July 21, 2012

Strike a pose

'Turkish Carpet', c1989 by Batik designer Iwan Tirta

"I sound like a needle stuck in the groove of a record, but it's so important to do this. People won't realize until it's too late, when they ask, *Oh did we have those things?' We cannot move forward without preserving our past."
- Batik designer Iwan Tirta (From The Jakarta Post)

I'm 'liking' the IWAN TIRTA Private Collection on Facebook for a long time now, 'liking' a lot of the images they share, this one (picture above) triggered something bigger. A Batik based on a Turkish carpet, what are the odds! I'm a strong believer of synchronicity, so stumbling across a Batik based on a carpet while I'm reading a lot about carpets the past weeks (instead of Batiks) made me wonder.

First we should learn some more about Iwan Tirta:
"Iwan Tirta (April 18, 1935 – July 31, 2010) was an Indonesian batik fashion designer. Tirta trained as a lawyer, but became an internationally known designer. He is credited with beginning the early revival of batik design during the 1970s and 1980s. He also became an Indonesian and Javanese cultural advocate, as well as a food consultant, later in his career.
Tirta returned to Indonesia from New York in 1970. Instead of utilizing his law degree as a profession, he started his career as a designer using traditional, hand-made batik cloth.
Tirta authored several prominent books on the subject of batik...He was widely credited with the promotion of batik designs within the international fashion industry, including its magazines and fashion shows. However, despite its new found popularity, Tirta was a critic of the recent revival of batik in the early 21st Century. He was especially critical of the embrace mass produced, printed batik over the traditional, handmade cloth, "The problem is that the establishment still doesn't know the difference between printed batik and the handmade one. It's our own mistake. They say *creative economy', and that's a contradiction. When the word economy comes into it ... you reduce everything to money. What we need now are good and knowledgeable patrons.""

- From Wikipedia

This all sounds very familiar, don't I have this great picture somewhere of him..
"Devoted to Javanese culture, designer Iwam Tirta helped save batik industry by adapting folk art to such high fashion as worn by this model" - National Geographic, January 1989

Mmmm somehow everything is coming together again...I found these great fashion-pictures online with Batik Masterpieces by Iwan Tirta. Enjoy and if you get inspired I'm still would love to receive your Batik fashion statements!
"Amarantine", Fine Art Paper Sculpture by Bee Hive by Ji Ae Park, Wardrobe: Harry Darsono Couture and Alexander McQueen with Turban from Pusaka Maha Karya by Iwan Tirta
Project by Trikanti Nusantara, Pusaka Maha Karya (Batik Masterpieces) by Iwan Tirta, 2009
"A Time Remembered", Pusaka Maha Karya (Batik Masterpieces) by Iwan Tirta, Headpiece, An art piece courtesy of Bruce Claypool
Project by Trikanti Nusantara, Pusaka Maha Karya (Batik Masterpieces) by Iwan Tirta, 2009

July 14, 2012


Temporary carpets on unexpected places part II, ECM cover 'Monodia'

Koen de Wit, clarinetist I'm engaged with :), is working hard towards his release of 'Narziß und Goldmund' (Read more about it in "The making of Narziß und Goldmund"). For finding the right paper for his album-cover, some ECM covers are laying next to his computer. I ask him if he chose that one on purpose, but he had not yet noticed the bare foot in the temporary carpet, like I did.

"The light touch of foot-soles as a woman dances at the centre of the ritual maze, a fragile flower with petals of chalk, a propitiatory choreography traced each morning on the ground.  As if in echo, the faint coughing of a white tiger from the zoo nearby. Rustlings, variations, in persistent notes that extend through the air and disappear into the night. Silences and erasures. A few magical movements will make both the pattern and the music reappear on the doorstep at dawn to greet the ephemeral beauty of the new day. Black the dress, black as as a monsoon cloud suspended over those white furrows, alreadyworked, henceforth fertile: Monodia..."
- Muriel Olesen (photographer of ECM cover 'Monodia')

In my previous post 'Harmonious co-existence' I shared some beautiful pictures (scans from my rice-bible 'The Art of Rice') of Alpana.
Alpana is a sacred art in India, in which drawing are made using rice powder on floors in front of houses and around altars. It is known under different names, in different areas of India, most common 'Rangoli', 'Kolam' and 'Jhoti'. The word Alpana is derived from the Sanskrit "alimpana", which means "to plaster" or "to coat with".

* A compulsory aspect of Lakshmipuja (**is performed during Diwali, the festival of lights. Diwali marks the end of the harvest season in most of India) is the alpana drawn by women...These paintings are made with rice powder mixed with water (**for special occasions limestone and red brick powder for contrast are also used. Modern interpretations have accommodated chalk, and ready-made rangolis of wood, plastic templates and vinyl stickers). There are several motifs that are drawn on the floor around the deity's altar. The motifs are stylized in characteristic ways and incorporate certain patterns associated with Lakshmi such as the lotus, Lakshmi's feet, Lakshmi's companion owl, **the sun, a ladder, a plough, a fish, betel (the leaf of a vine belonging to the Piperaceae family, which includes pepper and Kava), shankhalata (a snake) and sheaves of rice. The alpana represent the world of the goddess and brings good fortune to the home.

