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Cecilia Vicuña

Cecilia Vicuña (b. 1948, Santiago, Chile) has dedicated her life to reclaiming the ancient indigenous knowledge of her homeland and positioning it in dialogue with the contemporary world. In her multifaceted practice, she deploys this universal wisdom like a talisman against unbridled capitalism and environmental destruction. Through poetry, painting, installations and ritualistic performances, she aims to awaken a spirit of collective activism in her audiences and to disrupt the negative forces that are destroying both the planet and humanity. Born and raised in Santiago, the artist was forced into exile during the military coup against President Salvador Allende in the 1970s. This experience brought the precarious nature of human existence into ever sharper focus. Vicuña is particularly known for two ongoing bodies of work that she has been making since the 1960s: precarios and quipus. Both have their origins in ancient Andean traditions. The former are diminutive spatial poems crafted from feathers, stone, plastic, wood, wire, shells, cloth, and other artificial detritus, which are often looped together into organic constellations. The quipus are based on an ancient Andean method of communication and record-keeping involving the knotting of coloured strings. Vicuña uses unspun wool to make her own transitory and site-specific quipu installations. She also creates collective, ritual-like performances in vulnerable or charged sites, with the aim of restoring the connection between people and the earth. The loss of natural elements and resources, especially water, is a significant theme in her oeuvre. Vicuña is also the acclaimed author of almost thirty volumes of art and poetry and a skilled filmmaker.

Cecilia Vicuña (b. 1948, Santiago, Chile) lives and works between Santiago and New York. She received the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the Venice Biennale, Italy in 2022. Other awards include the Premio Velázquez de Artes Plásticas, Madrid, Spain (2019); Herb Alpert Award in the Arts, Santa Monica, CA (2019); Anonymous Was a Woman Award, New York, NY (1999); and The Andy Warhol Foundation Award, New York, NY (1997). Recent solo exhibitions include: Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (MNBA), Santiago (2023), MOCA, Tucson (2023); Tate Modern, London (2022); Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2022); Museo de Arte Miguel Urrutia (MAMU), Bogotá (2022); Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo (CA2M), Madrid (2021); Museo Universitario de Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico City (2020); and CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco (2020), among others.

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