(excerpt, p. 7)
How does one talk about a piece of art when one
knows neither the artist nor the rest of his or her
work? At “Art Dubai” in 2009, I discovered, like a
bolt from the blue, a creation of Latifa Echakhch
that captured my complete attention. It consisted
of three large carpets of which only the edges
remained, along with the fringes at each end.
In other words, the artist had meticulously and
thoroughly cut out1 the interiors of the carpets,
the manufacture of which is given over to women.
We are familiar with the design of Oriental
carpets: rich, ornamental and ritualistic in their
conception. And so, hollowed out, the carpets lay
on top of each other, offset at oblique angles. It
seemed, indeed, as if some kind of incident had
occurred, attracting one's attention.
When I understood what the artist had done, I
recognised the explosive political force of the
work. In Islamic countries, women appearing in
public are usually veiled. Moreover, their world is
restricted to the insides of houses. The mutilation
of the carpet, of what women have produced over
months and years, must be seen as a provocative
act, similar to when the ball is cleared to the
opponent's end of the pitch in a game of football
The work is not concerned with the labour itself,
but rather the conditions in which it takes place:
the division of labour that distinguishes the
centre of the carpet from its perimeter, rather
like an artistic segregation.
If we take the idea further and focus on the edges
of the carpet, we can also talk about borders and
the ideology of the border.