For me, a carpet represents a portal, and creates a piece of land upon a piece of land,
a replacement of the space, a support for the body. It permits you to physically step into
a shaped part of the world, and separates what is underneath its surface both from the
eye and from reality.

There are three layers that a carpet creates, covers and supports: a given reality – a floor,
a wall, an object and the context in which they are situated; the surface of the carpet – its pattern or image; and the one underneath it – the part of reality that the carpet covers and that we cannot see.

If we look at the image of the magic carpet as a metaphor for the carpet itself, for its power
to transform, it could be approached as a medium for design as revelatory of reasons and
of the absurd, as a study and a reutilization of “special effects” – images and structures that script given realities – juxtaposing ways of reading and of seeing. The magic carpet is a medium for design because it determines and enables a capacity for transition between
the different layers of reality.

I’ve been wondering then what would a contemporary magic carpet or a contemporary nomad be, as those moments and places where realities melt down and perspectives change creating a state of in between.
We find ourself then over there – with our memories, somewhere else – with our desires, and though here – for a certain time.
How to visualize the reality and the imaginary in a moment of intermediary life?

An image is not strong because it is brutal or fantastic, but because the associations of ideas that it creates is distant and accurate. What makes the image is then the collision between the near and the distant. The image is then not in those that we show, but in their gap: by definition it is not visible, yet it is the one that exists the most.

Those three magic carpets are an attempt to visualize this in-between by using the classical structure of carpets, and by using the image of the carpet to create new places through man made elements that construct a new geography of space, time and movement.



[…] He strolled past the window-displays of luxury goods, glancing briefly at their jewellery, clothing and scent bottles, then called at the bookshop where he leafed through a couple
of magazines before choosing an undemanding book: travel, adventure, spy fiction. Then
he resumed his unhurried progress.

He was enjoying the feeling of freedom imparted by having got rid of his luggage and at the same time, more intimately, by the certainty that, now that he was ‘sorted out’, his identity registered, his boarding pass in his pocket, he had nothing to do but wait for the sequence of events. […] these days, surely, it was in these crowded places where thousands of individual itineraries converged for a moment, unaware of one another, that there survived something of the uncertain charm of the waste lands, the yards and building sites, the station platforms and waiting rooms where travellers break step, of all the chance meeting places where fugitive feelings occur of the possibility of continuing adventure, the feeling that all there
is to do is to ‘see what happens’.

The passengers boarded without problems. […]
Waiting for take-off, while newspapers were being distributed, he glanced through the company’s in-flight magazine and ran his finger along the imagined route of the journey: Heraklion, Larnaca, Beirut, Dhahran, Dubai, Bombay, Bangkok… more than nine thousand kilometers in the blink of an eye, and a few names which had cropped up in the news over the years. He cast his eye down the duty-free price list, noted that credit cards were accepted on intercontinental flights, and read with a certain smugness the advantages conferred by the ‘business class’ in which he was travelling […] Club lounges are provided where you can rest, make telephone calls, use a photocopier or Minitel… Apart from personal welcome and constant attentive service, the new Espace 2000 seat has been designed for extra width and has separately adjustable backrest and headrest…. He examined briefly the digitally labelled control panel of his Espace 2000 seat and then, drifting back into the advertisements in the magazine […]. Then he came across an advertisement for a car with the same name as his seat, the Renault Espace: ‘One day, the need for space makes itself felt… It comes to us without warning. And never goes away. The irresistible wish for a space of our own. A mobile space which can take us anywhere. A space where everything is to hand and nothing is lacking…’ Just like the aircraft really. ‘Already, space
is inside you… You’ve never been so firmly on the ground as you are in (the E)space,’ the advertisement ended pleasingly.

— Marc Augé, <em>Non-Places, Introduction to an Anthropology of Super-modernity</em>, 1995




[…] And they republished this letter, which Barthes had sent to Antonioni. Barthes says:
‘I think of the words of the painter Braque: «The painting is finished when it has erased the idea.» I think of Matisse drawing an olive tree, from his bed, and after a while, starting to observe the empty spaces between the branches and discovering that, through this new perspective he escaped the usual image of the object being drawn, the “olive tree” cliché. Matisse thus discovered the principle of oriental art, which always seeks to paint the empty space, or rather seizes the object to be represented at the rare moment when its fully identity suddenly chooses a new space that of the interstice.’

