2015 - Talismanic Shirts of Acceptance




Ink on paper, Konnyaku, Twine online games - See games at the bottom of Statement section.




Talismanic Shirts of Acceptance

Talismanic shirts were often used by members of the Ottoman imperial court to protect them in battle, heal them in illness, and make wishes come true. These shirts, regularly made out of cotton, linen or silk, sometimes coated with materials to give the fabrics a paper-like quality, were worn underneath battle outfits or formal clothing at court. The shirts were filled with inscriptive texts and images. The texts contained verses from the Qur'an, names of holy people, magical formulas, encrypted text, and numerological charms.

As debates over immigration, refugees, and population mobility are taking center stage in the political arena of many western countries, an important discussion on identity is been left out. Though concerns about population mobility's affect on local cultures are highlighted in the media, how this is affecting the identity of newcomers is receiving little attention. Beyond facticity (sex, hair and eye color, skin color, body height, etc.) identity is deeply dependent on past experiences, present surroundings, and future anticipations. The challenge a newcomer faces is two fold. On one hand they have to establish a relationship to the community they join, on the other hand they face an internal struggle of understanding how their identity is reshaped by this new experience. As the person struggles to grow beyond these challenges, they often find themselves following a circular pattern in which they assess and reassess their place, their relevance, and how they fit within the community, often struggling to find the right gesture, the right word, the correct behavior.

The paper shirts presented here find their inspiration in historic talismanic shirts. Inscribed with various texts, and images, they are intended to magically guide the desires of acceptance across cultures, borders, and boundaries – real or imagined. The viewers are offered an insight into the circular patterns of assessment and reassessment of identity a newcomer experiences, and they provide imaginary magical means of settling these matters. Viewers are invited to wear the shirts, play online word games they can access via QR codes on the shirts; share in experiences of newcomers, reflect on their own, take selfies, and post them to social media sites using #talismanicShirts.

Online games can be found at: