Magazines in a time of coronavirus: MacGuffin

by Kitty Drake in April 2020
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Art & design

Inspired by MacGuffin, which bases every issue around one seemingly mundane object, we asked the editors of our favourite magazines to share an object that brings them comfort. Touch now carries the risk of contagion, but strangely, that new reality has made the physical contact we do have — and the physical things we surround ourselves with — feel more precious. Up today, MacGuffin’s co-editor Kirsten Algera tells us about her lush orange rug.

“I bought this rug in a Moroccan souk 15 years ago, from a region very high in the Atlas mountains where rugs are thick and warm and very red or orangey. When we arrived back home in Amsterdam it was already there waiting for us. It was just after Christmas and it was such a festive moment unwrapping it: this thick orange carpet with little pieces of hay in it from the home it had been in before! It lives underneath the kitchen table — that’s a dangerous place for a rug to be. And I have to share it with my two cats who see it as their territory. They’re quite old and a bit demented, and they use the rug as a scratching pole, as well as for other things. Sometimes! The cats are a little stressed by the whole situation as well. They are at home with us all day right now. We are in their home. I can see they’re a bit fed up with us.

I read something interesting about carpets the other day. Like everybody, when quarantine started, I thought: I’m going to see all the highbrow movies and read all the highbrow books I’ve bought and neglected. I started with Foucault — but stopped after three pages, returning to frantically scrolling through Corona news. I did read enough to get an impression of what he called heterotopias: the place between utopia and reality. That struck me as a perfect typology of this coronavirus crisis, and also as a perfect description of my carpet. The carpet is a heterotopia because it’s a real place but it’s also a place of imagination. Foucault refers to Persian carpets as mobile gardens or mobile paradises. Persian carpets are meant to symbolise gardens: you have the walls of the garden, and in the middle you have the fountain, and then all the flowers and the shrubs are the orange trees. I like this idea of a carpet as a mobile garden. Also in a more literal way if you can think about all the things that must be growing inside my carpet. But I don’t want to think about that! A carpet is somewhere between a real thing, and a ‘macguffin’, an object or device that gets the story and the imagination going.

Now I’m inside all day every day I have such a connection with all of the things in my house. It’s like everything is so much more tactile. I find this carpet comforting because it’s like the ground beneath my feet, and it’s warm, and it’s the stage of life these days. That’s good but it’s also strange: I look outside and see the world going by but I’m not in it. I’m here on this carpet.”

— Kirsten Algera

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