It’s true that a film like “A Morning and an Evening” it’s an incredible film… The film starts… He isn’t a photographer, but he always incorporates photography into what he writes. He starts with two images. The photo of a man on the first day of his adult life. It’s a photo… possibly a wedding picture… we see a couple, a man and a woman, there’s a feeling of love. And we see the final image, this man, in front of a firing squad… the second before he dies. And there’s nothing between the two! The role assigned to cinema is to tell the story between the two moments. Well, he no longer assigns it that role. He’s erased everything. By removing what’s between the two, he opened a gaping hole, and the hole is time. It’s a rift. You see, it’s possible that Anna in “L’Avventura” fell into a rift, between two rocks. And here, this man, his life in “A Morning and an Evening”, his life fell between two rocks. First moment, last moment, and between them, there’s nothing. We’re in the cut. The character’s life is caught in the splice between these two photos, but this splice is also that empty space Barthes evoked in relation to Matisse.

— Eric Baudelaire & Philippe Azoury, <em>The Makes, An adaptation of Michelangelo Antonioni’s notes on un-made films</em> published in “That Bowling Alley on the Tiber”, 26′, 2009



On Magic Carpets
Martina Petrelli

“Behind all things are reasons. Reasons can even explain the absurd.

Do we have the time to learn the reason behind the human being’s varied behaviour?
I think not. Some take the time. Are they called detectives designers?”
Twin Peaks, Episode 1, Season 1, Log Lady introduction – personal variation

On the wall in front of me is a Palestinian educational index of towers in the world, smaller than a sheet of A4. On its light-green background are printed twelve square stickers, ready to be peeled off and be stuck on or near anything and everything the imagination can connect these images to. In the bottom row, in the centre, is the Tower of Babel – the only imaginary and mythological tower among the twelve. This divergent element gives a different perspective to the others: the Tower of Pisa as the bell tower of the Field of Miracles; the Statue of Liberty as Liberty Enlightening the World; the Taj Mahal as a jewel of Muslim art; the Great Pyramid of Giza as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World; Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock as the Foundation Stone; the Great Sphinx as the oldest known monumental sculpture; Petra’s Al Khazneh as “the Treasury”; Big Ben as the largest chiming clock in the world; the Eiffel Tower as the symbol of the 1889 World’s Fair celebrating the centennial of the French Revolution; Hagia Sophia as church, basilica, cathedral, mosque and then museum; the Great Wall of China as a 21,196-kilometre protection wall, a form
of border control and way to regulate immigration, emigration and trade.
This card hangs on the wall in front of my desk, with a silkscreen print of the first canvas of the Mnemosyne Atlas, by Aby Warburg, art historian and pioneer of iconology. In my mind,
it represents a synthesis of my thought and practice: a story constructed by ways of seeing,
a perfect example of reality, reason and iconographic juxtaposition as a means of critique.



A carpet represents a portal, and a piece of land. It covers a piece of land, a universe; it creates a piece of land upon a piece of land, a replacement of the space, a support for the body. And it is a portal because it permits you to physically separate from the world you’re in by stepping into a shaped part of it. When a carpet is not on the floor or on the wall but on an object, it separates what is underneath it both from the eye and from reality. The carpet itself acquires an unexpected shape; its surface is deformed, adding or subtracting from its properties of transition. The image which interests me the most is that of the magic carpet – and more specifically that of the flying carpet. There are three layers that a carpet creates, covers and supports : a given reality – a floor, a wall, an object and the context in which they are situated; the surface of the carpet – its pattern or image; and the one underneath it – the part of reality that the carpet covers and that we cannot see.
Magic carpets seem to me to represent a mythical dimension, an expression of a fable.
Not quite a story, not quite a novel, a fable is both of these and more. Made for children, it presents a life lesson which – through an implicit morality – contains layersof absurdity, of metaphor and of interpretations which can be read with sexual, political and social attributes.


