The fable comes to life.
Tamás Komoróczky puts the magic carpet in the centre of his exhibition at Videospace.
The flying textile has concerned humans for a long time, and it was the reason for the Japanese astronaut Vakata Koichi to test if he could float through the Kibo space laboratory by an object resembling an inflatable mattress in the state of weightlessness in 2009. He succeeded.
The flying carpet is a miraculous belief of a bygone age. That is, the manifestation of that miracle.
The 13th century Jewish scholastic philosopher, Isaac Ben Sherira has written the short history of magic carpets. He cites two ancient texts in his chronicle: a collection of parables published by Shamsha-Ad, the minister of the Babylonian Nebuchadnezzar, and a collection of dialugues by the Roman Jewish historian Josephus. Both works are lost, which makes the credibility of Ben Sherira’s fable about the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon difficult to establish.
He claims that the queen’s alchemist designed a small brown carpet in 977 B.C., which could rise a few meters above ground. The sorcerer kept experimenting, and the queen sent the outcome to King Solomon as a love token. The green silk carpet woven with gold was ornamented with precious stones, it was protected from the sun by a flock of birds, and it was so long that it could accommodate the king’s whole court.
However, the king did not accept it but passed it on to his courtiers. Upon hearing the news, the queen got so upset that she never had such a flying device made any more.
There might be something to the story, as it is also mentioned in the Quran, although the carpet is only floating high in the wind there, as Allah granted Solomon rule over the winds. According to the legend, the king flew so fast on the wings of the wind that if he had breakfast in Damascus, he could have his dinner in Medina (the distance between the two cities is 1320 km).
The carpet obeyed King Solomon’s will, but when the ruler got far too conceited, it began to shake, which caused the death of 40.000 people.
Ben Sherira also recalls a peculiar case in 776 AD which was a great obstacle to the spread of the flying carpet.
The figure of a turbaned man appeared above the minaret in Baghdad one Friday afternoon. Everyone in the bazaar was astounded, as though they had seen a ghost. However, the poor devil was but a soldier who had served in the palace, and was once caught holding the hand of the youngest princess. The eunuchs threw him out of the palace, and beat him up badly. When the caliph heard the story, it kindled his anger. He got the princess locked up in the tower of the palace, and in order to humiliate her, he decided to marry her to the royal executioner, a black slave from Zanzibar. However, the soldier Mustafa came for his lover. He climbed up the minaret, rescued her lover through the window, and seated her on a flying carpet. The body guards chased them on their Arabian stallions in vain, the carpet vanished forever among the clouds.
The caliph ordered a pursuit of the carpet makers. Thirty craftsmen were beheaded, and all objects resembling flying carpets were gathered in.
Craftsmen who stayed alive fled to Bukhara (a city of Uzbekistan today), where the emir gave them a residence permit.
All this happened a decade before the rule of Harun al-Rashid, that is, the writing of the Arabian Nights.
As opposed to various Aladdin and Sindbad adaptations, the big story collection links the flying carpet to the name of the Persian prince Hussain, who bought one during his travels in the Indian Bisnaga kingdom (Vijayanagara Empire). The carpet seemed to be useless at first sight, but its hidden capacities came to light with time.
Ben Sherira mentions yet another story that led to the decline of carpet making. In 1213 Behrooz, Prince of the Persian Dominion of Khorasan fell in love with a young Jewish girl, Ashirah, whose father was a carpet maker. Despite his family’s protest, Behrooz married the girl, and asked his father-in-law to weave two dozens of flying carpets for him.
When the carpets were prepared, he seated his men on them, provided them with arrows dipped in rattle snake’s poison, Armenian daggers and fireballs, and came to the help of his father who was at war with the neighbouring Kvarezm shah. The castle was easily conquered by the army arriving from the sky.
However, the father began to dread the son with „celestial power”, and therefore had him blinded. He banished the prince’s pregnant wife and father-in-law from the country, and had the carpets destroyed.
However, the case when a turbaned man flew from Samarkand (Uzbekistan) to Isfahan (Iran) years later was reinforced by several eye witnesses, so it seems that the carpet industry was eventually only done for by the Mongolian conquest.
Genghis Khan’s soldiers found flying carpets in 1226. One of the prisoners admitted that the construction was much more useful than any ponies. The Khan got angry and had him beheaded, then ordered all the flying carpets in the empire to be confiscated. This put an end to their history (so far).
Ben Sherira also shares the working mechanism of the carpet with his readers, but unfortunately some parts of the text are indecipherable.
At first sight, the carpet showed no difference from its traditional counterparts, its „miracle” lay in the painting procedures.
The craftsmen came upon a special kind of clay in intact mountain springs. When they heated this to the temperature of the seventh level of Hell in a cauldron, it assumed an anti-magnetic property.
The masters rubbed the (wool) thread with the material this procedure resulted, and then it was taken to the loom. The carpet prepared in this way could then float a few or even a hundred meters above ground, depending on the concentration of clay used.
The creation of a flying carpet would open up new perspectives in air traffic.
There would be a network of invisible skyways with mobile bars, rest areas and quick carpet repair services in the air. Those who had no carpets of their own could use the wide offering of rent-a-carpet, from simple rag carpets to Persian rugs. There could be single, family and tripper versions for larger companies.
In 2005, the Turkish designer Soner Ozenc prepared a carpet that oriented its owner towards Mecca. The carpet named Sajjadah 1426 projects a luminescent writing on the wall, while the its border ornaments and the image of a mosque in the centre also light up. This method could also solve the problem of lighting the flying carpets by night with a slight development.