** Lakshmi is the Hindu goddess of wealth, prosperity (both material and spiritual), fortune, and the embodiment of beauty. She is the consort of the god Vishnu. Also called Mahalakshmi, she is said to bring good luck and is believed to protect her devotees from all kinds of misery and money-related sorrows.
In Bengal, Lakshmi is worshiped in autumn when the moon is full, the brightest night of the year. It is believed that she showers wealth on this night. She, along with her mount, the great white owl, descends to Earth and takes away the darkness of poverty, stagnation, anger, and laziness from our lives. Her vahana owl represents royalties, penetrating sight and intelligence.

Making alpana is considered an important part of the spiritual process. * Not everybody can do alpana, those who can are considered special and admired for their artistic quality. There are rules to be followed making rangoli or kolam. In front of houses the patterns made should be closing, so that evil spirits can't enter. It is best to make the drawing without pausing or lifting your hand to far from the ground. In some places the kolams are made everyday, in other places only during special occasions like marriages and rituals.
** It represents a philosophy of life that enthusiastically celebrates the impermanence of knowing and devotes itself to a constant wish to live in the present.

Worshipping Lakshmi isn't just about doing rituals, it's about making a nice home for your family and guests, being creative and fulfilled with what you got. This will bring you happiness and therefore fortune.
Just to be sure I made a little owl with a swastika and sun/moon behind it in my ricecarpet yesterday.

* information from my rice-bible, the book 'The Art of Rice' by Roy W. Hamilton
** information from Wikipedia

July 13, 2012

Harmonious co-existence

Sandcarpet, Drenthe, The Netherlands **

I don't want to say to much about these images, because I just don't know enough about the making of temporary carpets yet. And I think these images show how strongly this tradition is connected globally. It doesn't mean it has to be influenced by each other. I started working myself in a tradition with making my ricecarpets without realizing or looking at examples. The choices I made went natural, working with this material it logical to work from the center outwards. The symbols that I use have to be in harmony, so naturally a pattern occurs. At first I based my ricecarpets on real carpets, including tassels of lentils (see ricecarpets from 2007 on www.sabinebolk.nl).
I still love to look and read about tradition carpets. I recently bought this really lovely book "Early Decorative Textiles". The textiles, mostly carpets used for wall decoration from the 3th till 11th century, already have this structure of a bigger images in the center (in a circle) surrounded by abstract symbols forming a pattern.

Tonight I'm going to make a ricecarpet that will form the base of a soundpiece by Husc. To prepare for it I'm looking at carpets. The old ones in my new purchased book, designs by Theo Colebrander (1841 - 1930), only the designs are published in the book, which gives it a really abstract, surreal appearance and oriental carpets. The last one, 'Oosterse tapijten', I own a couple of year now and I used some of the patterns in my ricecarpets, but I never read the intro before yesterday. The book from 1968 tells about how the tradition of making oriental carpets is getting lost and with it the knowledge and craftsmanship. Is there a tradition not on the verge of extinction? Or has the world of carpet making improved much since the 70's?
Thinking about how to make music with my temporary carpet, I came across this sentence in 'Oosterse Tapijten': "The workshop foreman dictated which colours wool yarn his craftsmen had to knot one by one by singing a melopee (monotonous chant)."
I'm reading and learning more every day about the traditions that fascinate, inspire and makes me the artist I am today. I hope I can honor these traditions and continue my work with respect for all use of temporary carpets, without loosing my own natural way of making my ricecarpets.

"In olden days, kolams used to be drawn in coarse rice flour, so that the ants don't have to work that much for to long for a meal. The rice powder is said to invite birds and other small critters to eat it, thus inviting other beings into one's home and everyday life: a daily tribute to harmonious co-existence. It is a sign of invitation to welcome all into the home, not the least of whom is Goddess Lakshmi, the Goddess of prosperity."
- From Wikipedia

For the Tamil festival of Pongal, when the first of the new crop of rice is offered to the Sun God, Surya, elaborate drawings (kolam) made of rice flour are created in front of village houses. Tamil Nadu, India, 2000 *
Sandcarpet by Zwaantje Hans in Schoonebeek, The Netherlands ***
A complete domestic altar of Lakshmi for seasonal Lakshmipuja, the floor is decorated with alpana (rice powder mixed in water), Calcutta, 2001 *
Zwaantje Hans making sandcarpet, 1946 **

Kolam drawing, Tamil Nadu, India, 2000 *

* Scans and information from the book 'The Art of Rice' by Roy W. Hamilton
** Scans from Nederlands Openluchtmuseum Balie BiDoc
*** Scan from the book 'volkskunst der lage landen 1'

July 8, 2012

Walking across temporary carpets

Last Sunday I watched the procession walk through the streets of Klimmen carefully walking past the temporary carpets I documented earlier that morning (see blogpost 'Making it happen'). The priest carrying the monstrance is the only one who is supposed to walk on them.

