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It would be better I lived. Conversation.
Marta González y Teresa Lanceta.
Catalogue: Tejidos marroquíes. Teresa Lanceta

It would be better I lived

"Oh sister mine, what a beautiful. sweet, delightful story!" "Well it's nothing", answered Sherazade, "compared to the one I'll tell the next time if I live and if your majesty allows me to stay."
Tales of the Arabian Nights.

Some time ago Teresa Lanceta and Marie-France Vivier came to the Reina Sofia bringing with them an exhibition project that formed part of the French general events programme for 1999, the year France dedicated to the Maghreb. The exhibition was to be held in Paris fit and they wished to have it presented in Madrid afterwards.

A few months went by and in France the initial project was shelved. However, after holding interesting discussions and overcoming various obstacles, we gradually developed it and were able to reroute it here so that we, at least, could enjoy it.

Of how that first thread was gradually woven, took form and, at the same time, slowly created space, Teresa will now tell us.

MARTA GONZÁLEZ: An exhibition of Moroccan carpets and fabrics in the Reina Sofia Museum? How do you think ethnographical items can find a niche in an institution dedicated to modern plastic art?

TERESA LANCETA: This exhibition will show the beauty and vitality of Moroccan textiles, their fulfilment as works of art.

The frontier between ethnographical production and the plastic arts -more due to prejudice than a reality- has now become obsolete. That "different being" for which specialized museums were founded at the beginning of the 20th century is now here, no matter from where or when it's come. Those masks, sculptures and hieroglyphs which so thrilled and inspired artists are currently some of the images of our daily lives.

Perhaps we find it difficult to understand that, in villages with few facilities, a useful object like a carpet or a fabric has to be the support for transmitting art. Perhaps we also find it difficult to appreciate the creativity of other techniques and languages. Nevertheless, this is no longer the time to wonder what this "Other" is doing hanging on the walls in the Reina Sofia but rather why it hasn't been hung there before, because this "Other" has long since been we ourselves.

So many excellent opportunities of dealing with this subject have been wasted. Take for example "Les Magiciens de la terre", an exhibition of Moroccan art held in Paris. Being exclusively of work by painters -who are very few in number- it thereby precluded thousands and thousands of women weavers, some of whom are involved in a veritable process of creation, adopting their own canons and yet, at the same time, modifying them -as can be seen in the excellent pieces seen from time to time in bazaars.

The carpets, capes and cushions in the exhibition -some of them very simple and unpretentious- have been created in fairly arid zones or in high mountain areas with severe winters, showing that there, in the midst of an imposing and stark landscape, people exist who are bearers of a particular, autonomous, distinctive, hermetical language -a textile language that speaks of a community, culture and art.

M.G.: When and why did you become interested in Moroccan textile art? Where does your insistence on the culture of the nomadic peoples come from?

T.L.: About fifteen years ago a friend showed me a book on Moroccan textiles by Bert Flint and gave me Flint's address. I wrote to him and included one or two photos of my work. He wrote back right away. It was the beginning of a deep friendship founded on our absolute passion for textile creations. Bert organized trips and appointments for me -hours and hours of contemplating carpets and fabrics. He has been a teacher and a splendid companion sharing a similar artistic emotion. Thanks to him I saw hundreds of pieces -at his home as well as in museums, bazaars, private houses, etc.

Though his collection is impressive, I wouldn't call Flint a collector but rather an active visual discoverer -always alert and positive- who is closely followed. His discerning eye and generous sensitivity towards the work of others make up for the economic power other collections depend on.

Asregards my interest in Morocco, it's much less romantic than would seem at first sight. I like Morocco and like all sedentary people, I'm fascinated by nomads, transhumant and those who live in the midst of nature, but my particular fixation is its fabrics. As for its other attractions, I'm just like any other foreigner, possibly less keen than the great lovers of exotic things or hashish, or those travellers of a quieter spirit. I've always gone to Morocco. to work, tense and alert, and this has been

I have fond memories of my trips there, some of which I related very briefly in La alfombra roja[1]. The next stop will be Casablanca, where Tejidos marroquíes. Teresa Lanceta will be exhibited.

M.G.: Did you learn to weave in the Fine Art faculty?

T.L.: No, I never studied Fine Art. I began weaving at home, in voluntary isolation, captivated by a cotton thread I didn't want to use just for a sweater. The material as well as the technique deeply satisfied me and, little by little, the process inherent to artistic creation entered my life: understanding, enjoying, and modifying became my daily round in a free, spontaneous way. Until very recently, I never stopped to think that I had to produce results.

