mythological tales and research
some lines draw my attention:
"More than any other textile of its kind, the Manastir's patterns reveal a protective function. They defy being ascribed to that decorative form which so easily turns a piece of handicraft into an intercultural article of trade; flowers are strewn but amulets are not - they must be used sparingly. Their store of motifs is replete with apotropaic or shamanistic symbols: hands, finger motifs, amulet forms, eyes, combinations of forms to avert evil, protective zigzags, and ram horns that are reminiscent of a totemic animal. There is also nothing representative about these pieces; they do not aspire to be public. I also believe that they were rarely used in mosques; protecting the house of God with symbols mainly drawn from shamanism seems absurd to me. Unlike most other kilims, the Manastirs strictly remained within their own cultural circle, leaving it only once it had collapsed. One must probably ascribe these products entirely to feminine aspects of Turkish culture; their language conveys a protective function that the women could allow to attribute to the house."
Think you have a point.
Explaining the motive behind the motif is difficult, if not impossible.
If a motif is used in art, and "we" call it art because it gives the viewer a certain sensation, no questions are asked.
The beauty of art is: The object, motif stands on its own feet. The artist isn't needed anymore. He/she has done the trick. What ever heshe was thinking, is of no intrest.
In short: I think your wish to investigate the "potential" meaning of motifs by proper research, is New Age. And if research gives us only potential meaning, no need for research.
Putting the objects in a certain cultural environment, in a historical progressive context, is the only thing we can do.
And the text does say:"I also believe..."
Hallo everybody, hallo Vincent,
hopefully there is no misunderstanding:
"Putting the objects in a certain cultural environment, in a historical progressive context, is the only thing we can do."
Yes, and my argument is: before one has really tried this, to establish the cultural-ethnic environment, it is close to nonsense to start these claims about the potential "meanings" of motivs. The language was not so vague to miss
terms like shamanism - this has a meaning, hasn't it ? To claim such a thing would need quite some research...
What does that mean: Cultural-ethnic?
I think the word "ethnic" makes it even more New Age.
Cultural environment can be researched. And maybe this research will lead to some understanding about the meaning of a motif in that culture. And if, by coîncidence, that culture creates textiles by weaving that will result in a specific motif, it's because of the structural limitations weaving has.
The same motif in a different culture has a different "meaning". That same motif, in the same culture, but used by people from different ethnic background, has the same "meaning" because of the shared culture.
Islam, Christian, Buddhist, Hindoo, Sorcery etc.
I hope you agree that a motif's "meaning" isn't ethnological programmed.
This shows I'm as alergic for misty words as you are, but if the writers tell me "I also believe" , I can't see the problem.
I'm glad you raised the matter of the relation between structural demands and design elements, a line of thinking that Marla Mallett has advanced so well in her writings.
Some pseudo-scholarly promoters and the collectors they influence take the position that every motif and design element had some important meaning at the time of its origin (most will acknowledge that later weavers had little idea of what those meanings were), and that they (design elements) were accurate representations of symbols that preexisted weaving.
I think that's not only an untestable hypothesis without the slightest predictive power (and, for those reasons, hardly worth anyone's attention), but it ignores what seems pretty obvious to me: putting a symbol into a woven form requires modifying it to conform to the limitations of the structure of the weaving. That is, stylization is inevitable. And, once stylized, it isn't surprising that the design element can evolve into something not resembling the original symbol in any way that we (21st century collectors) can recognize.
And, of course, we should be careful not to let our romantic notions blind us to the possibility that many design elements, layouts and colors were simply attractive, and were used iby weavers for that reason. Modern western civilization didn't invent decorative arts.
In my previous post, I wrote, ...putting a symbol into a woven form requires modifying it to conform to the limitations of the structure of the weaving. This seems self-evident to me, for several reasons.
1. The limitations of any medium are real, so the creator of any piece of art that is to include symbols or icons can use only the symbols or icons that can be accurately reproduced in that medium unless he/she stylizes them to meet the demands that the medium imposes.
2. I know of no instance of a culturally important symbol or icon that isn't modified in form within the culture to which it is significant. Some examples of important icons and symbols that come to mind easily are the Christian cross, the Star of David, sun signs in western Asia, snake representations in mainland southeast Asia, "eye" motifs in a number of cultures, and so forth. Each has certain parameters that must be met, but can be subject to very wide variation within those parameters.
I bring this up because Jack Cassin (on his own website) has taken issue with the statement quoted above. After a few words making it clear that he is referring to the sentence quoted above, he says, Weavers connected to the historic roots of their weaving culture made sure they correctly and diligently 'reproduced' the form and content of the iconographic vocabulary and pattern they were required to utilize.
This assertion is remarkable to me because it seems so obvious that it cannot possibly be known even if it was true for ancient or archaic weavers, and cannot be inferred from anything I know about tribal (or other) cultures about which information is available. Can any of you provide an example of a culturally important icon or symbol for which stylization seems to be taboo? Such an example would at least create an avenue through which Cassin's position might rise to the level of plausibility.
Follow the money
A very tiny notice in the local paper caught my eye. It may be relevant to your quest:
"A leading Australian Aborigine yesterday accused Britain's Prince Harry of "cultural theft" for using Aboriginal symbols and images in his paintings."