In books you can travel far and sometimes you don't know what you've found until you're in the middle of a kind of research about it. When I came across pictures of the Gods Walk on Bali in my rice-bible, I was totally surprised. A priest walking across a pathway made with (un)cooked, yellow or white rice, wow!
When I read about it I was in the middle of promoting Dance in a ricecarpet, sending DVD's, hoping to make a little tour. No such luck (programs were already made for that theater-year, no money, to expensive to keep the stage empty for three days while I made the ricecarpet, etcetera, etcetera), but somehow I got invited to show 'Dance in a ricecarpet' once more at an art route in Etten-Leur.
While making this carpet I realized that I was working in an old tradition, without ever seeing this tradition. I read a lot about traditions using rice, about Dewi Sri and the use of symbols and patterns between my return from Indonesia and making this last 'Dance in ricecarpet'. I started to use my blog more and more as a way and method to learn about traditions, patterns and temporary art. When I found an old blackandwhite photo of a flower-carpet made in Asselt for a procession 'De Grote Bronk', I knew I had to learn more about this tradition (see blogpost 'Water lilies & table linen'". A tradition found in Bali, Brazil, Peru, Poland, Germany, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Belgium, The Netherlands and I'm sure in many more places.

"Corpus Christi is a Christian observance that honors the Holy Eucharist. It is also known as the Feast of the Most Holy Body of Christ, as well as the Day of Wreaths. In commemoration of the Last Supper on the day before Jesus' crucifixion, many Christians around the world receive Communion on this day. In some countries the Sacramental bread (or host) is paraded throughout the streets. Priests carry the bread in a monstrance, which ia a type of vessel in which the consecrated host is exposed. In Spain and other places the processions can be elaborate, featuring saints and characters from the Bible, following a path decorated with wreaths and flowers. Corpus Christi is a festival that has been celebrated by many Christians, particularly the Catholic Church in honor of the Eucharist since 1246. The name 'Corpus Christi' is a Latin phrase that refers to the body of Christ."
-From timeanddate.com

I would like to do a project combining making ricecarpets with collecting information and photos about Dutch traditions in which temporary carpets are made.
Last year I went to the Dutch Open Air Museum in Arnhem, where they have a big archive full of old books, photos and much more about all kind of Dutch traditions, like folkfestivities and folkcostumes. I had an appointment to get more information about sand- and flowercarpets. They didn't have any information about 'De Grote Bronk', but a great collection of pictures of sand-carpets and sandcarpetmakers (see blogpost 'New Dutch traditions').
Lieske Leunissen, who makes great pictures of De Grote Bronk in Klimmen every year (see www.lieskeleunissen.nl), informed me about the procession and the making of the sand- and flower-carpets.
Few months back a wrote a project proposal about my plans. My project didn't get selected, but I knew that I had to continue my research. Never know where it may lead me. So I reserved a room in the only pension in Klimmen. Now I can't wait to see the next 'Grote Bronk' or find some nice old footage of flower- and sand-carpets.

I'll try to share some of my found footage soon here on De reis naar Batik. Enjoy the pictures of 'De Grote Bronk' taking on 1 July in Klimmen (Limburg, The Netherlands)!

"It's about the sense of community not religion"
- quote from 'Ziel en Zaligheid' episode 'Bovenaardse ervaren' about the Grote Broonk in Sint Geertruid

July 2, 2012

Making it happen

Saturday I went to Klimmen (provence Limburg). I knew that there would be a procession, 'De Grote Bronk' on Sunday morning with flower and sandcarpets (read more on www.sabinebolk.nl/2011/12/de-reis-naar-batik, in Dutch). I didn't know what to expect, so on Saterday I walked around asking people if and where the carpets would be made. I asked at Dolberg if it would be okee if I joined them the following morning to document the making. They planned to start around 5.30h, so I agreed to come around 6h.
I went to bed early and waited that morning for the harmony. The 'schutterij' marched on the day of the procession through the streets waking up the inhabitants of Klimmen so they can start making their temporary carpets on time. I was clearly the only tourist in town and it was special being on the empty streets while the sound of drums echoed on the walls of the houses. I walked a bit behind them towards Dolberg, where the makers were already quite far with the sandcarpets.
Around 7h I decide to check out the rest of the procession route to see if there where more temporary carpets being made. I was totally surprised when I stumble upon this meters long sandcarpet on the Achtbunderstraat. Being without a neighborhood association they just put some flyers door to door asking people to join making the carpet. A nice big group started that morning at 5h and they were almost finished when I got there. They responded really enthusiastic that I was there to document the making, no one does that, everyone only makes pictures during the procession, they told me and I even got to take a picture from upstairs!
I headed back to Dolberg for some more pictures and some coffee with pie. This great little bar just opened there (Grand opening on 14th of July), Achterum, a resting point to enjoy some pie ('vlaai') with a very pretty view. After the welcome breakfast I walked towards the church. On my way there I met some people I spoke with the day before, making flowercarpets before their house.
At the church everyone was getting ready for the procession. "Hey you're the girl that got up at 6h to make picture of the sand-runners ('zandlopers')!". Because I didn't want to miss the priest walking through the carpets, I walked (ran) back again towards Dolberg. In my next post more about the tradition of 'De Grote Bronk' and pictures of the procession.