Vaishali Prazmari (UCL) - 2019-20 Students

BEYOND THE FRAME: MARGINALIA AND PARERGONALITY IN ART AND THE 1001 ARABIAN NIGHTS
 – Using the frame tale and motifs of the 1001 Nights as a starting point to generate 1001 artworks

The 1001 Nights’ frame tale includes tales within tales: I will investigate this through interdisciplinary and visual research. 1000 tales weave through the main tale (Shahrazad saves her life, telling King Shahriyar cliffhanger tales). A parergon is an auxiliary work, here as the 1000 tales relating to the main tale.The research is to make 1001 artworks, not illustrations, that will interrogate the 1001 Nights differently. I propose a new, visual reading of the Nights where Shahrazad the storyteller is all-powerful in that she holds the key to the entire 1001 nights in her head, just as the artist can be all-powerful in the creation of multiple worlds and works. Primary sources of the Nights and the coeval world of Islamic miniature painting abundant in marginalia are a starting point to investigate how marginalia give meaning to the whole. 1001 works allow me to explore various research strategies (eg. painting, weaving, 16mm film). I will produce artworks and marginal extensions around the artworks’ edges: ‘parerga’, or supplementary/auxiliary works. These parerga form a dialogue with the main artwork, made in the same medium as the main artwork (eg. painting) or in different mediums that relate to the main work (eg. weaving that shares a pattern or idea with that painting – see 1st website link). The extensions relate to the main artworks in the way that the 1000 tales relate to the Nights’ frame tale. Making parerga (auxiliary works) illuminates the main works in a new light. My methodology is to use the frame tale and motifs of the Nights as a starting point to generate 1001 artworks. These can be artworks within artworks, like the Nights’ tales within tales, and can comprise extensions or margins to a set of artworks, in line with the project aim of recasting the margin to be of equal importance to the main. I will identify narrative motifs in the Nights using literary mapping, examining the function of recurring tropes (eg. female slave rescues master from bankruptcy) which can be explored in the same artwork. I will use Medieval marginalia study techniques to study marginalia in Islamic miniatures, look at historical sources of marginal figures in the Nights and draw on research into the relation between word and image. My research aims to show why the marginal is as important as the ‘centre’. It aims to make important inroads into the unexplored field of Islamic manuscript marginalia and uncover why certain elements exist in the margins and not in the main image. There has been a growing interest in miniatures (eg. Hodgkin, Sikander). The relationship between the main image and marginalia in Islamic miniature painting is a rich, unexplored area in scholarship: my opportunity to make an original contribution to knowledge.By analysing the relationship between the various tales and the frame tale, plus that of the Nights’ marginal figures (including slaves, different races and women) and the main figures, I will investigate why one of the world’s most famous frame tales was told by a woman. More broadly I aim to contribute to an awareness of how Europe has also been shaped by non-European influences to help change perceptions of non-Western cultures.

Back to the top