“Our reason for being is uniting people,” say the designers of ThreeASFOUR as the last rays of summer poured through the huge windows of their silver-painted Chinatown studio.
“Gabi Asfour grew up in the Lebanese civil war; everyone was fighting with everyone. Adi Gil’s grandparents were survivors of the Holocaust and she grew up in Germany, which was a shock. Angela Donhauser is Russian and German and was born in Tajikistan. The three of us come from places where people have been at war with each other and we don’t believe in that.”
Beginning September 15, the designers are illustrating their vision of cross-cultural love at the Jewish Museum with a multidisciplinary exhibition bringing together ancient sacred symbols with cutting-edge technology. The exhibition will feature dresses from the spring-summer collection (all black and white), an architectural structure and a 3D video projection. Several items, such as silk scarves, will be on sale at the museum shop. The designers will also present a performance for Performa in November.
“We started as always with the human body,” explain the designers. “According to sacred geometry, everything in nature is proportional. Then we looked at the geometry and tile patterns in synagogues, mosques and churches throughout history.”
The exhibition’s title is also based on spiritual notions: Merkaba is a mystical form of Judaism; ka ba alludes to the Kaaba, the focal point of the Mecca pilgrimage; Muraqaba is a Sufi meditation practice. In ancient Egypt the hieroglyphs mer (rotating light), ka (spirit), and ba (body), placed together, describe the energy field through which the soul enters the body and ascends to higher planes. In New Age belief merkaba is a vehicle of transcendence; this idea is represented by two pyramids interlaced to form contemplation.
These spiritually loaded patterns were the starting point for the prints and designs of the collection. The draped layers of a white laser-cut cotton skirt reveal typical Muslim Mousharrabiah patterns. A black tunic is printed with intricate tile prints. And a vaporous silk scarf blends the patterns of the kuffiah, David stars and pyramids. For the first time, the designers are working with architect Bradley Rothenberg to create synthetic 3-D dresses that will grow on the body like textured animal skins.
The main exhibition space will also feature a mirrored structure shaped like a six-point star by architect Christian Wassman, on which projections of the five Platonic solids will evolve throughout the day. “We’re communicating unity,” says Gabi, who himself has an engineering and architecture background, “because we are combining the one and the whole and showing the intersections between all cultures, this universal consciousness that manifests itself in religion.”