Where The West Begins


This booklet navigates the significance of two different objects found in the American Artist Roger Brown's collection; the first object is a book found in Brown’s living room called “100 Years of Western Wear”. The book guides us to navigate the route from inside to outside the house. The second object is a framed page of Arabic text and a drawing. 

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, the work look at the found Islamic drawing and script as commercial products for Western consumption.

The pages show the I’rab root structure of each Arabic word of two sentences long of unidentified Arabic text. Found in the Roger Brown collection, a framed page includes classical Arabic style text accompanied with historical Islamic style drawings. Instead of focusing on this traditional storytelling style or technique, or the direct translation of the Arabic text, this work focused on the process of grammatical dissection, called l’rab. It literally means making [the word] Arabic’. Stemming from the word of the source/root ع-ر-ب, meaning to be fluent, making a thing expressed, disclosed or eloquent. The term is cognate to the word Arab itself.

In this work, l’rab not only is used as a grammatical process but also as a metaphor to represent the framed Arabic text and meanings. Through this process the text does not lose it meaning but shows the structure of Arabic language and perhaps the poetics in grammar. Through this booklet I unpack this orientalism/objectification of culture by Brown and his position to the Arabic text, and the orientalized objects.

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 this page torn from? What is the 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? Where did Roger Brown get this object from? And ultimately who framed this object?