take off your shoes
sit on the ground
feel the time capsule
a space within a space
a thing between things
something that happens while other things happen
a game changer
the future of any art institution
meta-institutional meeting point
freed from possessions
falling apart and reassembling
a new whole breathing
that’s what every carpet is
your carpet is.
Rudi Ninov and Vesselina Sarieva during the opening of "Colour Worlds in Prologue", Sarieva/Gallery, Plovdiv, Bulgaria, 2021
“The Carpet” is a curatorial concept for “meeting place” in opposition to the traditional art institution or art settlement - gallery, museum, exhibition, fair and others. “The Carpet” is an experiment and a poetic proposal for the future of the art world. It is seeing as a universal place to be equal, to meet artists, curators, visitors, collectors, to provide and receive education, to exchange and build relationships, to give future for art and ideas.
“The Carpet” concept is created and developed by Vesselina Sarieva in 2021 as part of “Future Unforgettable” Phase VI representing the idea of the carpet as a meeting place in practice.
Aside from "Future Unforgettable", "The Carpet" has been presented at the podcast of Manifesta 14, "Pristina is Everywhere", the exhibition "SIT" at LambdaLambdaLambda Gallery, Pristina in 2022 and during Art Brussels 2023 as part of Rudi Ninov and Sarieva/Gallery's booth "Voice Lines".
The opening of "SIT", LambdaLambdaLambda Gallery, Pristina, Kosovo, 2022
"The Carpet" is a place that is egalitarian, open and accessible for everyone. The gesture of taking off the shoes and sitting on the carpet right next to each other universalizes all participants. Everyone is equal, sharing experience and opinion, developing their ideas in a whole new way. With this approach the institution forms communities and subcultures, which create, discuss and think together in a completely new, equal and neutral territory
The metaphor of “The Carpet” as a meeting place was first used by Luchezar Boyadjiev during a discussion, part of "Future Unforgettable". Subsequently, Boyadjiev and Sarieva created a collaborative work, a mind map, called "The Mad Carpetmaker = Лудият килимар", 2021, which materialized their ideas. The mind map was exhibited in Sarieva / Gallery, Plovdiv in December 2021, while several other events were taking place in the space - an exhibition by a young artist, a musical installation (“sound mural”) and distribution of the “Manifesto of Happiness”. All of them were united by a hand-woven rug style carpet placed in the center of the gallery, on which the visitors were invited to sit and share time together.
Later followed the "Manifesta 14 Podcast". Vesselina Sarieva was invited to lead her own podcast episode about the project and Luchezar Boyadjiev joined her as a special guest. Together they discussed their ideas about the future of the carpet and all art institutions. (Read a transcribtion of the podcast below)
SIT, LambdaLambdaLambda Gallery, Pristina, Kosovo, 2022
In 2022 Sarieva/Gallery, Open Arts Foundation and LambdaLambdaLambda Gallery collaborated on the exhibition "SIT", curated by Vesselina Sarieva. She shares that the idea for the carpet itself is related to the end of the pandemic and was inspired by the Balkan context. It is no coincidence that its first international presentation took place in Pristina, where it had the opportunity to gather other like-minded people to push for institutional change. “SIT” was a carpet-meeting-place-exhibition at LambdaLambdaLambda - Pristina, which aimed to continue the rethinking the artistic territories and institutions. “The Carpet” was reincarnated as a critical weapon against the idea of the gallery as a white cube. In this sense, the presented artists Luchezar Boyadjiev, Pravdoliub Ivanov and Driton Selmani also rediscover and “reimagine” found objects, themes and stereotypes by revealing, changing and adapting their essence. Their creativity goes beyond the banal and seeks new, unexplored and unknown territories.
Exhibitional gesture, part of "Voice Lines", Art Brussels, Brussels, Belgium, 2023
"The Carpet" gathered attention during Art Brussels 2023. Sarieva/Gallery presented Rudi Ninov's solo booth "Voice Lines". Within it's framework the artist and the curator Vesselina Sarieva invited guests to sit down on the carpet and have a talk. They held an "Artist talk on the carpet", during which Ninov reflected on the exhibition gesture as a new egalitarian meeting place in the larger context of his booth.
