Barbara Koenen

War rugs first appeared in Afghanistan in the late 1970s, when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. Carpets are woven by women and children, and they began to incorporate pictures of the weapons that were suddenly part of their lives into traditional patterns of flowers, animals and geometric motifs. Subtle at first, the military iconography eventually dominated these textiles, erasing all but the most incidental remnants of centuries of previous patterns. AK-47s form a framework for tanks, armored personnel carriers, mines, jets, grenades, handguns and bullets. These are called Afghan War Rugs.  Now, Drones have been added to the visual vocabulary, as the latest weapon to ravage their country.

Adopting the practice of the Tibetan Buddhist monks who make elaborate sand mandalas as meditations or prayers that, like life, are swept away, I began to reconstruct Afghan War Rugs like mandalas, using spices instead of sand. A meditation, they take up to a week to complete. With fringe and popper firecrackers attached, the rugs exist only temporarily. They are touched, inhaled, even walked on.

In 2001, I destroyed the “rugs” by sweeping up the spices into jars at the end of each exhibition.  Now I make prints of them, that preserve the patterns of spices as monoprints.  This will happen at the end of this exhibition as well. The prints will preserve much of the color and aroma of the rugs, as well as the pattern of footprints and other incidents that the installation endured.