Detail ancient western Ersari Balkan Mountains chuval, major and minor lower borders and flower elem; ex-RK collection, published Weaving Art Museum “Turkmen Trappings” plate 6
In the previous eight installments of this review RK has pointed out enough inconsistencies, errors of judgment and editing, opinions presented as facts, as well as conclusions drawn from inconsequential and irrelevant evidence to distrust what the author, jurg rageth, claims to be anything but in this publication. There is some good here, but it remains deeply submerged under these and other faults.
We are sure many will disagree and point to glowing reviews that, in their eyes, prove how wrong we are. This is to be expected. For as ignorant as jurg rageth is about the historic Turkmen weaving culture, he has had lots of company -- his main collaborator, hans christian sienknecht, and many of the financial sponsors who donated considerable cash to the cause enabling rageth to live for many years on the long promised and awaited publication of this book.
Those benefactors all believed the hype rageth pumped into their ears about the efficacy of radiocarbon dating for historic Turkmen rugs, and most of them are the owners of the examples published in this book. RK is positive none of them will bother to read our review, nor will they discuss our proofs of both the inaccuracy of this dating method for historic Turkmen weavings and rageth’s inabilities to place these weavings in any believable and realistic historical perspective.
They are “believers”, and like all believers are convinced what they believe is real regardless of anyone showing them it is not.
So now Turkmen carpet studies has an 880 page two volume publication that is as flawed and questionable as the existence of the Loch Ness monster or ETs. Only the doubters harbor questions, the believers surely don’t. This is just the situation Turkmen studies and carpet collecting did not need, and anyone who does not realize this has either not been paying attention or is semi-brain dead.
“Turkmen Carpets: A New Perspective” can be well likened to the emperor’s new clothes tale. Those who know better see it for what it is, and those who don’t only see it as they want it to be.
We have already bemoaned the fact had rageth been more knowledgeable, or willing to find better consultation, the money he raised could have produced a work of lasting quality, and more significantly a work that would have pushed Turkmen studies to new heights. But he didn’t, and all we are left with is a monument to late 20th century carpet collecting hoopla.
Detail, ancient Yomud chuval; RK collection, published “Turkmen Trappings” Weaving Art Museum plate 9
We intended to add one more installment of critique that was planned to examine several of the weavings illustrated in color and their descriptions. However, we are tired of not finding anything of value worth characterizing as positive. So instead we will list a number of suggestions we would have given rageth had he asked.
1. The landscape format, basically almost two times as wide as high, is not a conducive one to illustrate Turkmen MC. It would have been far better to turn the book 90 degrees and produce a book that is almost two times as high as it is wide. Also we would have never used hard covers and rather bound the volumes in soft cover. Producing a two volume book that weights 6.5 pounds per volume is surely not considerate of reader easy of use or comfort. These were major errors no competent designer or book publisher would have allowed. Remember this is an ‘art’ book, not a reference manual or university textbook.
2. Dividing the book into two volumes, volume one basically for the color printing and volume two for the black and white text is a way to save money on printing costs. However, it is a false economy and one that really in the end does not save much. Better would have been to print both volumes in color but pare down the text to a far more manageable size, and select more carefully examples to illustrate and what is written about them. By doing this a far better looking book would have been the result.
3. We have also called attention to what we called rageth’s shot-gun approach in choosing Turkmen weavings to illustrate and test with both radiocarbon for age and dye test for information. Far better would have been to limit greatly the radiocarbon testing, which was dubious from the beginning and as more testing ensued could not have helped but become more so. And increase the dye testing and add intensive fiber analysis, both techniques without the problems and unreliability of radiocarbon analysis.
4. By selecting weavings that fit into groups -- for instance by tribal attribution, design similarity, color palatte, structural techniques – and then testing these groups comparatively, using dye, mordant testing and fiber analysis, the results would have been far more revealing than what rageth ended up publishing. Also we would have only chosen masterpieces, the earliest we could find and not the smattering of lesser examples that fill the pages of rageth’s volume one.
5. Instead of two volumes we would have wanted to make three and put them in a slipcase. One for the color plates, one for the ancillary photos and figures, and a third for the text. This way readers could have at their fingertips the ability to properly read, see and understand the subject with volumes that were lighter and far easier to use. What rageth produced is a nightmare to read and handle, and as we wrote we expect these books when well used will fall apart, already the bindings on our are sloping and becoming loose just as we predicted
6. There is no index to the subject matter and rageth’s failure to provide one is another major error we would have never allowed into publication. An index, rather than the bunch of hard to navigate charts and appendix he did include, is a far better and expeditious way to allow readers access to information.
7. We would have never allowed rageth to write this book by himself, or with the supposed collaboration of hans christian sienknecht. These two just did not possess enough of a knowledge base, and the proof is in the pudding. The text they produced in far from scholarly, and in our opinion is basically instantly forgettable.
8. Lastly we would have produced a book of art and science, without all the hundreds of pages of rageth’s presumptive and questionable ‘art historical analysis’, and instead worked to produce a far greater number of dye, mordant and fiber analysis results to build a scientific database of information on early Turkmen weavings, but ones of far greater stature and importance than many of those in ragth’s volume one.
We also question exactly where this book was printed and bound. In the credit rageth states:
“Printers: Abacherli Media AG, Sarnen
Binding: Buchbinderei Burkhardt AG, Monchalterdorf
Printed in Switzerland
We sincerely doubt this book was produced in Switzerland. No doubt rageth went to see these people in their offices in Switzerland, and paid them to do the job in swiss francs. But we would not be surprised to learn the actual work was done somewhere else, in some cheaper place, like China. Both of our volumes have black smudges on some of the pages, and of course the less than quality binding also raises this question.
This type of printing is not “European”, forget “Swiss”, quality.
So for RK, who knows about historic Turkmen weavings and book production, we cannot characterize rageth’s publication as anything but a missed opportunity and, in the final analysis, a waste of good money that could have been far better spent. At best it’s a mediocre, verbose testament to the history, beauty and importance of Turkmen weavings.
A subject that certainly deserves more.
Detail early Tekke engsi with rare pre-darnyak gol major border, hash minor border, and spinning rosette elem; RK collection, unpublished