Cosmic Drapery Flags

Cosmic Drapery Flags is part of a series of inter-connected works in The Cosmic Drapery Project. Cosmic Drapery Flags is a collective project in which numerous women participate in creating hanging flags (each 90 cm wide by 119 cm long) made of heavy black crepe-like fabric on which nomadic fabric is appliqued on to both sides of the flag by means of stitchery. These appliques and their emerging stitches turn the black fabric into an ultimate entity of syncretic drapery.

In the socio-political context, flags represent unified causes for which collectivities rally and maintain their collectivity. In the Middle East, flags and banners are uniquely important and diverse; for their sheer numbers and diversities attest to the propagation and difference of political and religious collectivities. Iran is known for its banners and signs displaying Farsi text in multi-colors - some are advertisements as it is common way for small businesses to display a message. Others are religious banners which have a long history of being displayed during the months of Muharram and Ramadan. These mourning banners are hung in traditional districts like bazaars to signify collective mourning; their history is tied to the state after the Islamic Revolution. It is in this context that Cosmic Drapery Flags have been created; yet the cosmic drapery flags also suggest other proclivities and configurations.

Mourning flags / banners in an Iranian bazaar.

Cosmic Drapery Flags do not completely belong to the history of conventional flags, because they are always in progress and hence positively imperfectible. This way cosmic drapery flags capture the idea of the Middle East as an ever-emerging multitude rather than standing for religious or political parties active in it. Each cosmic drapery flag represents the collectivity of I and the collectivity of them.

In Cosmic Drapery Flags, patterns are cut out following the lines created in the fabric and along the sequin borders or sometimes broken lines. As appliques, these pieces are added on to the flag surface where combinations of different shapes and colors create new patterns and structures. To applique, you need to stitch; hence embroidery is used, although this type of embroidery is not the traditional kind which is stitched for the sake of beauty and decoration. The stitches created on the flag are the vehicles to create new lines and structures on and between the appliques of nomadic fabrics. The inconsistent weaving of stitches, knots and even overlapping appliques are attempts at developing new configurations similar to explorations in the Abjad-9 diagrams [see Abjad-9]. These configurations and their locations display the connections, forces and structural relations which emerge in the form of nomadic zones on the black fabric of each flag. The nomadic configurations also accentuate the collective forces between women which develop as women participate in creating the flag. Therefore, in contrast to conventional flags, the destination of the cosmic drapery flags is constantly changing as the flags are being reinforced with new configurations and appliques stitched by different women. The flags are weaving spaces to test out new ways of collective reinforcement. The collectivization process also depends on chance as each woman passes the sewing space to another woman, opening the direction of the collectivity to realms which cannot be predicted but can only be participated. In Cosmic Drapery Flags, participating women choose their own nomadic fabric and add it to a flag, creating new patterns -- a network of forms forming themselves along the way. In a sense, each piece of nomadic fabric (appliques) represents the woman who added it; yet the flag also operates as a spontaneous collective structure corresponding with the collective histories of the Middle East. In contrast to the idea and structure of quilts, in these flags there is no filler on the inside, because, first of all, there is no inside. The front is always changing and the back is changing as well; both the front and back host the appliques and sewing traces which might distinguish front from the back. These flags therefore confound the front and back dichotomy of ordinary flags or traditional embroidery with sheer number and diffusion of collective appliques and sewing zones which cover both sides. Lines on one side do not match the other; they are not connected to their source and look completely different, creating a constantly shifting space.

Detail from a cosmic drapery flag; a pattern and its alternate creation on the other side.

Six flags were sent out in late 2007 and are currently in circulation. I am interested in how the flags physically develop on individual and collective levels as well as the stories of each flag -- where they go, who handles them and what happens along the way. To document the flags' development, I have set up a blog to track the flags, show updated embroidery work and profile some of the women who have participated in the project. [Cosmic Drapery Flags Blog].