Works of art can be designed to be installed practically anywhere, but one under used area is the ground we walk on. ArtCritiqued.com has tracked down a selection of artists making work both for and with floor surfaces that could be used by the dedicated collector, if you wished, to cover that last remaining blank space in your home.
Carlos Noronha Feio has designed a series of Arraiolos carpets, which depict images of modern technology that may be used in war such as jet fighter planes, tanks, rockets and satellites, although they can also have many other peaceful technological and exploratory functions. This is highly political work, like the doormat-size carpet seen in the window of a Mayfair carpet dealers depicting a United States Five Dollar Bill across its entire width, which offers conflicting potential views of American patronism and luxury, versas walking over a past president and abandoning capitalism or commercialism. In Feio’s work the blood shed by those on the front line, along with civilian casualties in situations such as the dropping of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima, is interwoven with that of the carpet makers, whilst Feio seemingly keeps his hands clean in designing the piece like a political or military leader. This work consequently seems to question the reason for the existence and production of the depicted things, as the ownership of nuclear defence weapons seems questionable when no one would want to use them, and hence the work also addresses man as his own worst enemy.
These pieces have the feel of the tapestries worked up from Raphael’s cartoons for the Vatican. However, although the tapestries were the intended final work for Raphael’s commissioners, though not completed until after the artist’s death, the cartoons are revered and preserved in the V&A, but Feio’s designs have not been exhibited, though probably Raphael’s were never seen until after the artist’s death, apart from to be checked off by the Vatican prior to weaving, and may not have been intended to be seen.
It goes against the rules of the museum to walk on a work of art, and in many heritage attractions you are prevented from walking on the carpets. In contrast to this, Carl Andre’s floor works made in a checkerboard fashion from squares of various metals are intended to be walked on by the viewer, creating an abnormal physical interaction in the gallery space, which many continue to avoid except the very young. Returning to Feio’s work, it is difficult to see the detail of a piece such as 3, 2, 1, 0 A A and away 1, 2.. (2011), shown at Bridport Arts Centre earlier this year, when exhibited on the ground. Consequently it seems these pieces are more visible and effective when hung as when Satellite (Good News-Birth and Fertility-Faith Wheels of Fortune) (2008) was recently shown at IMT Gallery alongside Kate Terry’s solo exhibition. Placing this work on the ground and walking upon it is to neglect and refute its political statements. Admittedly though, not many spaces will have a wall large enough to hang a 5m high piece on, and devising a method of hanging such a heavy textile work would be challenging, but maybe a space with a balcony from which to see the piece is required, although positioning the audience here would distance them from the subject in the way that many civilians are distanced from wars.
Meanwhile Soheila Sokhanvari exhibited two works in the Goldsmiths MFA exhibition this year that were very different, though both adopt elements from the lifestyle of the upper classes and are inspired by the Persian stories told by Shahrzad within the narrative of the One Thousand and One [Arabian] Nights. Whilst one piece was a taxidermy Horse straddling a horse-sized exercise ball with all it’s feet slightly raised off the ground, in the other she has painted a portrait of a man on a Persian silk carpet. The two objects refer to the mythology of the East in the stories Sokhanvari references; the flying carpet and the flying horse. Perhaps therefore this painting should be displayed suspended from the ceiling, painting side down towards the viewer, as a directly flying carpet.
The painting is entitled The Shah of Iran 1973 (2011), depicting the Shah who in 1973 instigated an increase in the price of crude oil and was subsequently deposed in revolution in 1979. Sokhanvari’s combination of subject and material consequently reference Slavoj Zizek’s observation in a recent interview on Al Jazeera that when a ruler loses support to stay in power there is a period before he or she falls, like a cartoon character continuing to walk off a cliff until they look down and realise there is no support. The Shah is depicted (possibly) falling, as though having stepped off the magic carpet in mid-air, creating a parallel between the Shah’s fall from office and the suspended motion in Yves Klein’s Leap Into The Void (1960). Hanging the piece from the ceiling as previously suggested would signify elevating the Shah, whereas to walk upon the carpet would closer reflect the revolution that overthrew him.
At The Mews Project Space, Margarida Gouveia has created an installation of trompe l’oeil works that make the room appear on first glance to be abandoned with upturned carpets and coir door mats discarded in the corners, which reflects upon Fischli and Weiss‘s installation Untitled (Tate) (1992-2000), where it seems the gallery is undergoing renovation but everything including tools, discarded cups, etc. is actually a sculpture. The work also curiously fits with the detritus dumped outside the space by the gallery’s neighbours, almost making this into a sculpture, amongst which is a fragment of patterned carpet or upholstery.
Whilst the carpet on the floor appears very dirty, symptomatic of being walked on and perhaps un-vacuumed for some time, the exposed rear of the mat seems to be covered in paint drips as though it has sat beneath an Ian Davenport poured painting being created or lain there as the room has been decorated. However the space does not appear to be finished as silver gaffer tape appears to cover a hole in the floor like a miniature version of Doris Salcedo‘s now filled in crack in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall, Shibboleth (2007), and another in the ceiling. On the other hand, though, as these have been focused in on in the gallery’s video documentation of the exhibition, it appears these too must be artworks and hence the building isn’t really suffering from wounds akin to a Lucio Fontana slashed canvas.
Where the doormat appears to have quite some depth of bristles and several piled up layers, meaning unfolded it would cover a considerable area of this gallery’s floor, closer inspection reveals the works to be photographic prints on thin card that have been carefully cut out and curved to match the outline and form of the subject. Meanwhile a rolled carpet lies abandoned in the loft space above the doorway, like something being stored out of sight, whilst this is a similar artwork, hiding in the periphery like one of Neil Taylor‘s works in True Wood at Campbell Works, and in essence taking on the role of the flying carpet referred to by Sokhanvari, high above a carpet’s normal location. The heaped form of the carpets also draws allusion with some of Robert Morris’ works with felt.
Gouveia’s work is the antithesis of the Hollywood (or Leicester Square) film preview rolling out the red carpet to greet invitees, which can also be applied to some exhibition openings such as that of the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. Instead the interior mat and carpet has been illustratively removed and upturned, at first repelling visitors. These are mass-produced carpets, quite the opposite of Feio and Sokhanvari’s unique and handmade luxury carpets.
Carlos Noronha Feio’s work can currently be seen along with that of Mary Temple, featured in the article A Comparative Study in Space and Sound, in Image Wars at Abrons Arts Center, 456 Grand Street, New York 10002 until 3rd September 2011.
Soheila Sokhanvari’s work is now in the collection of Shizaru Gallery.
Margarida Gouveia’s work is on show at The Mews Project Space, 15c Osborn Street, London E1.
- Explorations in Materiality and Texture (artcritiqued.com)