Vesselina Sarieva & Luchezar Boyadjiev talk about The Carpet (listen to the whole interview here):
“Prishtina is Everywhere” podcast
Episode “The Carpet. Meeting place in your art institution?” by Vesselina Sarieva
Guest speaker: Luchezar Boyadjiev
Take off your shoes. Seat on the ground. Feel the time capsule. A space within a space. A thing between things. Something that happens while other things are happening. A game changer. The future of any art institution. This is every and any carpet. Meta-institutional meeting point freed from possessions. Truth-demanding. Falling apart and reassembling in a new whole breathing. That's what your carpet is. That’s what every carpet is.
“The Carpet” is an experiment and a poetic proposal for the future of the art world. It is seen as a universal place to be equal, to meet artists, curators, visitors, collectors, to provide and receive education, to exchange and build relationships, to give future for art and ideas. “The Carpet” was inspired by a metaphor of the artist Luchezar Boyadjiev, developed by me as a curator in 2021. To mark this moment myself and Luchezar Boyadjiev made collaborative art work titled “The Mad Carpetmaker = Лудият килимар”, 2021. This artwork is a mind map that is travelling between the past of the art and its future. The mind map was presented in a show titled “Future Unforgettable”, Phase VI presented at Sarieva / Gallery in Plovdiv, together with the real “Carpet-gesture”, representing the idea in practice. In this podcast, invited by Catherine Nichols and Manifesta Team, I’m developing the idea, experimenting with it and inviting you to open and create your own carpet - “meeting place”, “gesture” and “environment” in your show, institution or presentation.
As far as I can remember, that was last year in the fall and we were talking about institutions or something like that. This also necessarily involves talks about and conversations about communities - where these institutions are embedded, the players, the activities of institutions, the concerns and everything. In the meantime, the world changed a lot - because of the war, because of debates related to international art exhibitions. I think what is new today, especially in the context of the format of an exhibition such as Manifest 14 in Pristina, what is needed is actually a focal point, the focus of all these debates. Why do we need at all exhibitions? Why do we need at all institutions? We're missing at the moment - we're missing a common denominator - which will make every other debate worth it. Otherwise the conversation about arts, communities, society, history, the past and the future…. Who is offended? Who is not offended? What media is to be used, what references? Do we have a shared past - visible colonialism? What kind of different stories are related to this past? Do we have any shared language to tell stories to each other? These are all central concerns and I think that what we were suggesting with the metaphor of the carpet - as a meeting point for each and every art institution - has all the aspects that we need. The process of weaving the threads of different stories and different players, the colours of different concerns, the patterns that we’re using to make the carpet stick together and then the focal point of the debate. Of course there are many other aspects. The focal point is that we can imagine a situation where we sit together as equals, we take off our shoes. As you said very eloquently and very often, that by taking your shoes you're sort of taking a step forward and sharing and casting away all your prejudices so that you can start talking all over again from a starting point which is shared by everybody. Then I really like and love your idea that each and every art institution - if they wish of course, if they want to, we cannot force it upon them - adopt such an idea and think of maybe establishing such a focal point under maybe the title of a carpet. What form the carpet might take would be their own decision. Just a carpet where everybody can sit together and talk.
Yeah, I was inspired - when you said that before - the art world was teppich. Now it's more like an ecosystem, it is a collaborative space. It's more like a carpet around which we gather. My vision, when you said that, was that it's not like that, we are around the carpet but we are on the carpet - we are horizontal, it's an ecosystem. The carpet represents, in the romantical way, the garden. We are in nature, we are in the garden. Of course, my thoughts are coming, first of all, from my experience in the commercial art world - struggling with positioning gallery from Eastern Europe in the Western context and somehow my idea is, for sure, it's coming from the East. It's connected to humanism, humanity. It's more of a cultural idea than it’s anything else. But when you said that, I really thought: “OK, so we found the pill. We found the universal pill for every art institution.” As you very often say, we need empathy, we need to be together, especially after the pandemic. I think it started happening. Unfortunately, we are still facing radicalism on many levels but still this line exists and I think we need to now make this carpet, to firm this carpet, to make it present. If with this podcast we invite institutions, art institutions, artists, exhibition places to appropriate this idea and continue this idea of having the carpet inside the institution and make that kind of “carpet-inspired” exhibitions, debates, shared libraries, conversations, everything - we can go further in our humanism. No matter if it's related to nowadays topics of war, diseases, pandemics and economical disasters - but around everything that unites us. Do you see some ideas that connect this point to the past? Some artists that work on these topics. Do we have a base?
