There is actually no mention of Aladdin flying on a carpet in the iconic tales of The Arabian Nights. Carpets, genies and the phantasmagoria of the “Orient” have nothing to do with the Middle East and everything to do with our tendency to romanticize and stereotype others.
Edward Said, the late Palestinian-American academic, called it “Orientalism,” and it is the focus of Third Party Gallery's December exhibition A Whole New World.
A dozen tiny flying carpets cast shadows on the wall. Abdullah Syed of Australia cuts designs into 12 U.S. dollar bills from the rugs of his homeland in Karachi, Pakistan. In 2010 Syed exhibited a fleet of U.S. dollar bill drones at the Mohatta Palace Museum in Karachi. Hundreds of bills, folded together into the shape of unmanned drones, hung menacingly overhead. Syed's tiny carpets, strung up at Third Party, are not threatening like an air strike. Instead they speak of stereotypes, which live in the shadows and sometimes leak out, like dirty laundry hanging on the line.
A Whole New World continues at Third Party Gallery through Jan. 3. Go here to read Selena Reder's full review.