“Instead of proceeding towards auto-transparency, the society of human sciences and of generalized communication proceeded towards something that could be generally called
‘the fabulation of the world’. The images of the world that are given us by the media and by human science, even though on different levels, constitute the objectivity itself of the world, not only the different interpretations of a ‘reality’ which is in any case ‘given’.

According to Nietzsche, ‘There are no facts, only interpretations. The real world became a fable in its end.’ It makes no sense to purely and simply deny a ‘unitarian reality’ of the world, somehow trying to revive ingenuous forms of empiric idealism. It makes more sense to recognize that what we call the ‘reality of the world’ is something which is constituted as
a ‘context’ of multiple fabulations.

—Gianni Vattimo, The Transparent Society


The installation The Blue Carpet by Ilya and Emilia Kabakov radically changes the physical approach within the white cube and, with the distribution of the small frames along the floor, creates a new mode of seeing. Members of the Moscow Conceptualists, Ilya and Emilia Kabakov developed a special form of installation, the “total installation”. In the late 1980s, they transformed all the prints and paintings they produced into three-dimensional spaces. This special form of installation was produced both inside and outside the museum context. The key element of a “total installation”, which Kobakov defines as an “entirely transformed space”, is the specific way in which the exhibition room is transformed and presented in the form of an open space. The visitors, who play a central role in these installations, often find themselves confronted with a strong narrative structure. In a lecture of 1993, Kobakov described the dramaturgical effect of his installations as follows: “In the total installation,
the viewer, who so far has felt rather free, like he does when viewing paintings or sculptures, finds himself controlled by the installation when he is near one. In a certain sense, he is both a victim and a viewer.”


The Blue Carpet could be compared to a prayer rug as a medium for abstracting and decontextualising the body from the space. In fact, the inclination of the chest produces an effect of disorientation: the horizontal becomes vertical and the surface becomes depth.
At the time of the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet army, Afghans, using the format of the prayer rug, started to weave classically structured carpets on which Kalashnikovs and grenades replaced traditional ornamental patterns and the shape of the mirhab transformed into an airport. These carpets are current today in Vietnam, America, Africa and Asia and display the maps of actual conflicts. These war rugs may originate in a magical memory belief that a carpet has the power to protect or to separate its owner from danger. But what becomes the map of a specific time and context on a prayer rug’s surface? Do we place ourselves in that context when we stand on it? And when it comes to political portraits,
what does a carpet featuring an icon mean?



The key technique of the carpet – knots – creates a background or a context. The knot is
a dot, a space in itself, a whole. I see an example in the Venus of Willendorf. This figure of a woman, this tiny statue, is only 10 centimeters high. It fits in the palm of the hand, so it could be carried from place to place by the nomad who created it. The Venus is clearly unrealistic: her breasts, stomach and hips are grotesquely big. Even her sexual organs are extremely pronounced. She may have been a symbol of fertility or of motherhood, but that doesn’t explain why her arms and feet are almost nonexistent, or why her face isn’t shown at all.
The absence of hands, feet, eyes and mouth makes human interaction impossible. She was not made for exchanges with us but with superior entities, presumably to be planted in the ground. On her head we can see a headdress represented by a spiral composed of dots. This was probably a way of interacting with the superior entities, from the soil to the sky by means of a spiral – a universe, a reality composed of dots, closed circle shapes, elements
of a whole.

As the element for creating the surface and the carpet’s context, I associate the knot with a grain of sand. Not willing to refer to a biblical meaning – “earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust” – I approach the sand at the level of its single unit as something impalpable, as an essence, a given time, as a reality of infinite universes in which all possibilities are realized
in all likely combinations. The Library of Babel by Jorge Luis Borges gives the most striking example of this growing and vertiginous grid of divergent times, convergent times and parallel times. Borges himself refers to sand in his short story The Book of Sand: “He told
me his book was called the Book of Sand, because neither the book nor the sand has any beginning or end.”

