Micro 2 – detail from the Bitacroa’s series (2009)
10 x 15 cms
Photographs woven in the Andean backstrap loom technique
Sandra De Berduccy is a textile artist from Bolivia. Weaving is at the heart of all of her work, which explores a range of mediums and often incorporates sensors and LEDs. Interaction is an increasingly important part of her art.
Where are you based and where do you work?
I work and live next to a native forest, located in an area of great textile tradition in Bolivia: South of Cochabamba.
All my latest work is done there, no doubt this location gave me one thing that when I lived in the city I did not have: time. Thanks to this, I am finally able to experience what I call “the time of the weavers”, which goes hand in hand with the time of nature, create without haste.
Did you study textiles or are you self taught?
I studied visual arts then trained in traditional textiles with Quechua and Aymara master weavers, in Bolivia, Maya-Quiq’ché in Guatemala and other master weavers and teachers, friends, with whom I always share techniques and secrets.
In 2000 I began self-managed research that explores the textile as technology and phenomenology, which traces the relationship between nature, the processes of traditional Andean textiles and new media art.
How do you describe your work?
Well, that description should include several practices. First of all I am a weaver, all my work and my life is centred on this daily practice. I am a researcher, since I have been working for years on research on complex traditional textile techniques and processes. I am a kind of maker, I create my artefacts with electronics, code programs, micro controllers, reverse engineering and finally I am a kind of phenomenological provocateur as I am experimenting with natural dyes and electricity, with light installations that sometimes are emitted by dye cactus, weavers’ instruments or the flow of a river. All these practices merge with each other.
You have a wide range of techniques and work including video. Why do you work in the medium of textiles?
Just editing videos is how I understood that my way of ordering and understanding the world was that of a weaver. Learning codes and programming, I understood that the backstrap loom, in its apparent simplicity, is a thinking machine, a highly ordered complex system, which follows a kind of algorithms for its functioning. Also learning about electronics I realised that the reactions between acids and bases, which were familiar to me for the natural dyes, produced electricity. Now I am experimenting with sensors and interaction, because Andean textile is more than just visual.
How do you work?
Each work requires a different form of planning, I use all the resources I have at hand, pencil and paper and software. I make small looms with sticks as sketches. It takes me a long time to plan a work, that is why I can say that each work is a prototype, that answers to certain question or is one step further, so it is difficult for me to repeat a work.
And for sure, I spend many hours a day, weaving with my backstrap loom under the shade of a tree.
What is your proudest moment in your career so far?
I will name two moments: in 2013 I was an associate artist of ESCALA (Essex Collection of Art from Latin America) in the United Kingdom, and my works, that are now part of the collection, were exhibited alongside works by great artists that I admire. The second moment was last year, 2016, I was invited by the Textile Museum of Oaxaca in Mexico, to share workshops of a complex traditional Andean technique with indigenous master weavers from different regions of Oaxaca. The particular technique I taught was being lost in the memory of the elders of the region, and no one else wove it.
What advice can you give aspiring textile artists?
Textile is a very old art and nowadays it is common to think of fabric as a surface only, iconography, and not as a complex structure, so it is necessary to know the masterpieces from masters weavers of ancient cultures, not only for technical references but true cultural manifestos.
In the same way it is important to be respectful of the techniques and iconographies of different cultures, each one must weave and create according to what one is, not to copy or decontextualize weavings of indigenous peoples. I mention this because currently some European designers copy traditional textiles, without any respect for the communities that have worn and woven them for centuries.