can't you just read the damn poem and spare me all this useless cerebral self-titillation??" I remember reading an author who was touring Pennsylvania Dutch country and trying to interpret the wonderful symbols the farmers paint on their barns, and when he finally tried out one of his speculations on a farmer, the old man replied, "Nah, nuttin' like that. It's yust fer pretty." William Faulkner, I'm told, was quick to develop a means of accommodating readers who felt compelled to discuss his symbolisms; whatever they said to him, he simply replied, "You're absolutely right." I guess what I'm saying is, without being able to crawl into the mind of the creator, what we have to say about his/her art is irrelevant. What IS relevant is whether or not it speaks to us. And if it does, that in itself is the art's reward. And ours. Amen. Mark

Subject  :  RE:Restatement of the matter at hand
Author  :  Steve Price
Date  :  09-16-2000 on 07:50 a.m.
sprice@hsc.vcu.edu Dear Mark, One of the confusing aspects to the topic, I think, is that people tend to focus on the issue of what a particular weaver had in mind. That's a different matter than the forces that made some artistic convention get preserved and handed on to her. I believe that those conventions are largely due to cultural elements that were significant and that still may be, but not consciously related to the designs by the weavers anymore in, say, the 18th or 19th centuries. Your poetry is as good an example as any. Whether you know it or like it or not, the words you use and the way you use them are non-random and are, at least in part, a result of conventions that you adopted. You're a creative guy, of course, so you've almost certainly modified some and maybe even invented some new ones. If poetry was the subject of this Salon, the question would be, how did those conventions come about to begin with and why werfe they, rather than some other conventions, preserved? That is not quite the same question as "What did Mark really, deeply mean when he wrote, twinkle, twinkle little star, what he hell do you think you are?" Regards, Steve Price

Subject  :  RE:Restatement of the matter at hand
Author  :  R. John Howe
Date  :  09-16-2000 on 09:24 a.m.
Dear folks - I think the distinction Steve raises here is sound. If we are going to do this sort of thing, it's the cultural level rather than that of the individual weaver that's likely to be the most useful focus for analysis. Unfortunately, it seems to me, our knowledge of what went on in the wider culture in the societies in which the rugs we admire were made is often seriously limited. Looking at such things as the literature produced in these societies during a period of interest (someone mentioned Ferdowsi's Shah Name) may sometimes provides useful glimpses. Oddly, some of the best seeming evidence exists at the level of efforts established by and for rulers of some of these societies during particular periods. One of the Mughol rulers was known to be very interested in plants and Mughol drawing of them (to give one instance of an area Steve has suggested could be examined usefully) during his reign and apparently slightly thereafter accentuated realism (Steve's root thesis, of course, suggests looking at departures from realism). The Ottoman rulers may provide something closer to what he is looking for in the sense that many of the designs used in their textiles are fantastic versions of plants and flowers. Here I think we might be able to trace out a logic on the basis of fairly good evidence. It seems agreed that the first rulers of the Ottoman Empire deliberately set out to establish for them selves august personnas well removed from and well above those of the populace. It seems likely that the clothing and other textiles made for them were designed in part to contribute to this objective. The fantastic exaggerated renditions of plant and flower forms might well be inferred to have been created in part for this purpose. To bridge this inference with fact what would seem to be needed would be orders for such textiles that suggested something about the character of what the artist was to produce. And I think, I've read somewhere (and it makes sense since the Ottomans were also great record keepers) that such orders exist in some instances. So in a very restricted area this is how the program I've recommended might be accomplished. As a footnote, while I think the thrust of Mark Hopkins suggestion that we often make too much of something that's "just for pretty," is true but that that tack too, if pursued literally and comprehensively, might also likely lead pretty quickly to the drying up of our conversations. What's to be said after I say, "I think it's pretty." At best someone else might contribute, "I don't." I have said before that I have some artist friends who claim that our experience with art should always be unmediated, that any resort to language unavoidably impoverishes the central intended experience. My own experience suggests to me that this is not true. For example, Carol Bier's work on pattern and symmetry helped me "see" things I hadn't seen before I read her analysis. Now this flows at a distinctly different level than does the center of Mark's critique, that a program that tries to devine the artist's intent is likely misdirected. There's another story of a writer who became weary of this kind of question about his work. His canned response was "Madam, at the point that I wrote that, there were two who knew what I meant, myself and God. Now only God knows." Regards, R. John Howe

Subject  :  RE:Restatement of the matter at hand
Author  :  Mark+Hopkins
Date  :  09-16-2000 on 11:14 a.m.
mopkins@shore.net. Since we're dealing in quotes, I'd add one more to the mix that you may recall. Satchmo Armstrong, when he was once asked by a matronly lady, "Mr. Armstrong, exactly what is jazz?" replied, "M'am, if you gotta ask, you ain't never likely to know." MH

Subject  :  RE:Restatement of the matter at hand
Author  :  Patrick+Weiler
Date  :  09-16-2000 on 05:10 p.m.
jpweiler@gte.net Another quotation: "Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler." Albert Einstein. This may explain the extreme simplification of numerous motifs in weavings. Distill the essence of the symbol to the simplest components necessary to convey the meaning desired. It does not explain, however, what the original meaning was of the Baluch Bird. Deconstructing the motif as we are doing is only conjecture, but the peacock interpretation of the bagface bird shown in Steve's weaving seems visually and cultural/religiously most likely. Patrick Weiler

Subject  :  RE:Restatement of the matter at hand
Author  :  Vincent+Keers
Date  :  09-16-2000 on 05:58 p.m.
Dear all, This discussion needs pepper. All afraid for wet feet? Afraid to speculate? Afraid to get spanked by technical descriptions? It's a pretty civilized, well proportioned, discussion w're having. I think the upcoming Presedential debate will be more straight forward, more emotional etc. Is it because our emotions have become digits too? Can't we speculate, research, make errors, shout, get angry, make it up and go on with our own little dreamworld? I've tried in my previous postings too give it a little pepper but I think the me(a)sage, putting the birds in a wider perspective, didn't work. Kenneth Thomas puts it in a wider perspective. At that point I hoped it took a good, stirring it up, curve. I don't know what happened in the previous discussion board, but I'm getting the idee that some participants got cornered(hooked). So: Because of the Kenneth Thomson post and my follow up, I just want the birds on Steve's Beloudch being more then just birds. If the Beloudch want too design birds, they do so as my Falcon posting shows. The 14th century Indian doll's posting shows birds, well proportioned in double weft textile, and one in split-kilim techniek. So it isn't mere technical capability, and because Steve's birds are knotted (a more "free" technic) in a geometric design in combination with a Senneh knot, it's geometric design has a meaning. For I do give the designer/artist more credit then the idea they do not know the correct demensions for a bird, in order too fly. The Falcon can fly. The Indian birds can fly but we can't see wings. If a beast, wich doesn't look like a bird, needs too fly we give them wings. Big wings, spread out. The fact the beasts have two legs, so they have too be birds is pretty shortsighted. Our ancestors, say 500BC. created symbols in two dimensions and thaught in 24 dimensions. We create in 24 dimensions but can't think in two. Best regards, Vincent Keers. PS. Anybody upset out there? I hope so. But don't criticise my English or I will go Dutch for I know it's terrible.

Powered by UltraBoard 2000 <http://www.ub2k.com/>