Sunday, September 10, 2006
Art: Engage Islamic art on its own terms
A good article form The Gaurdian: It's time to engage with Islamic art on its own terms - not as a bridge between east and west.
When you hear the words "Islamic culture" these days, you are less and less likely to think of a carpet. But a carpet forms the centrepiece of the Victoria and Albert museum's new Jameel gallery, displayed in a glass case, but laid out on the floor, as a carpet should be. To preserve its colours, it is kept for 20 minutes out of every half hour in gloom. On the half hour and the hour exactly, the lights click on. Whatever they have been looking at, visitors turn, astonished, as if the gates to a beautiful garden have been thrown open. Even the guards come forward for another look. The subtlety and complexity of the pattern, the depth and richness of the colours, and the gigantic scale of the invention almost defy description. Ten minutes pass, and the lights click off; all around there are audible sighs of satisfaction and pleasure.
At present, our interest in Islamic culture, if it exists at all, seems to be limited to these two things: a museum culture and a culture of dissidence. Our attention is like a light shining in that general direction for 10 minutes every now and again, before plunging back into darkness. If we want to promote exchange and a proper respect, we ought to start taking an interest in living Islamic cultures. And in the first instance, that will probably mean not relating everything, from glassware to carpets, back to the actions of a few suicide bombers.