Yeah, we have a base because we can see it backwards. I mean every carpet is also or might be - thought in terms of layering. It's very good, I had forgotten the word “teppich” which actually refers to a fighting ring or something like this. It is a place where people meet to wrestle, to contest, something like a record or, I don’t know, something like that. On the other hand, there is the term, the word “stage”, global politics and all that which we need to overcome and maybe the carpet as a meeting place would be a good metaphor. Artists that have used it - it is from Alighiero Boetti, to IRWIN and Serge Spitzer. Many artists in the past have used the metaphor, the object, the format, the colouring, the whole idea of a carpet as a sediment where many other things are being invested. Sometimes in the folkloric culture it is the whole - and the whole story of the community or a tribe. Even now the National Pavilion of Kosovo in Venice - there is the work of Jakup Ferri, which is playing with the notion of the carpet as a place where you can sit, lie down, relax, be together without necessarily discussing anything. His carpets are looking very, extremely modernistic in terms of colour and shape - like abstract, very beautiful creations. In our talks, in our development it started not only from a sample of a folkloric kind of based carpet from Bulgaria but also from the notion that the working table of an artist might be also seen as a place where ideas end up being at first like sketched out, then maybe droned, painted, realised and then maybe they leave this surface, where the working surface itself is multi-layered and the working surface itself might be also interpreted as a kind of something that sort of leads to a carpet. If you think of the concerns of an artist, not necessary all artists or all curators, but if you think the concerns of a working table, the concerns that end up and are being processed on the working table and then leave going back into the world - then this you can relate to the working process of an artist to the working process of an institution, whichever it might be, and think of it as a carpet, as material for production of a carpet on which later on everybody can get together - also the audience, the collectors, the critics, the other artists.
It's beautiful. The metaphor of the carpet is beautiful in its multipotentiality. To become like a nest, for nesting ideas and also a breeding ground for giving birth to something new which is shared and with shared authorship as well. The possession of the end product is not clearly defined. Everybody who is part of the process can take out something that she, he or them needs. For me it sounds really beautiful. I mean, even if there are several art institutions - from small NGOs to galleries, to more or less commercial galleries, to project rooms, to larger institutions embedded in bigger cities. If they adopt this notion - I mean it’s nice to just have a carpet where you can sit and feel good about being part of a community and not worrying about fighting on this carpet but actually sitting on and taking off your shoes. It does cleansing a little bit and taking yourself to a different stage of living and then dealing with arts. That would be enrichment for everybody and I think that's the beauty of what we're suggesting and proposing.
It's better for growing. You started, we started, we named, we made the metaphor living with this art object “The Mad Carpetmaker” that you were just talking about. It was on your table, you were having different layers of papers, newspapers, where you started combining different ideas and just putting them on paper with drawings and text. As you said, this process in art-making, this process in exhibition-making, this process of everything is already here, it's a “carpet-based” process of making the textile, the body of the work or the fabric. What we forgot, I think, is the moment of surrender, the moment of just not playing our role and our ego, our position as curators, artists, gallerists, directors of institutions, educators, audiences, collectors. I think we are so much working on our social presence - so if we surrender, if we leave this social presence, then we can really remove our shoes and just sit and be barefoot and be horizontal. Conversation without purpose, without time. Just being under the level of the art works as well.
