Symbols are all around us. We live among them, and we know when we are touching a sensitive spot. We know we're not supposed to burn flags, we know we can hurt people's feelings. At a time when nerves are exposed, do we really literally want to tread on sacred icons?
That's what I see in the picture above, of Zoulikha Bouabdellah's installation "Silence": treading on something sacred, or something that refers to a sacred act with shoes. They may be dainty pumps, and never worn, the message is clear.
I recall having a conversation with distinguished Tibet scholar Robert Thurman (aka father of Uma) when he visited the Seattle Central Public Library (designed by "our" Rem Koolhaas). We were looking at the floor designed by conceptual artist Ann Hamilton outside the Microsoft Auditorium.I recited my architectural tour guide bit: "7200 square feet of computer routed maple wood, showing 556 sentences in 11 languages."
"Not Tibetan," Thurman said, "You're not supposed to stand on words."
"No, indeed, but even if that language was represented, Ann Hamilton made sure patrons couldn't inadvertently commit blasphemy," I said. "None of the sentences contain words we're not supposed to put our feet on."
Thurman smiled at me and shook his head, "Tibetans consider all writing sacred, no standing on words."
A friend remarks on Facebook:
If there is no bridge of assimilation between the profane and sacred world, every religion is doomed to ashes. Or barren ground of ritual.To which I answered: My friends and I take our shoes off when we enter someone's home. And, I would like to add here, we wouldn't walk on thin ice with stilettos, too easy to hurt ourselves, and others in the action of saving our ass.
But to get back to the installation in France, perhaps I read it all wrong, perhaps there's a feminist message about women not praying with the men?
This work by Judith van Praag is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License