contemporary art, sculpture

Mona Hatoum, Afghan (red and black), 2008

October 17, 2012

There’s a rug shop in Brighton called GAFF (Great Art For Floors). This might raise a few eyebrows and concerns for art’s proper place in the world. But then there’s this piece Mona Hatoum.

Perhaps great art does belong on the floor. Quality rugs, such as this one, demand a measure of true respect. They request you kick off your shoes, mentally speaking at least.

But before you make yourself at home, just consider the geopolitical situation on this rug of ours. The map revolves around Britain, thankfully, but there’s a catch.

Hatoum appears to have unpicked every continent on this planet of ours and distributed them around us in a vortex. Just as a world famous British shipping company might once have done.

Since Cunard built their office here between 1914-17 no real geological changes have taken place. Yet borders have been redrawn countries have been swallowed up or have emerged.

And it seems that soft furnishings are the quintessential response to geographical flux. You may be reminded of the 150 or so embroidered maps by Alighiero e Boetti.

These colourful creations, which incorporated all the world’s flags, were handstitched by locals in Afghanistan. The same country crops up in Hatoum’s title here.

No mere coincidence, perhaps. And I recently came across this passage in The Names by Don DeLillo in which a character called Charles Maitland holds forth on rugs.

“Weaving districts are becoming inaccessible. Whole countries in fact. It’s almost too late to go to the source. . . They seem to go together, carpet-weaving and political instability.”

This dialogue was first published in 1982, so how little has changed. But when she wove this example of a global carpet, what was Hatoum up to? Here’s the red and black catch.

We surely have too much political stability in this part of the world, and need a few more rugs. In Afghanistan perhaps they need a few less. We need redistrubution of rug making, not wealth.

Incidentally, the other elements which go together in DeLillo’s novel are pregnant women & martial law, plastic sandals & public beheadings, and gooey desserts & queues for petrol. Lol.

Several works by Mona Hatoum can be seen in The Cunard Building, until 25 November, as part of the Liverpool Biennial 2012.

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