A lot of possibilities come to mind. Basically what we're talking about now is also pulling all the strings and threads and mixing and somehow weaving them all together into a carpet or, if you wish, into a trampoline to start something new. That you can sit on and think about the next stage but you need to pull everything together somehow, weave it together and make something meaningful again. We also should not forget, I mentioned the name of Serge Spitzer - rest in peace. An artist of a Jewish-Romanian origin, whom I got to know because of our friend - the famous, word-legendary - curator and collector René Block during his Istanbul Biennial in 1995. For this biennial Serge had created, with weavers and carpet-makers in Istanbul or in Turkey, a huge gilded carpet from gilded thread. It was an amazing object that was not displayed on the floor but it was displayed rolled up and high up on some sidewall in between the other installations. You need to look up to see it rolled up. I was thinking this is a beautiful object - if you put it down on the floor it would look like the carpets by IRWIN with all the communities of artists from Eastern Europe. Their world art map exists as a carpet as well with many artists and curators are depicted - as if connected in a network, as if there is a thread between them running. In Serge's case it was referring to refugees. So we can think of a carpet also in terms of isolation material, that is sort of providing warmth and human security; human warmth and intimacy, which is the ground for empathy. You sit together, it warms you up. You are immediately in a surrounding like a safe area, where you can not just start spilling your coffee. You have to be careful, you have to be attentive to other people's limbs, to other people's hands and legs and body gestures. Somehow this is the point. The carpet as a refuge rather, as a shelter from institutional history that you can use to think of something new and the next stage.
I think it's also a universal moment of restart. Honestly, personally I feel it as a restart. Of course you need a special set, you need special curating of this environment. I don't think that every show can host such a “carpet-context”. There are “carpet-shows”, it's a “carpet-time”, “carpet-concept”, “carpet-everything”. If we define carpet as a game-changer then everything can be changed and it's a kind of time capsule. For example, there are questions that arise. If we have a “carpet-show”, what will this “carpet-show” look like? What will be the level of the art works? Is it - as we usually do - 1,50 or 1,55 metres on the level of the eyes? What does it mean “the level of the eyes”? It is very different, first of all, for someone that can see and feel art. “Carpet-shows” might have different eye levels, for example. “Carpet-shows” can orient the show into the corner. The carpet doesn’t have to be at the centre. The idea is to decentralise the exhibition place. In an exhibition place you always have a dead point where no one is going. For example, everyone is going around the artworks. It's some linear context. It's kind of a stage also hosting these talks. The idea of the smell is also different. That smell at this level on the ground floor is probably different or the sound is different. There are lots of things that can…. I don’t know, it can be as a bomb, as something that destroys everything.
Yeah, but without erasing it. There is this beautiful…. or maybe it's not so beautiful. There is this English language expression “to sweep something under the carpet”, which means that the carpet exists and you're sweeping all your problems under the carpet. Temporarily you don't see them or hide them from everybody else. Of course, there are many other expressions. All that I'm saying is that the carpet is such a powerful metaphor and there are so many possibilities. If you apply that to the context of art, arts institutions, exhibitions, concern and so on, many new things can come out of it. Some past will be cancelled by necessity but a new future will be imagined as well. All we need to do is promote the idea for carpeting. Not really the American way of putting carpets wall-to-wall. At the same time, what you were referring to, like institutional displacement and installations, there is also this wall-to-wall idea that all walls are covered with artworks. There is this kind of wall-to-wall insurance for artworks - for example, when you are transporting artworks to another country. There are so many words we can use. I think the main thing is pulling the threads, the stories that many people are developing with their lives, with their artworks and somehow pulling them together and seeing what unites them and not what disunites them. The weave, the carpet, the weaving of the carpet is a great metaphor for that - as a step in something for the future. Maybe we should open the floor and the carpet for other participants. Open the carpet, spread the carpet. It sounds like an open-carpet podcast.
Let's continue dreaming and visioning. Let's hope we will be more and people will join us. We can dream about this together and why not to make it happen. Lucho, thank you so much. Thank you so much for your inspiration, for your constant hugs. You hug ideas, you give hugs and you share. Thank you for the warmth. Thanks.
You can write about it, develop the concept with us, curate “carpet-exhibitions”, “carpet-talks”, “carpet-environment” or even make “carpet-art”. Contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org or follow the #TheCarpetMeetingPlace.