Teatro Out Off, Milan - February 22, at 21.00
Handweaving everything, everybody, everywhere
By Luciano Ghersi
"As beautiful as the intercourse
between an umbrella and a Singer
on an anatomical table.”
(Lautréamont, The Songs of Maldoror)
During the summer of 1998, I wove in the park that hosts the big names in contemporary art, that is the Garden of Daniel Spoerri in Tuscany. I had set up the Global Home tent that was not just an installation. It was also a construction site of public art with two hand built looms, constructed with scraps salvaged from a Coop dump: meat hooks, shopping carts, shelving and so on.
In the garden of the biggies, I was handweaving an enormous Indian tepee. I also let the public do some weaving, recycling recovered pieces that were more or less textile: intact or torn clothing including underwear, electrical wires, flexible tubes, toys that children offered for the weaving. In this way the Global Home tent is a fabric saturated with talismans: it even has a Councilman’s tie, sacrificed at the inauguration, and even a walking stick that Daniel Spoerri shoved into the warp, challenging me to weave that in too… and to make it fit I had to saw a piece off.
One fine day, Spoerri brought me a snack along with the announcement that he had just received a number of balls of fabric to be shredded, that could be woven into the Global Home tepee. Those balls of fabric had been sent by a certain Luigi Bonotto, whom I did not even know. He, on the other hand, knew me: he had been a collector of my work since 1985, when, in Milano at Alberto Schubert’s, he had found some of my hand woven televisions, that were actually soft cushions, woven specifically to reconnect that interrupted thread that connects tactile sensation and vision. It wasn’t until 2000 that Bonotto arrived in person, under the Global Home tent, that I had, by then, transferred to the party at Montecito Rock, after various incongruous encampments. Among these were: a Germanic monumental cemetery where, among others, Boehme, the shoemaker and zen mystic who inspired German idealism, was buried. Between lustful baroque angels of unquestionable sex, I was able to weave so well in the cemetery, that I even invited Mensa Kpodo, the Klikor Weaver from Ghana to join me. At that time we built a traditional African loom with boards and screws from Obi (the German Hobby Legno).
But getting back to Montecchio, amidst the din of the concerts, Bonotto had fun tracking down the areas of the Global Home tepee where his shredded fabrics had been worked into the weave. It was then that I found out that Luigi, besides being a collector of extreme contemporary art, besides being a prestigious textile entrepreneur, is also an artist and hand-weaver in his own right. He is therefore a colleague; he too is engaged in balancing on the thin thread that stretches between aesthetics and functionality.
Speaking of the thread between aesthetics and functionality, I recently wove some “bathroom rugs” (or “machine-washable pictures”), with the specific intention of insinuating art into daily bathing, establishing a contact with people’s naked feet. This time I wove on a curious pedal run fant-archaeological-industrial model loom, that had been assembled in ancient times by the Weaver Enea d’Arcidosso, with recuperated wood and gears. I called my bath beauties “Re-Jeans” because I used recycled jeans in making the rugs. Using scraps for weaving is not my invention but a form of popular art, both classical and contemporary. Unfortunately these artists are admitted to few galleries, but Gebhart Blazek, a gallery owner in Vienna, is organizing a historic exposition.
After that I threw myself into automobile seats, with my usual goal of insinuating art into another daily environment: that of the automobile. This is why I wove the “Cop-Rici-Sedili”, for which I recycled the frame of an old cot, thus obtaining a traditional nomad carpet loom. They too would make looms like this if they found old cots abandoned in the rubbish bin. Unfortunately those poor things don’t have rubbish bins: at best they find old school blackboards from failed education projects and recycle them as loom frames.
Not even the seatcover rug was my invention: I confess that I had already seen such in Magreb and in Nepal, both made with knotted rags, like mine, and made with the original knotted wool. Apart from for the actual historical digression and its so-called design which is the exception, the presence of art in furniture and daily tools is the norm in every civilization. By the way, my seatcovers also look great on armchairs and in the dining room, as well as in cars and museums.
Later I saw Bonotto again in the historical weaving center in Valdagno. I’d gone there for Museum Night to weave the Kente on a traditional African loom that I had reconstructed from chestnut beams: that is to say, from bolted fence poles. The art of the Kente is too evolved for the current White Man. But I, modestly speaking, was admitted to the prestigious Kente corporation in the mystical Klikor center in Ghana. I also have an initiation name: “Weaver of the Century” … maybe not of the current century, but I console myself that even Nietzsche wasn’t current.
But this is of little importance in the economy of the cosmos. Let’s get back to Valdagno and Marzotto, where Luigi Bonotto has just arrived. We went to the Textile Machine Museum, and were moved by the mechanical assemblages the Weaver Castegnaro. There is a drum warper, created from one of his children’s cradles and the wheels of his own bicycle…if these objects have a soul, then this too transmigrates. The warper almost seems to be a work by Tinguely, but it is not a “useless machine”. In fact, it isn’t limited to just significance: it works and proudly produces, on that common thread between aesthetics and functionality.
Before I returned to the Weaving Faculty (in Umbria, in Porchiano del Monte), Luigi filled my Opel Kadett with his fabric samples. He stuffed them between the pieces of a large Sardinian carpet loom, that I’d just picked up in Nule, in the Province of Sassari where the beams (or let’s also say: the rollers) are called “binarius” (or tracks) because, I think, they used to raid the railway to make their looms. Bonotto’s fabrics are sample “squares”: they are like mosaics with hundreds of chromatic and framework variations, from which the Stylist will cut only one: the one that goes into production with his signature. This is Fashion, my dear and you can’t change it a bit.
Arriving in Porchiano, I cut a strip from one of the “squares”. I cut it on the parapet of the medieval wall because I didn’t have a table long enough to stretch it all out. The cut fabric would become the “weft” though, you understand that you also need a “warp”… and I always stretched it out on the wall, because there is plenty of space available. Then, you understand, I reinforced a loom: the one in mulberry wood, that was made by the Cooper of Montevarchi during the last (so they say) World War, because at the time there was a great crisis in industrial fabric. And so the Cooper remade a loom. But he made the combs in cherry since because they strike together they need to be harder: "Tumb! Tumb"! But who is F. T. Marinetti? And what is the poetry of machines? There is a great past in our future, long live agri-futurism!
In short, in that loom by the Cooper, I threaded my strips one-by-one, with the so-called infinite patience of the Weaver. Patience, so called by those who cannot understand how enjoyable and how relaxing it is, tapping into the anthropologic roots of obsession, lust and reason…which, shall we say, is really the loom: without the loom there is no philosophy, even Goethe understood that, even though he is classical, I finally plotted my fabric strips in such a way that each one restored the original chromatic sequence of the sample squares. It’s trite, I know: I didn’t make an effort to create, I only wanted to see what would happen. And in fact, it did succeed, with my immodest contribution… should we say, as an Artist or as a Weaver?
So this is how I wove my first carpet (picture, tapestry…I wouldn’t know), with Bonotto Archive samples. The carpet (picture, tapestry…I wouldn’t know), seems to me a stupendous organizational coincidence: it is more beautiful than the meeting of an umbrella and a sewing machine. Because an anatomical table is uglier than a loom: in this there is more life…. If you will permit me, Lautréamont