When we think about the Silk Road, we can't help but think about Marco Polo, and spices from the East reaching the West, but this global network actually joined the entire world and still shapes how we communicate.
With all the technology we have at our disposal, it’s hard to imagine a time when communication wasn’t as easy and immediate as it is today. But since ancient times, people have actually been very inventive to connect the extreme spots of their known world. The Silk Road didn’t only manage to set trade routes that increased these countries’ economy, but it also became the most important cultural thread to connect all civilizations and cultures, creating the first wave of globalization. Through this important global route, at a time when letters were the most used and efficient means of communication, commerce managed to join as diverse and different world spots as Asia and the Americas.
We might say this is merely a matter of ancient history, but the Silk Road is actually still relevant in how we communicate and how our cultural identities continue being shaped. With that in mind, and because that silk thread changed the entire course of history, artists from different spots in the world gathered to reinterpret not only the historical period but what this means for their own life and artistic vision, to create a set of six rugs (artifacts that were highly exported throughout the world through these routes) showing how the Silk Road, and its intricate global networks, still has an impact on our modern lives.
“Tilos Glitch” by Pablo Lujambio and Cristina Pou
For their design piece, this Spanish couple was inspired by a family heirloom. This old rug was based on an origami pattern showing the connection between Asia and Spain. To show the link of these networks to our modern life, they took a look at how we communicate nowadays and today’s technological language. “Tilos Glitch” becomes a modern reinterpretation of those entire links through glitches of modern imagery.
“Clan” by Johanna Boccardo
For her reinterpretation, this renowned Venezuelan artist understood the reaches of this ancient globalization through the diversity she can find in her own personal life. In this rug, she reimagines an old family photo of her and her cousins showing the different colors found in their identity, which are also the diverse colors found in her country as a result of colonization. In that way, the rug becomes not only a colorful and abstract image, but also a reflection on the historical processes of migration and a self-meditation on her own origins.
“Hueyzacatlan” by Bernardo Gómez-Pimienta
In this completely abstract and modern rug, Mexican architect Gómez-Pimienta takes his field of work at an artistic level, delivering his own interpretation of the colonial town of San Cristóbal de las Casas. Why this town in particular? As he sees it, it’s in these very traditional and historical places where we can see the most of this global networks of communication and how the lives of both conquered and conquerors were shaped according to these cultural and economic exchanges.
“Querétaro Histórico” by Carlos Torre Hütt
As the owner of one of the most successful design studios in Mexico (and one of the creators of this series of designed rugs), Torre Hütt also decided to take a look back at that historical moment in Mexico where cultures clashed and shaped modern Mexican identity, the long centuries of the Colony in his hometown of Querétaro. Taking historical maps of the 18th century of what still remains the center of the town and mixing the colors and pigments used at the time with more modern hues like pink, he wants to make the viewer reflect on the impact of the past in our modern life and how we’re moving toward the future.
“Los colores del español” by Jacobo Zanella
At first look, this might look like a simple abstract image using primary colors and some variations, but actually, it has a lot of complexity behind it. For this Mexican architect and designer, what really ties together and shows the connection between the Americas and the Silk Road is actually through language, being Spanish the one that links most people nowadays. To do so, he gathered all the flags where Spanish has a lot of cultural, communication, and historical importance and deconstructed its colors, showing the color identity of a community with a huge diversity in customs, races, languages, and ways of thinking.
“Pórtico” by Laura Molina and Sergio Herrera (Studio Todomuta)
Last but not least, this Spanish study from Seville decided to show that entrance or door to a culture of historical fusion. With a unique shape and very interesting colors, “Portico” (which means door) shows a sort of blueprint of an ancient caravel, the ships used by Columbus when he reached the “New World.” Through the colors and the unique shape of the rug, the studio located in what is still today an important trade port wanted to reinterpret and understand better the reaches of colonization and cultural crossroads.
These rugs were created by Odabashian, a family company that also has a direct link to these stories of migration and cultural merging that also shows the reaches of the Silk Road in our times. Using ancient and traditional techniques, the artisans that created these designed rugs wanted to show in the making how these historical networks also had an impact on what we take as the traditional arts and crafts of a country, showing that in the end, each country in the world shares traits with other places you wouldn’t regularly link. The Silk Road represents that invisible thread that joins our global cultural diversity, and these rugs are just a colorful and artistic proof of how it might not be as invisible as we think.
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