M.G.: Do you paint and draw as well as weave?

T.L.: Though I've been weaving since 1972, I didn't begin to do any serious painting, drawing and engraving until 1988 when, after many attempts and disappointments, I found out the whys and the wherefores. Style is indispensable, it's what you can't avoid, something like the story of the ugly duckling, so that the "apples" and "landscapes" I just couldn't get right were substituted by fabrics as the referential theme of the other techniques -except for a few Indian ink drawings of babies which I did between 1992 and 1994.

In the last few years I've painted a lot, combining embroidery, darning etc. in the same picture, as can be seen in this exhibition.

M.G.: Tell us about your technique and the tools you use.

T.L.: Weaving is a hypnotic technique based on the repetition of a single movement whose result is never immediately perceived. The physical impossibility of seeing the whole piece while weaving -since it has to be rolled up as you go along- enriches the fragment and gives it autonomy but also demands a global understanding of a composition that must be kept in the memory during the lengthy period of execution.

It's a technique that fosters a peculiar gratifying concentration although, as in any other artistic activity -whatever its treatment- nothing manages to alleviate the strong tension and deep anxiety of the creative process.

I use a high heddle loom. There are two types that have changed little over the centuries: the low heddle is much quicker but has fewer possibilities, and the high heddle is used for making carpets, Kilims and Gobelins.

You can't correct what's been made on the loom. Well, you can cut it off and throw it away -something I never do, nor, I believe, do any weaver- or try to create a design that incorporates and transforms the mistake. I always say that work on the loom is like life: what's done can't be undone, and you've got to live with it.

M.G.: What are your models?

T.L.: I've never thought along those, lines. After having carried out research on repetitive structures, I find everything absolutely different, i.e. though one carpet almost entirely repeats the features and designs of another, I only see its difference, its variety. Like people. We're all about the same and yet so unique and unrepeatable.

However, this question reminds me of something that made a great impression on me. I went to the Calcografia to see an exhibition on Goya's engravings. Actually, it was on the whole process of his work, from the preparatory drawings and proofs to the end result.

I hadn't seen the drawings before. They were absolutely modern, of very simple and free strokes: procuresses, horrors of war, prisons ... drawn in brush and ink with such freedom and simplicity that they seemed to belong to the 20th century. Next came the proofs made on the screw press: sometimes a figure had been removed, or an element, a patch of darkness or a more intense chiaroscuro had been added to the initial state. Every point on the visit was wonderful: each and every drawing was a work of art; any one of the printing proofs would have completely satisfied us. But it wasn't all this that so grabbed my attention, because that's what you expect of Goya. It was seeing how the process and the final result are fused into an indissoluble whole. Goya's genius isn't only to be found in his subtle insight into the human soul with all its contradictions: grief, wickedness, suffering and greatness, but also in his discovery of the "making" (whether you call it technique or process). Sometimes a perfect chiaroscuro helps us understand the victim of the pain and the deep injustice he is subjected to; sometimes a dry point brings to light the mechanisms of power and its wickedness; but if we start again at the end we might come to believe the opposite, i.e. that the executioner, the procuress and the window unveil the secrets of a technique, the power of an etching stain, the ambiguity of a wash.... Goya places technique at the service of the comprehension of the human soul, in the same way that his personages are at the service of the greatness of a technique, revealing to us that the tools of art have their own value. The role played by the soldier, prisoner, procuress and victim is of equal importance to that of the wash, chiaroscuro, etching and dry point.

Goya's obvious intuition in adapting the language to the motif should not make us forget that, as an artist, he also most likely sought among the subjects that interested him those better able to help him develop the technique he wanted to explore. Goya makes a creator out of the artist.

M.G.: In the catalogue of La alfombra roja exhibition, you said: "When I decided to buy some Moroccan pieces to base my own versions on, the problem arose of how to mark out the terrain. What exactly did you mean by that?

T.L.: I wanted to make a path with my work that referred back, in an obligatory way, to the original image: the Moroccan work. I wanted to create lenses that would help the observer to see it, but as I'm not conceptual I did it with weaving -the best way I knew.

[1] La alfombra roja is an exhibition that took place at the Museu Tèxtil i d'Indumentaria de Barcelona in 1989-1990. There Teresa Lanceta made versions of fourteen fabric from Middle Atlas, exhibited and cataloged as a unitary whole.