I suppose Jack could prove his case on symbols and icons in weavings if he were to research the prehistoric case files for the lawsuits. I am sure he knows some attorneys.
As for the statement:
"Weavers connected to the historic roots of their weaving culture made sure they correctly and diligently 'reproduced' the form and content of the iconographic vocabulary and pattern they were required to utilize."
This would only pertain to icons or symbols originally produced in the very same weaving medium in which they were to be reproduced. Otherwise, as you suggest Steve, the weaving medium itself restricts or limits the ability of the weaver to reproduce icons or symbols from other media in a fashion of enough exactitude to satisfy the purported "requirements".
Even the "Hands of Fatima" as woven into panels on prayer rugs come in many forms, from realistic to abstract. The cultures of the South American prehistoric weavers had quite precise iconography, but even those symbols, when woven rather than carved, lost some of the immediacy of the impact of the original carved versions. I suspect that some "poetic license" was allowed for the weavers when interpreting sacrosanct symbols into this more elastic medium. Otherwise you would run out of weavers pretty quickly one would think. I guess they were rather severe with their punishment. Removal of one's heart by stone knives could put a crimp on your weaving career.
I did see the thing about Prince Harry being accused of "cultural theft" for using design elements inspired by Australian Aboriginal artists. It seems completely frivolous to me. If taken seriously, it would make a similar accusation applicable to every artist who was influenced by art of any culture other than his own. I'll bet the accusation would not have surfaced if the target wasn't royalty.
Hi Patrick, Steve,
" This would only pertain to icons or symbols originally produced in the very same weaving medium in which they were to be reproduced."
This means: Granny teaching grandchild how to weave.
" Weavers connected ....................... required to utilize."
This means: Granny teaching grandchild motifs and patterns.
Life can be simple.
Think it should be like this:
Weavers connected to the iconographic vocabulary and pattern they were required to utilize, made sure they correctly and diligently 'reproduced' the form and content of their weaving.
Warp-count. Warp-tension. Warp-material. Weft-count. Weft-tension. Weft-material.
It's less romantic. Just hard work.
I'm afraid the essence of my original statements has been lost in this thread. It wasn't that a weaver couldn't reproduce a design element that another had made. Let me reproduce the key section of the post that generated this brouhaha as a memory refresher: Some ... take the position that every motif and design element had some important meaning at the time of its origin ... and that they (design elements) were accurate representations of symbols that preexisted weaving.
That is, I disagreed with the assertion that preexisting design elements were imported into early weavings without any changes in form. My reasons were that it was probably usually impossible to do as well as unnecessary (since important icons and symbols always have some flexibility, often a great deal of it) and, perhaps most important, there is no way in which we could know it even if it was true.
The Christian cross is a good example of flexibility, familiar to almost everyone. The Celtic, Maltese, etc., morphologies are easily recognized as crucifixes by every Christian. If those variations seem trivial to you (and they don't seem trivial to me), consider the fact that a Christian cross can have a figure of Jesus on it, standing near it, or nowhere in sight, and still have the symbolic meaning to a Christian. Indeed, even making a rough approximation of a cross by appropriate movements with one hand is sufficient.
No it was not lost.
But I was only trying to figure out what Mr Cassin's quote really said. (As Patrick did) So I translated it for myself and now it makes sens...to me.
And maybe Mr. Cassin means the same, but his language was a bit to wooly?
I don't know the whole context or discussion.
I only see what's here and now.
And I agree with your statement.
"I disagreed with the assertion that preexisting design elements were imported into early weavings without any changes in form."
But, within the boundries of weaving, I think motifs can be reproduced perfectly if the technical ground rules are reproduced perfectly.
Granny doesn't show her grandchild an old gravestone telling her to translate the design into the kilim they are weaving.
Granny tells her grandchild how this could be done if all the technical aspects are correct. Because this has been done before, and before etc.
"Some ... take the position that every motif and design element had some important meaning at the time of its origin ... and that they (design elements) were accurate representations of symbols that preexisted weaving."
Some can travel in a time machine.
Some try to give their life some important meaning. "I believe. I know. You don't!"
"cultural-ethnic" - an ugly construction ...
Hallo everybody, hallo Vincent, hallo Steve,
"What does that mean: Cultural-ethnic?"
Have a look at http://www.turkotek.com/salon_00091/original.html -
I mean the difference between a local (textile) "culture" that may evolve at a certain place and a tribal community.
That does not mean that I think tribal communities treated designs that they wove as "their symbols", forming a kind of identity. May be, may not be ... must be researched though this is, methodologically, a difficult task. In this case that I had mentioned these tribal people are ready to weave by order:
they may copy what you bring as example, they weave something with a certain size ( or weight !) - but nevertheless it is easily possible to recognize woven artefacts of that community ! The local people in this area would even recognize the originators of the weaves whatever designs and whatever technique is used ( most common are kilims, cul , cicims , soumak weaves ) !
My intention was mainly to stress that I do not like to buy statements like the ones that I cited if no reference to real research is given. But "cultural-ethnic" does not sound nice as I admit.