Coeval(ism)

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How fast does an observation become an “ism”? Here’s an example of the kind of thing Max Allen correctly describes as coeval production: examples of carpets that are clearly made within the same environment, possibly by the same people or persons, with or without an antecedent. The first was this rug collected by Hans Werner Mohm in Kabul in 1992. It is reproduced as Plate 37 in his book (co-authored with Jurgen Wasim Frembgen) Lebensraum und Kalashnikow: Kreig und Frieden im Spiegel afghanisher Bildteppiche (2000).

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By coincidence, we spotted the frayed corner of the second carpet peeking out from under about three other carpets in the doorway of a bazaar shop in Herat. It needed a wash.

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Comparison of the similarities and differences reveals the extent to which such coeval production reflects the individual design decisions made by makers in close proximity with each other: colours, motifs, texts move around within the common schema of the abstracted map of Afghanistan. Both are dated 1989/90. If you compare the details from the bottom of the carpet upwards, you can see how the elements within the framework are varied by the maker(s). The Herat province (bottom center) can either be represented by buildings or camels, and so on up the design. It’s as if the process allows for a degree of creative freedom, in the hands of the makers.

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