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What Happens When American Artists Meet Afghan Rug Weavers

A new collaborative exhibit raises questions about how we navigate the complex relationship between arts and crafts.

Carpet production center outside of Kabul

Last weekend, the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles debuted a new exhibition called The Afghan Carpet Project, a special show that represents the collaborative efforts of Afghan carpet weavers and six L.A. artists—Lisa Anne Auerbach, Liz Craft, Meg Cranston, Francesca Gabbiani, Jennifer Guidi, and Toba Khedoori. Last year, these artists took a trip to Kabul and Bamiyan, organized by the non-profit organization AfghanMade, where they observed the “craft and production process” of the carpet weavers, and then drew up designs for their own carpets. The Hammer Museum show includes the six carpets that resulted from this trip, designed by the L.A. artists and weaved by the Afghan artisans, as well as photographs of the trip, taken by Auerbach.

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The Republic of Discostan

Once a month, a DJ collective transforms a Northeast L.A. bar into a psychedelic celebration of sounds “from Beirut to Bangkok via Bombay.”

Photo by Nanette Gonzalez

Walk into Footsie’s, the eastside bar in Los Angeles’s Cypress Park neighborhood, on almost any day of the month, and you’ll probably take in a pretty typical dive bar soundtrack—your favorite classic rock group or a cut from some local indie band’s new EP. On the second Wednesday of every month, however, patrons are more likely to encounter the musical stylings of Bollywood “Disco King” Bappi Lahiri or the classic ‘60s ballads of Lebanese diva-songstress Fairouz. This is the work of Discostan, an L.A.-based musical collective that transforms Footsie’s into a psychedelic celebration of sounds “from Beirut to Bangkok via Bombay.”

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The Problem with Shangri-La

Two new exhibitions explore the difference between art and artifacts in the context of Islamic art

Return of the Mecca catalog, image courtesy of Sohail Daulatzai

Try to picture “Shangri-La” and your mind might conjure up an Orientalist fantasy, a syncretic world, folding all the cultural distinctions that characterize diverse nations into a single category. In the Shangri-La, a Hawaii-based center for the arts in the former home of American heiress Doris Duke, this is the resplendent world that spectators are drawn into, one that takes artifacts from India, Turkey, Iran, Morocco, and beyond and neatly bundles them under the banner of Islamic Arts. Ornate wooden furniture from Iran, colorful wall rugs from Uzbekistan, and painted earthenware from Spain—the items on display evoke vaguely exotic but decidedly distant lands.

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