“Each smallest object is approached as the center of a grid of relations that the writer cannot unfollow, multiplying the details so that his descriptions and divagations become infinite. From each starting point the discourse extends up to always englobe horizons, and if it could continue to develop in all directions it would embrace the whole universe.”
—Italo Calvino, Six Memos for the Next Millennium


Italo Calvino writes about a Collection of Sand as well, as a “Need to transform the sliding
of our existence in a series of objects saved from dispersion.” Nevertheless, the number of vials of different sand, presented one close to the other, displays a certain incompatibility between the objects in the collection and the gesture: all the sensations and particularities
of the different spaces from which the sand has been taken are lost. But Calvino cannot believe that the person who persisted with such a gesture didn’t know what he was doing:

“Maybe exactly to turn away the uproar of deforming sensations, the confused wind of the already lived; so to finally have the dusty substance of all things, to touch the siliceous structure of existence. This is why he doesn’t turn away his eyes from those sands, he enters with his look in one of the vials, he digs his hole, he identifies himself, he pulls out
of it the myriad of information
crammed into a small pile of sand. Each ‘gray,’ once decomposed in clear and dark grains, shiny and opaque, spherical, polyhedral, flat, is no longer seen as gray but only then starts to make us understand the meaning of ‘gray.’ Deciphering in this way the diary of the melancholic (or happy?) collector of sand, I came to ask myself what is written in the sand of words that I lined up in my life, that sand that now appears to me so far away from the beaches and from the deserts of the living. Perhaps by fixating the sand as sand, the words as words, we could come closer to understand how and to which extent the shredded and eroded world can still find in itself a foundation and a model.”


In the tradition known as Oriental, the magic carpet is associated with ideas of levitation,
of magic and of nomadism. The historian Sergio Bettini said that the carpet is the “house of those who don’t have a house, it is the shape that the nomad gives to his own life – to all the displacements which liberate us from the adherence to the world”, thus, also displacements of imagination.


Describing the decoration of carpets, Persians use the word zemân, which means “time”. The decoration stands out from its background, which is called zemîn. What we perceive
as a surface quality of the carpet is instead conceived as a technique for transporting the carpet, its owner, the space it represents and the person or object it carries through time
and space.


In Persia, from the sixth century on, the art of garden carpets developed. Opposed to the tribal carpets with their geometrical figures, they featured flower ornamentation. A legend says that in 562, Khosrow I, the king of Persia, ordered a carpet so big that he could walk
in its alleys when it was too cold to go out in the real gardens. Thinking about this legend,
we could say that we don’t walk on a carpet but enter the space that it confines. More than
an optical involvement, it also englobes the whole body. Furthermore, if carpets can be described as gardens, by analogy, gardens themselves become carpets.


“He found him under a pine tree, sitting on the ground, arranging fallen pine cones in a regular design: an isosceles triangle. At that hour of dawn, Agilulf always needed to apply himself to some precise exercise: counting objects, arranging them in geometric patterns, resolving problems of arithmetic. It was the hour in which objects lose the consistency of shadow that accompanies them during the night and gradually reacquire colors, but seem
to cross meanwhile an uncertain limbo,
faintly touched, just breathed on by light – the hour
in which one is least certain of the
world’s existence.”

—Italo Calvino, The Nonexistent Knight


This limbo is where realities melt down, as the figure of a door in a carpet transforms
and changes all perspectives. Represented on most prayer rugs, the mirhab is an arched doorway and passage indicating the direction to the Kaaba. Detached from my culture
and from my beliefs, I simply see it as a door, as one of the most representative elements
for going from one space to another – on a surface which is determined to contain the body
and to be portable. The Kaaba is in itself a cubical structure, “dressed” with black silk fabric. Islamic culture gives a lot of importance to the beauty of objects and creatures as a way
of praising the creator’s work, and dressing the Kaaba gives it a visual and spiritual value.
But the idea of dressing architecture with something that could be similar to tapestry – a
wall carpet – is particularly triggering. By a correlation of forms and of meanings, I’ve been replacing the mirhab as a door and the Kaaba as a cubic structure – where all faces are
the same, allowing a transition between all spaces and directions – by imagining the representation of the following architectures on a carpet.

The Villa Rotonda by Andrea Palladio: Constructed on a square floor plan which is itself included in a circle, the Villa’s corners are placed towards the cardinal points, and it presents four identical facades. Its physical approach will then be the same from each side, making it impossible to perceive the interior’s spatial structure and radically reducing the whole exterior architecture to a “passage”.

