" By resonance I mean the power of the displayed object to reach out beyond its formal boundaries to a larger world, to evoke in the viewer the complex, dynamic cultural forces from which it has emerged and for which it may be taken by a viewer to stand..."
Resonance and Wonder - Stephen Greensblatt
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There seems to be a different spirit of creativity and ingenuity from the Eastern world. Whether it is greater or better is not for me to judge but for me to admire. Through generations We have grown old looking at renaissance paintings, sculptures and human figures depicting the power and reign of the Church and/or their corresponding rulers upon the Western World. One can not help but to admire the arbitrariness of having art that is not a painting or necessarily a sculpture of a passage of a divine epoch. The art in this particular exhibition was that of cloth, material, metal silverware, wooden beaded bracelets and architectural craft and materiality. It seems to me that the orient, perhaps, was inspired differently than that of the Western World. There's an aura of spiritual creativity, rather than the overpowering sculptures and paintings made for patrons and institutions. This to me becomes incredibly interesting as we begin to become enamored with architectural decoration and ornament in our residential spaces, but as well as in our building facades.
Upon the gallery of the Mughal South Asia of the 16th-19th Centuries you find the pleasurable carpets designed and sewed with graphics of Palm Trees, Ibexes and Birds. Above I have given my inspirational quote for this post which is by Stephen Greenblatt on his excerpt 'Resonance and Wonder', where it fits perfect to this visit because at every glance of admiration one can not help but wonder. The wonder is in the ornament of the design upon their surface, what is it's purpose? How is the design developed? Why palm trees, ibexes and birds? Why not relics of Mohammed and other Islamic prophets or Mughal Sultans? It takes a certain amount of prior knowledge or understanding of the Mughal culture to really appreciate the carpet for the value it is being shown to have on display. To anyone it can be just a piece of cloth with graphics on it, but to this Mughal community the carpet or rug represents communal unity, natural meditation and reflection; where the graphics of the birds and natural trees are to entice the mind of a natural tranquil environment.
As you walk into the exhibition of the Spain, North Africa and the Western Mediterranean of the 18th-19th Centuries you find a diversity and exchange of cultural appreciation. From the fancy Spanish Lusterware of exuberant taste to the Moroccan Wedding Sash hanging from the wall. Each piece has it's meaning, whether it be of prestige or of spiritual appreciation. I just started watching the Gianni Versace series on Netflix, imagine all of the exuberant detail and decoration in his home. This is where art and architecture becomes special, when we dress our moments, environments and even our garments with a specific spirit. You have a specific type of lusterware that you use for specific holidays, you have specific type of jeweler and garments that you use for specific occasion. And so, with architectural decoration it becomes the same. Each space is designed to fulfill it's purpose.
Finally my favorite space in the whole exhibition, the Moroccan Court. Many of the architectural details in this court can be reflected to that of the details in the Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain, as well as the Attarin Madrassa and Islamic Schools in the Fez. In fact, I would argue a piece of Fez was brought to NYC through this exhibition. This is a great example of cultural exchange and appreciation between the MET and the Orient, something we in today's society take for granted in many ways. The court is a space where solitude and meditation is transformed into a spiritual environment. But this time, the architecture and decor of the structural components in the courtyard do the marvel. Through this space we fully embrace the ingenuity and craft of the orient. As I reflect on the Spanish Capital and Base that was introduced in the previous gallery, a reference to a Tuscan Column is fully exposed in its total composition apart of the courtyard. Here the oriental culture rationalizes the western architectural innovations and redefines it with some traditional style.
One becomes fully infatuated with the amount of effort and care by the craftsmen of this court, which according to the curator were brought all the way from Fez, Morocco, to really get the authenticity of Moroccan building decoration and carving. The molding of the arches that connect to the capitol, and the finish on the roof cornice are both representations of ornament and organic geometries that the orient were interested in. Spatially, the court is bounded on two-axis, one composed of two walls and the other of columns and arches. One wall provides a window framing the outside sky and across onto the other wall is a secluded and mysterious door exit. In which, we come to understand is to the outside, as one realizes the courtyard is placed in an outside environment through the translucent paneled roof covering. The roof covering allows the diffusion of natural daylight. The cornice which is enhanced through a style of organic geometry is instilling the importance of the skylight with its decor, alluding to a notion of a superior light of God. The openness of the skylight sits right above a fountain, in which all of the seating of the court gathers. Enhancing the importance of the fountain and the notion of purity in water.
Moreover, the setting of objects such as seating and the fountain symbolize the theatrics of the court. One can imagine the scenery of the light that is washing down to the fountain evoking thoughts of what is pure, what is necessary, and what is appreciated by the orient culture. In other details, the base of the walls are ornamented in an interesting compilation of textile forms, that according to one of the Moroccan Artisans took thirty-four workers and four months to cut up and create; a design that sparkles an interpretation of the sky at night. Meanwhile, perforations in the windows and the coloring of the textile interpret the stars and glistening light of Mother Nature in the dark. Hence, a play with light, nature and water that creates a spiritual ambiance only possible through the architectural decor and craftsmanship of the orient. To the less deist the court becomes a sacred space when one considers how the space was constructed. It is not your average court, albeit, it may be a simple configuration of space and structural expression through oriental artifacts. But the detail and ornamentation, choice of materials and color exemplify the significance and symbolic nuance - the resonance upon the culture and tradition of the Moroccan - of transforming a space of solitude into a relaxed retreat.
In all, when designing a space, wonder and resonate upon the style, décor and environment you want to create. Only then does the space become something special.
Materials. Decor. Culture.
Once Upon A Visit: Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia and Later South Asia at the MET
Mughal Carpet and Rugs
Spain, North Africa, and the Western Meditarranean of the 18th-19th Centuries
Versace Mansion Patio
Moroccan Court, Islamic Galleries