MAGDA TAMMAM Blind Man's Bluff 2009 [R/D] - x +

CN: TamM2009blin

MT: installation: China ink on Japanese paper and glue on perspex base (T:176x100x80 / KIMONO:176x100 / BELT:330x31)

LC: ACG Art Store

DN: Mr. Samy Tammam - 2009

CM: Magda Tammam's Blind Man's Bluff is dedicated to Lafcadio Hearn, whose writing signals him as a channel connecting complimentary cultures. Originating from an Egyptian father and a Greek mother and born in Germany, Magda Tamam identifies with Lafcadio. She is moved by the fact that he too was essentially nursed by a multitude of countries - Greece, Great Britain, America and Japan. This condition endowed Lafcadio with a multifarious personality. Aside of his literary work, Lafcadio's greatest contribution to world culture is setting a paradigm of the endless search of 'otherness', which one lacks and upon finding makes one complete. Especially in Japan Lafcadio devoted himself to decoding the exoticism of the country that adopted him. Similarly, Tammam decodes elements of Lafcadio which she wishes to appropriate in order to penetrate his spirit.

'Blind man's bluff' is a social game in which one player, designated as 'it', is blindfolded and gropes around attempting to touch the other players without being able to see them, while the other players scatter and try to avoid the person who is the 'it', hiding in plain sight and sometimes teasing 'it' to make him/her change direction. It is a traditional game, which goes as far back as the medieval times, first registered in the poems of François Rabelais (1494-1553) in 1534. Tammam uses blind man's bluff as a metaphor to underline Lafcadio's search for his own identity. In her work, by combining the 'I' with the 'it', Tammam references Lafcadio's constant aim to identify with otherness.

Tammam's Blind Man's Bluff involves an installation of two elements in space - a kimono and its belt, called 'obi'. The kimono is worn on the body of Lafcadio that is invisible. Further than being a garment that protects one from being exposed, the kimono stands for Japanese tradition and - as such - is a comment on Lafcadio's multicultural identity and plural individuality. Tammam considers this kimono to be Lafcadio's 'second skin', as an extension of the human body. Such second skin may be perceived as an organ of communication, because it relates to the environment. It is a liminal structure, in between one and the other, where the world confronts the 'I' and the 'I' meets the world.

The obi that Lafcadio used as the blindfold to cover his one able eye in the game is placed on the floor, in front of the kimono. The traditional obi herewith signifies the 'it'. On it Tammam inscribed by hand the entire story entitled "At the Market of the Dead" that Lafcadio published in the 'Atlantic Monthly' on September 1891 [v.68, #407, p.844-857]. In this market the Japanese people source material used in the feast of souls. Tammam was charmed by this feast's traditional ritual, because it reconciles contemporary life with death and negotiates such reconciliation in a humane manner. There, in the market, Lafcadio encounters for the first time this custom. A disciple of Buddhism takes him on a tour around the ritual from beginning to end. The blind man, without being able to see, is looking for and attempts to recognize the 'other'. The common element between the custom and the game is the effort for one to learn to come out of oneself and to become acquainted with its 'otherness'. Writing this story, Lafcadio decodes an important aspect of Japanese tradition. On her part, Tammam wishes to highlight the value of tradition in modern Western society.

In closing, it is worth noting that Tammam uses Japanese paper because, as handmade material made of natural cotton fibers, it is particularly sensitive and fragile. Thus, she presents the very direct and disquieting concept of the garment as second skin.

[Megakles Rogakos 12/2009]