The Palace of Italian Civilisation: Also called the Square Colosseum, it could be approached as an extreme example of an architectural cube as a means of transition between spaces and realities. On its four sides, the windows are represented in the same way as its entrances. The facades are literally composed of counterforms of the repeated arched
door shape, which presents us with 216 possible entrances, points of view and realities.

The Twin Churches: Their architecture is apparently the same. Their floor plans are the main difference: Santa Maria dei Miracoli has a circular base, while Santa Maria in Montesanto has an elliptic one. The main purpose of their construction was to organise the northern entrance to Rome and to shape the three main axes for accessing the city. (Their architecture is apparently the same, and doubling such a Baroque structure is visually intriguing and interesting as a basic idea.)

Postman Cheval’s Ideal Palace: Represents the same notions as the three other works of architecture with an opposite appearance and structure. It took Ferdinand Cheval thirty three years to model this architectural monument, in which “all styles from all countries and all eras are mixed and join together” – one can physically walk through time and imagery by means of the architecture. The profusion of the surface and the structure meets both the classical ornamentation of the carpet and the war rug idea of mapping a specific time and context.



My first approach to the object of the carpet has been through the notion of “scripted spaces”. These are architectures, urbanism and contexts which, by their construction and their imagery, influence our way of being and acting. Norman Klein, creator of this term, refers to a wide range of elements in The Vatican to Vegas: Baroque churches are “programmed” the same way as casinos, airports and shopping malls. Klein defines scripted spaces as a special-effects environment: “Special effects are not only a barometer of politics, myths of identity and economic relations, but an instructive parallel for understanding where our civilization may be headed next.”


When I tried to scale down the notion of scripted spaces using an object, the carpet appeared as a representation of a convergence of all the thoughts and meanings that had occurred to me. A carpet seemed to shape a basic notion of scripted spaces by the fact that it defines a piece of land and we find ourselves confined when we step on it. However, a carpet does not oblige our way of behaving. If we look at the image of the magic carpet as
a metaphor for the carpet itself, for its power to transform, it could be approached as a medium for design that links back to scripted spaces and to the Log Lady’s introduction: design as revelatory of reasons and of the absurd, as a study and a reutilisation of “special effects” – images and structures that script given realities – through the construction of fables – juxtaposing ways of reading and of seeing. The magic carpet is a medium for design because it determines and enables a capacity for transition between the different layers
of reality that it creates, covers and supports.


— March 2013




→ Exhibition Domestic Affairs
by Bureau Europa, Dutch Design Exchange, and the Institute of Relevant Studies, taking place during the PASSAGEN in Cologne, 19 – 25 January 2015.
The exhibition takes place at the Kunsthaus Rhenania.

In this exhibition, we try to understand the above conditions and their impact through the lens of the interior. We blur our homes on digital ‘street views’, build Faraday cages around beds, at the same time we let strangers stay in our homes and share pictures of what we eat online; earning a penny for each click. Our home is no longer just a place to live; it’s a means of sustenance, a place where we participate in or disturb political systems, and also a place where we are part of the global economy. DOMESTIC AFFAIRS explores the house as an interface to our social, economic, and political lives.

DOMESTIC AFFAIRS features the work of Atelier NL, Konrad Bialowas, Bas van Beek, Robin Bergman, Laura Cornet, Droog Lab, Earnest Studio, EventArchitectuur, Govert Flint, Maaike Fransen, Alix Gallet, Corradino Garofalo, Ward Goes, Imme van der Haak, Gerard Jasperse, Elisa van Joolen, Chris Kabel, Anja Kaiser, Merel Karhof, Martti Kalliala, Noortje de Keijzer, Erik Kessels, Pieteke Korte, Arnout Meijer, Mieke Meijer, Metahaven, Minale Maeda, Karel Martens, Migle Nevieraite, Simone C. Niquille, Ruben Pater, Pelidesign, Martina Petrelli, Pinar&Viola, Dirk Ploos van Amstel MA, Lianne Polinder, Lex Pott, Prins & Van Boven, Helmut Smits, Studio Makkink & Bey, Jenna Sutela, Rasmus Svensson, Mark Jan van Tellingen, Raw Color, Studio Job, Thomas Vailly, Jesse Visser and more.



