In the Andes, people did not write, they wove meaning into textiles and knotted cords. Five thousand years ago they created the quipu or knot, a poem in space, a way to remember, involving the body and the cosmos at once, a tactile, spatial metaphor for the union of all. The quipu, and its virtual counterpart, the ceque – a system of sightlines connecting all communities in the Andes – were banished after the Conquest. Quipus were burnt, but the vision of interconnectivity endures underground. Cecilia Vicuña began making quipus in the 1960s as an act of poetic resistance. She created a ‘quipu that remembers nothing’, an empty cord to hear the earth listening to us.
Vicuña's site specific installation for the 18th Biennale of Sydney (2012), QUIPU AUSTRAL (2012), was presented in the Timber Drying Store (Building 19), on the Upper Island.
My work dwells in the not yet, the future potential of the unformed – where sound, weaving, and language interact to create new meanings. Since the 1960s, I have been creating large impermanent installations I call ‘precarios/precarious’ collective rituals, poems in space, and oral performances based on dissonant sound and the shamanic voice. The fluid, multidimensional quality of these works allows them to exist in many media and languages at once. Created in and for the moment, they reflect ancient spiritual technologies – a knowledge of the power of communal intention to heal the earth. My work responds to an awareness of place, a sensory memory of the land. To respond is to offer again. Desire is the offering – the body is only a metaphor. Precarious means prayer, uncertain, exposed to hazards, insecure. Prayer is change, the dangerous instant of transmutation. An object is not an object. It is the witness to a relationship. In complementary union, two opposites collide to create new forms. Seeing and naming the beauty of the exchange creates the space for it to unfold. Weaving is awareness of the exchange.