Roger Brown Booklet: Where The West Begins

This booklet is navigating the significances of two different objects found in Roger Brown collection; first object is a book found in Brown’s living room called “100 Years of Western Wear” as a prime example of Roger Brown’s collection. the usage of the book in this project is to navigate the route from inside to outside the house. the second object is the framed page of Arabic text and drawing to navigate and focus on one particular object that will change the participants’ perspectives and their presence inside. I also want to connect the book-ness of the book “100 Years of Western Wear” to the page of the Arabic text I also found in the collection to larger questions of what defines Western culture and objects, Western culture’s relationship to objects or objectification, i.e. fetishism (appropriation of and commercialization of non-Western cultures).

This booklet shows the “I’rab” root structure of each word of the Arabic text from only two lines of a framed page of an unidentified Arab text in the Roger Brown collection. This framed page includes classical Arabic style text and an accompanying illustration done in the vein of historical Islamic style drawings. Instead of focusing on this traditional storytelling style or technique, or the direct translation of the Arabic text itself, I turned to Al-l’rab, as a way to unpack the Arabic language. The process of grammatical dissection, Al-I’rab literally means making [the word] Arabic’. Stemming from the word of the source/root ع-ر-ب, “meaning to be fluent”, i‘rab means “making a thing expressed, disclosed or eloquent”. The term is cognate to the word Arab itself.

Al-l’rab is not used as a translation of the text from the Roger Brown collection here. Instead, I am using al-l’rab as a grammatical process in general and as a metaphor to show and complicate the framed arabic text and its meaning. The l’rab is not shown with the Arabic text as a visual component or ornamentation.  Through this process the text does not lose it meaning but shows the structure of Arabic language and its poetics. 

I never expected to find an Arabic texts in a space full of Western outfits, visuals and fetish objects, related to the artist himself, his lifestyle and his identified art style. Through this booklet I attempt to understand the connection between the artist himself and position of the artist to this Arabic text/object/work of art and the broader objectification of culture. Direct translation of the texts would not add to the process of comprehending why or how this framed piece of Arabic text came into Roger Brown’s collection. Instead, I’m interested in raises many questions about Islamic drawing, script and culture as commercial products for Western consumption.

This booklet serves to open the question of how and why objects are collected and objectified. What is the history of the object. Where, in this case, did the original text come from? What book was it’s page torn from? Why was it framed? What is the historic relation between the text and the illustration? Were they even made in the same century? Who wrote the text and who illustrated over the text? And ultimately who framed this new object? Where did Roger Brown get this object from?


Using Format