A rug

date and origin unknown

The everyday function of a rug is to protect someone or something from the ground. It may keep one's feet warm and clean. It can also be used to hide or protect whatever lies beneath. It can soften the blow of objects falling on it. Sigmund Freud's notorious therapy couch was covered in a so-called ‘oriental’ rug, which stands in contrast to the leathery minimalism of modern days doctor's offices. The European invention of the ‘orient’ follows the logic of exoticizing the Middle East in a similar vein to how the term ‘fetish’ was applied as a practice of Othering. The 'Orient' is constructed as an opponent of an allegedly more civilized West - the Occident. As such, the Harley Davidson and the rug on which it is placed, mirror the problematic dichotomy of “the West vs. the Rest” constituted during the colonial era. Furthermore, the rug may be an interesting item when viewed from a Marxist perspective: In terms of their use-value, all rugs seem more or less alike, they mostly differ in how they look. There lies a paradox at the heart of the rug as a commodity: any sophistication of technique or design - i.e. any beauty - is destined to be washed out by daily steps. Push the mastery far enough and people will be afraid to actually use it. Re-contextualized and now part of an artwork, it becomes the purest fetish object. Would you step on it? You are in an exhibition, so you probably shouldn't.

Text: Henry Salfner