Unknotting Identity and Weaving Stories

(C)FASHION FANZINE ISSN 2397 2580 – October 2018

 

Cecilia Vicuña: 

Unknotting Identity and Weaving Stories

 

 

By Emireth Herrera

 

I have often meditated on the essence of being Latin-American. For me, a Mexican woman, it means a combination of mixed blood, social activism, passion for life–but also a thirst for spiritual life, for memory, family, ritual and legacy. For her part, New York-based Chilean artist Cecilia Vicuña found inspiration in the powerful concept of Quipu (a Quechua word that means knot), an ancient practice which was prohibited by the Spanish during the colonization of South America. The exhibition Cecilia Vicuña: Disappeared Quipu at the Brooklyn Museum will be displayed until November 25, 2018.

 

 


Looking at the exhibition reminded me of the poetry undergirding rituals that persist to preserve identities after colonization. Vicuña´s environmental installation can be seen from the entrance of the first floor. It is an impressive installation of white, knotted cords suspended from the ceiling of the Museum, embracing the visitor even as it interrogates Andean identity. A film shows a sample of a vast representation of codes and symbols from the Andes, most of them referring to the importance of preserving identity since the colonization. The sensation of walking among the vine-like cords is overwhelming and unavoidable. This feeling is reinforced by the sudden sound from the video projected consequently on the cords and over the contiguous walls. The installation transforms the exhibition space into a ritual of remembrance where memories can be read on each knot. The chants of the film whisper codes which have been communicated through generations. Overall, the encounter is a call to los desaparecidos–the disappeared–referring to innumerable kidnappings and murders committed throughout the twentieth century (and continuing into our current epoch) by Latin-American dictatorships, presidents, and government-sponsored paramilitary groups. This is the most valuable reflection one can have, because Latin-American people tend to forget their governments’ atrocities. Latin Governments have always taken control of people’s minds and reactions, using newspapers and mass media to manipulate history. Vicuña is appealing to collective memory and emphasizing the urgency of self-consciousness, of maintaining a memory-record so the same horrific mistakes are not repeated.

 

 

Cecilia Vicuña has devoted most of her career to analyzing and interpreting knot-making as a language. As part of the exhibition the artist selected some textiles from the collection to accompany her work. Though she curated the rest of the exhibition, some of the works did not engage with the same intensity as her installation. And although her statement clearly expresses feminism as one of the key concepts of the exhibition theme, I did not find it represented as strongly as the other themes at work. On the other hand, patterns and symbols related to indigenismo do much to reconfigure the aesthetic of the work. Indeed, the beauty of ancestral rituals is conceptualized to great effect in the metaphorical and poetical work of Vicuña.

 

 

 

(C)FASHION FANZINE ISSN 2397 2580 – October 2018

Leave a Reply