The Turkish artist Kavachi has carved a distinctive artistic path over the past decade. With his textile-based creative practice, the artist’s dedication to the medium results in his ongoing performance work The Carpet Covers the Earth (2016-ongoing). The project’s latest iteration takes place outside of the Ausländebehörde (foreigners' office) in different German cities including Weimar and Munich, where he assembles a red carpet, piece by piece in a daily performance, inviting real visa-seekers to walk on it. In the following interview, AWC’s Elisa Fuenzalida sat down with Kavachi to discuss labor as a performance, borders and the role of the community in his work.
What inspired your choice to incorporate textiles as a recurrent medium in your creative practice?
More than a decade ago, I started to work with textiles. At the time, as a fresh artist, I was looking for new materials that could be used in a sustainable way, are affordable, and are easy to find. So, I started to collect textiles from friends, and friends of friends. Each of these fabric pieces have their own story and function. I bring all these different stories together with a new narrative by stitching and sewing.
In works such as I Cleaned (2018) and We Welcomed The Guests Together (2022), you examine the performance of manual and domestic labor from a very personal position. How is this exploration connected with the work you are carrying out in The Carpet Covers the Earth?
I feel like I exploit myself a lot through my work and around it. I worked as a dishwasher for a period of time, and the working process as a dishwasher led me to think that, if I could perceive that kitchen as a studio, the actions that I was undertaking carried the potential for an artwork. I Cleaned refers to the repetition of an extremely alienating work process: cleaning the kitchen tools sometimes aggressively, sometimes smoothly, and sometimes without any feeling...
The work We Welcomed the Guests Together uses text to address domestic activities that occupy our daily lives at home, and it was developed during the Coronavirus pandemic. Who should do the household chores, and how should life be sustained? I collected kitchen fabrics, such as napkins, dishtowels, and tablecloths from different parts of the world. Each textile scrap had its own story. Some of them were quite old and out of use, as they were inherited and people didn't know what to do with them. In The Carpet Covers the Earth, I continue to involve recycled textile pieces in this particular performance, this time actively inviting the local communities to donate, aiming to create a bridge between the artwork, locals, and foreigners.
What is the relationship between the visual aspect of the red carpet concept, with all its connotations of exclusivity, and the collaborative collage dimension of The Carpet Covers the Earth?
The Carpet Covers the Earth is an ongoing site-specific performance that takes place in front of an Ausländebehörde. The first activation took place in 2016 in Weimar, and was a collaboration between the MFA program “Public Art and New Artistic Strategies” at the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar and Kunstfest Weimar. This time, I will be performing during SPIELART Festival Munich directed by Sophie Becker. Thanks to the invitation of one of the co-curators, Eva Neklyaeva, the performance will take place in front of Ausländerbehörde München at Ruppertstraße 19 each day of the festival (October 23-27), from 9:00 to 13:00 daily.
The carpet itself is a metaphor, usually an expression of appreciation for distinguished and famous people at official events, that I want to redirect to people with migrant backgrounds. It is a way to make visible and acknowledge the time-consuming bureaucratic processes in which non-European foreigners find themselves immersed. During the performance, passers-by, new residents, and new citizens are welcome to walk on the red carpet.
What questions do you perceive that your presence as a “seamstress,” so to speak, in the performance opens up in terms of traditional roles and gender divisions of labor, and conventional perceptions of migrant and refugee communities?
It is a very interesting question because I didn’t think of myself as a seamstress. Actually, I have a sewing machine at home but I can't mend my clothes. For me, it's more about encouraging people to bring their textile pieces to the studio or as a contribution because they all have their own story. My role is to connect these stories, and stitching them is one of many ways to do it. Borders are becoming very rigid, and we can discuss whether we need them or want to abolish them, but as long as they exist, I feel it is important to keep them flexible and porous for connection and exchange.
- IMAGE CREDITS
Cover, fig. 3: The Carpet Covers the Earth, Performance and Installation, during the performance, in front of Ausländerbehörde Weimar © Kavachi. Ongoing Photos 2016 by Iva Kirova & Thomas Müller.
fig. 1: I Cleaned, 2018. © Kavachi. Photo by Anya Marchenkova.
fig. 2: We Welcomed the Guests Together, 2022 © Kavachi.