However, the flying carpet is but a pretext for Komoróczky, an alibi. The carpet is a symbol for wanderlust and freedom, for overcoming boundaries, as it helps us eliminate distances. No air tickets needed, it is driven by mere desire.
Or, rather, it is psychokinesis, the human thought forcing its will on inanimate objects. Similarly to Luke Skywalker, who lifts the cliff by mere concentration during his training to be a Jedi knight.
After psychokinesis comes extramotorics, when objects and material carriers of information are programmed by suggestion. Thus we have arrived at navigation.
Naturally, all this is also relevant for the creative process, the way the artist gives life to inanimate matter through his ideas. The „animated” matter separates from its creator, strives to break away from him completely, but its creator rules over it by the power of his will, and drives the self-righteous product back to its designated path.
The installation entitled Dreams woven about achievement is a carpet hanging in space, which gives the impression of floating. This is a kind of attempt by Komoróczky to escape because of the disturbing – political, economic, mental – signs dominating in the world. According to the artist’s prognosis by precognition, the spread of uncertainty and fear will not stop in the near future, and the only available option is to escape. Escape into another world, another dimension, and into artistic creation.
The neon installation illuminating the gallery wall, entitled The Carpet of Souls, is a reference to a prayer rug, the patterns of which are interwoven with symbols of God and the soul, as well as to magical texts which help concentration and fulfil the miracle.
Hand looped carpets are like picture books, if one is familiar with the interpretation of patterns and ornaments, one is able to read from them.
Prayer rugs (Sajjadah) are often ornamented with religious symbols: the lamps recall the lamps of mosques, the comb and the water jug remind us of the obligatory wash before prayer. The strictly bounded inner part of the rug symbolises the worldly order, and the borders weaving around it refer to finiteness. The field in the end depicts the mihrab of the mosque (the Kaaba shrine of Mecca, that is, the direction of the prayer, the niche or board indicating the Quibla) in a stylised form with or without columns. Caucasian prayer rugs often also have a stylised hand shape on both sides of the mihrab: this indicates where the hand should be placed during prayer.
In addition to the specific religious symbols, the carpets are also ornamented with other symbolic motives. We often find on them the flame of the immortal spirit, the Boteh or tree of life, which connects the human and the divine worlds, as it is the emblem of the ordained prophet, the manifestation of God. The tree in which there is no death. They often bear geometrical shapes and animal figures proclaiming the order of the world: the peacock symbolising the figure of the prophet who brings the message of God to the people, the Herati fish pattern symbolising renewal and immortality, the Phoenix reflecting the human soul or the figure of the bird that stands for Paradise and freedom. Vegetal patterns (Gül) symbolise eternal life and the garden of Paradise, lily stands for spiritual purity, iris for liberation from earthly bonds, and cyprus for life after death.
As the representation of the human form is forbidden in Islam, quotes from the Quran have become decorative elements. The Tughra inscription, a signature of one of the names of the prophet or Allah is also woven into the carpet in Kufic script.
The patterns are all addressed to the soul, proclaiming purification or deliverance, so that the believer can be flown to Paradise by the prayer rug one day. This is why in some places, especially among the Turks of Anatolia, the dead person is covered with a prayer rug before being put in the coffin to this day.
Komoróczky’s various inscriptions, such as Aku, Engin or Entrópia (the latter referring to the physical quantity characterising the capacity of matter for change) all correspond to some kind of scientific magical text, as humans of our times have substituted magic by science, and trust the principles of physics more than their own desires. The flying carpet is driven by thought, but it is easier to imagine with an engine.
Philosophical Wallpaper with a Droning Pattern is a „tapestry” consisting of 12 monitors in which versions of the same visual material appear randomly, yielding a modern carpet pattern. As each individual picture is diversified by internal motion, the tapestry changes moment by moment. Komoróczky’s already familiar musicality is present here, too, with different sounds to accompany the movement.
Pattern variations correspond to cultural memes, which build up human culture and society similarly to genes in the living organism.
Memes represent the concept of the unit of cultural transfer or the unit of imitation. Elementary units comprising the multitude are based on a pattern, that is, they multiply by reproduction. This involves a process in which the pattern comes to an independent life, it is passed on, but can also change in reproduction, that is, mutations may occur.
Finally, society or the environment selects for the variations that are realised based on the differences, mostly as a result of deliberation. It finds mutations worth recording and remembers them, or consciously rejects and forgets them, and they are deselected. Only the stronger, more influential memes survive. Mutations have repercussions on the initial sample, which will itself change in this way. The variations will sometimes strengthen, at other times weaken or modify each other, creating innumerable instances of uniqueness.
Patterns or structures are thus accidental and strive to get standardised at the same time. Seemingly disintegrating pieces of the world do in fact comprise a unity, a deeper connection.
Similarly, carpet weavers take over tribal patterns from their parents, and reconstruct them based on remembrance, but add their own variations and creativity during the procedures. Modified knowledge is then transmitted to the next generation. This is how memes are passed on.
Komoróczky’s carpet patterns also symbolise the construction of the Universe, as – according to our current knowledge – it is built up of the multiplication and different combinations of a single indivisible elementary particle inconceivable to the human mind.
The whole fear and escapism is dissolved in the law of the tapestry, constantly changing and yet permanent: whether the carpet is flying or resting on the ground becomes insignificant, for we travel on it anyway.