Monika Pichler  

they will return
On Monika Pichler`s Picture Carpets

By Gerda Ridler

Recent wars have torn many people roughly from their dreams of peace. Television and newspaper supply us with daily reports of people fleeing with only the barest necessities from war, violence and terror. Pictures from the recent Balkan wars, genocide in Rwanda, ongoing acts of violence in Chechnya and Afghanistan make us shocked witnesses of unimaginable violence, raiding, man-hunts and massacres. For the wars of today are defined less and less by battles, but more and more by terror against defenseless civilians. The artist Monika Pichler takes attacks on civilians as the starting point for her way of addressing the phenomenology of violence: the first series of war carpets was created in 1991 during the Golf War; the chronology of destructive acts of violence in the past decade inspired her to another series of carpets intended as a memorial for the victims of this horror. Whereas tapestries were originally created as the easily transportable textile furnishing of nomadic people, in war zones a carpet is often the only moveable property that people can take with them when they have to flee, and which conveys a feeling of home and security to them in a strange place. With her Screen-prints on velour, Monika Pichler combines pictures of war events from newspapers, magazines and the Internet with the traditional ornamental motifs of Oriental carpets from the respective war zones, The original provenance of the carpets may be determined from the geometrical patterns and motifs that have differently developed in diverse geographical areas over the course of centuries, due to specific ethnological, climatic and cultural givens. As a basis for the "Refugee Carpet" the artist uses the traditional inventory of the colours and patterns of carpets from Persia and Afghanistan and integrates topical media pictures of streams of refugees and individual refugee families into the borders and central area of the textile background. The pictures of people suffering and misery are underlaid with vegetative and geometrical ornamentation, so that the character of a typical Oriental carpet is retained. The very subtle artistic commentary does not overwhelm us with a blatant message, but rather leaves us to recognize the documentary and political meaning of the picture carpet only at a close look. Linking such contrary instruments of design and arrangement as the Oriental carpet tradition and globalized image production results in a reflexive relationship of tension that is inherent to all of Pichler's work.

With the series "Flying Carpets" she alludes to our characteristic notions of fairy tale-like and imaginary worlds from 1001 Arabian Nights. The iconography of the "flying carpet" irritates our accustomed ways of thinking and seeing, for Monika Pichler has riddled the ornaments of this Persian Carpet with real aircraft carriers, B52 bombers and passenger planes. A close look even reveals a United Airlines plane, which makes it impossible not to think of recent attacks.

Monika Pichler`s picture carpets are to be understood against the background of current war events. As a mirror of the everyday reality of violence, they become warning memorial against terror. As historiographical documents, they are part of our collective memory.

Gerda Ridler
(from: "The global complex", OK Center for Contemporary Art, 2002)