During Art Weekend Aarhus 2015, 100 volunteers wear the black and white checkered partisan scarves;
a variation based on the original Arabic keffiyeh. They constitute Line Sandvad Mengers' artwork, SO CLOSE, which is a part of her exhibition, with the same title, in rum46. The 100 individuals have been asked if they will wear the scarf during the Art Weekend; it being up to them how long they will wear it and where. It is a form of collective action, a subtle infiltration into the urban scene in Aarhus. During the weekend a new network of connections arises between the scarf-wearing citizens as this black and white checkered community spreads out.
A community arises and its identity is supported by folk costumes and local patterns. In the artwork and exhibition, SO CLOSE, this local identity is linked to the global, at times contradictory symbolism, which is also true of the partisan scarf. It is partly used today by fashion-conscious young people as just another garment in the wardrobe, and yet many people throughout the world continue to wear this checkered scarf as a political statement. The work is an investigation into the meanings that popular symbols, objects and textiles can have. This is also evident in the other works in the exhibition, which show the drift of different patterns from being a traditional, local form to becoming an international fashion trend, mass produced for example in China or Bangladesh. In the work Plane Symmetry, the wall is covered by Ralph Lauren's "Bradford Check" wallpaper with Houndstooth pattern. The pattern was used in woollen textiles in Scotland in the 1800s and has gained great popularity in the fashion world. Another wall is covered by the work, Folk Fashion Curtain, a curtain made of partisan scarves and scarves from traditional Danish folk-costumes sewn together. The artist's interest in these folk symbols is clearly revealed and continues to be seen in the work, So Chic, which consists of two Arne Jacobsen Dot stools, covered with Faroese style knitting; a pattern that reflects the political relationship between Denmark and the Faroe Islands, and the value we place on the local craftwork. Many variations of checks are shown side by side creating a room that is a tandem of local and global symbols, each presenting their material and social status. Each pattern tells a tale of original, local identity, which has become today a globalised identity. The works and exhibition also pose a number of questions, such as: Can identity be bought? Who is included and who is excluded in these visual communities? What relationship has the wearer of the scarf to its origins?
In her artistic practice Line Sandvad Mengers works with symbols and situations that establish cultural identity. The artist often collaborates and enters a dialogue with local peoples in order to create interactive relationships and experiences close to their daily reality. In the work SO CLOSE, she stages a politically-charged everyday item as an accessory in a social, artistic situation in order to reveal the complexities of the scarf through the very different values and meanings that the public places upon it. SO CLOSE is a work that is fulfilled through its interaction with the public - with or without knowledge of the underlying concept. Perception can be either spontaneous or informed; depending on what prior knowledge the public has of the work.
In the street the sudden prevalence of the black and white check may cause wonder, whilst the public's senses may be sharpened after visiting the exhibition, or after reading this introduction to the work. The scarf in this way achieves a new or revitalised meaning.
Then, return to your walk down the street, with or without a checkered scarf. Now aware of the grey tones and nuances of the story underlying the black and white checks.
Marie Thams, May 2015