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pattern research,
Travel/project grant, made possible with support from Stiftung Kunstfonds, Bonn

"pattern research"
design for the wool carpet

A Trans-lation

Carpets often demarcate claimed territory. This, along with notions of land and living space are important socio-political metaphors that manifest themselves in my work. Patterns, ornaments and symbols echo traditions in the broadest sense of the word, both established ones and newer elements of the lives of those who make them. This applies both to entire societies as it does to individuals.

One aspect of my "pattern research" was whether universally comprehensible patterns and symbols exist. Such symbols would have to function beyond the limitations of language, culture and time to relay alternative ways of living and thinking as well as other views of history.

Destination -Iran


Persian culture has a long-standing tradition of carpet-making. Patterns and ornaments found there document how symbols can be used to express what can't be openly discussed.
Carpets and the "language" they use have their origins in the period before human settlement: nomadic tribes in central Asia developed ways of illustrating family histories in the designs of their carpets. The origins of the tribe, where they travelled and how many animals they kept often resulted in a knotted tribal album that could be rolled out at a new campsite. This provided a sense of having a temporary home, an important symbol of tribal identity.

Marking out what one considers to be home through images of one's own life has been established, especially since the introduction of photography, as a significant aspect of modern life all over the world.
What would a carpet look like if it was intended to relay the life stories of 15 individual women from different segments of society in a gamut of regions in Iran? What do they relay about life in that country today?

I set off in April 2007 with only a concept, interview sheets, a small camera, sketch paper and a bottle of black ink as well as a few simple, dark outfits and a few headscarfs in my suitcase. Over the course of the following 6 weeks, I visited Iranian women who I neither knew nor ever heard about until I arrived. I set off on a "hunt" for patterns. Thanks to the strong sense of hospitality that Iran is renowned for, I could just let people guide me from one individual to the next- the first woman would then not know the third. This enabled me to conduct interviews (with the help of an interpreter!) with 15 women aged between 19 - 72. At the end of each visit, I asked each woman to take a Rorschach test and to react spontaneously to it. I collected not only answers to my questions, but also photos, Rorschach tests and the association they evoked for my "catalogue of patterns". I visited a teacher, a carpet-maker, the daughter of an important official, a Zoroastrian farmer, an Iraqi housewife and mother, a woman who plays the frame drum, an artist, a student and a beautician to name but a few.
Laden with the many ideas we discussed, the answers I gleaned from these women and pictures, I began, once I returned to Berlin, to compile a comprehensive catalogue of iconographic images for the project.
I transposed statements into symbols; some of these were then incorporated into patterns or ornament.
Each of the women realised a Rorschach picture- I combines all of these to create the medallion at the centre of the carpet. Contained therein, statements that all of them agree on can be found as symbols expressing:

A chair - symbol of waiting, domesticity and tranquility
Rings - symbol of the wish or, alternatively, the fear of the commitment of marriage, family life, an important theme all through my life, high priority
The suitcase – The desire to travel, to be mobile and independent exploring new terrain

The vision of 16 women sitting on a carpet, discussing their lives, dreams and fears with each other, manifested in the pattern of the carpet in which their statements are knotted together to form a visual foundation of our time together...

I'd like to thank all the women involved who took the time to talk with me, who trusted me with their ideas and allowed me to incorporate them into my artwork.

Negin, Nooshin, Merhabi, Hajar, Essmat, Katauan, Mahnaz, Nourieh, Sirim,
Arezu, Elham, Nezanin, Mehri, Tooska, Shirin

*Medallion = brain scan


the notion of 16 women sitting on a carpet, discussing their lives, dreams and fears with each other, manifested in the pattern of the carpet in which their statements are knotted together to form a foundation of our time together...

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