Islam Aly, “Transpose, Tahawool”




Islam Aly
Nasr City, Egypt

Transpose, Tahawool
Cloth-covered box with magnet closure and cloth pull. Hand stenciled images and inkjet printed text on the interior of the box. Wooden dowels, linen thread, book board, museum board, acrylic colors, laser-cut handmade and Fabriano paper, seven pamphlets sewn on wooden dowels
Box size: 9.5 x 2.7 x 8.7 closed, 9.5 x 2.7 x 18.25 x opened. Pamphlet size: 7.5x 6.5.


Artist Statement

2021, Edition of 40, and five proofs.

“Transpose” is a bilingual book in English and Arabic that investigates talismanic shirts. A worn textile that was believed to offer protection and guidance to the carrier. Historically there were various uses for the talismanic shirts; they could be worn as a shield in battles, during illness, used as protective amulets, and produced for ceremonial purposes. They would have a distinctive vocabulary, a mixture of religious texts, sacred invocations, symbols, magic squares, and seal markings.

In Transpose, seven pamphlets taking the shapes of shirts are designed and enclosed in the box. Each invokes a different wish: Power, Celebration, Magic, Prosperity, Affection, Peace, and Health. Transpose reveals how garments embed our backgrounds, experiences, decisions, and memories allowing us to live through each garment.

The book challenges the notion of power and privilege. Traditionally, these shirts were dedicated to the elite and kept protected in drawers and boxes. Transpose makes these wishes unrestricted for viewers to be rearranged and reordered in various ways according to their preference.

After taking away all the pamphlets, the viewer can read a quote on the inner side of the box, emphasizing a greater meaning to each shirt.

“there is much to support the view that it is clothes that wear us and not we them; we may make them take the mold of arm or breast, but they mold our hearts, our brains, our tongues to their liking.”- Virginia Woolf, Orlando.