→ Exhibition COMING SOON: Real Imaginary Futures
at Bureau Europa, Maastricht 24 May – 2 August 2014

On May 24 at 5 pm, Bureau Europa opens the exhibition COMING SOON: Real Imaginary Futures. With landscape as a metaphor, the exhibition asks what lies at the heart of our contemporary utopias. From inspiration in the past and urgencies of the present, to projections of possible futures, the needs and virtues of our time (ecology, economy, social cohesion and technology) are extrapolated and implicitly worked into the exhibition and its parallel program.

Participants in COMING SOON are:
Ruben Pater, Atelier van Lieshout, Studio Smack, Studio Swine, Alicia Framis, Sandro Setola, Rachel Sussman, Samah Hijawi, MAP Architects, Julijonas Urbonas, Studio Makkink&Bey, Enzo Mari, Imme van der Haak, Theo Jansen, Arne Hendriks, DUS Architects, TD Architects, Kyra van Ineveld, N55, Anthony Lau, Nelly Ben Hayoun, WHIM Architecten, Emre Huner, The Why Factory, Bitcaves, Dingeman Deijs, Martina Petrelli, R&Sie(n), Urban-Think Tank, El-Ab Architects, Maarten vanden Eynde, David Benqué, Mathias Schweizer, HY Architects, OFL Architects, Ben Landau, Bas van Beek, Bureau D’Etudes, Arjen de Leeuw, Rob Voermans, Fairphone, Point Supreme Architects, MVRDV, Constant Dullaart, Persijn Broersen & Margit Lukács, Femke Herregraven, Metahaven, Jonas Staal and others.

Expressions of longing for another place, of a dream landscape, the ideal city or an alternatively organised society go far back in time. Some 500 years ago, in his 1516 publication, Utopia, Thomas Moore described a traveller’s quest on his way to a safe haven: an imaginary island isolated from the rest of the world, where one can live in an unusual reality. Such searches for an alternative are one of the prominent features of utopian narratives.

COMING SOON: Real Imaginary Futures is an exhibition about this desire for an imaginary reality: an eclectic overview of utopian efforts, stories, and practices through the history of mankind. An extensive archive of illustrative examples, particularly from Western cultural and visual history, provides the basis for a genealogy of utopian images and ideas. In addition to this historical overview, a cinematic “Docutopia” is developed. After literature, film is considered to be the medium of choice for imagining other worlds. The spatial works in the exhibition are contemporary projections of the near future, and are more than mere representations of escapist fantasy worlds. They claim the right to exist through other ways of thinking about the structure of the world around us, and kick-starting our imaginations. The selected works are evocative and positioned between fact and fiction. COMING SOON examines the critical potential of this imaginary space (or spaces) between reality and utopian projection. The promise of change, improvement, and imagination lies at the heart of every design and is a crucial part within design disciplines.

With landscape as a metaphor, the exhibition asks what lies at the heart of our contemporary utopias? From inspiration in the past and urgencies of the present, to projections of possible futures, the needs and virtues of our time (ecology, economy, social cohesion and technology) are extrapolated and implicitly worked into the exhibition and its parallel program. It is also recognised that, despite good intentions, most utopias lead to failure. This is possibly a good thing, since it is the utopian impulse – the quest itself – that has the greatest value.

COMING SOON also examines the format of collective knowledge production as partnerships by bringing together the unusual amount of 7 different curators: Lukas Feireiss, Lara Schrijver, Institute of Relevant Studies (Giovanni Innella en Agata Jaworska), Piet Vollaard, Roosje Klap, and Saskia van Stein. This group is brought together as an experiment, and from proven knowledge and affinity with the subject, albeit from different disciplines and specialties.

In the parallel program, events are organised in conjunction with other educational, cultural or private partners. This discursive parallel program is jointly developed with (design) professionals, students, and the wider interested public. In this section, the larger urban and social issues of the future are highlighted.

The future is coming; you can wait for it!