September 28, 2020 –
August 1, 2021
This year-long research season uses the work of the artist Cecilia Vicuña as a lens to think about our contemporary moment.

Our point of departure is the work of the artist, poet, and activist Cecilia Vicuña. From there, a series of open questions map out a broad thematic territory for a year-long schedule of public events: reading groups, lectures, performances, screenings, and other events explore artists and ideas that emerge as related or as relevant in productive ways. We end with two publications: a book conceived with Vicuña and an issue of our annual reader. 

Please join the collective conversation as it evolves over the course of the year: sign up for a reading group, attend an event, consult some of the online resources, and, when we can open again, visit the Wattis bar for additional materials. Please sign up to our newsletter to receive notifications and updates.

(Learn more about our research seasons and explore past seasons.)

The CCA faculty group who collaborated on this research includes Juana Berrío (Fine Arts), Ricki Dwyer (Textiles), Tonya Foster (Writing & Literature), Jeanne Gerrity (Wattis), Anthony Huberman (Wattis), Brian Karl (Critical Studies), Mia Liu (Visual Studies), Elizabeth Mangini (Visual Studies), Denise Newman (Writing & Literature), Frances Richard (Fine Arts), Ignacio Valero (Critical Studies), Diego Villalobos (Wattis), Cathrine Veikos (Interior Design), with research assistance by Jenni Crain. Public programs are curated by Anthony Huberman, Jeanne Gerrity, and Diego Villalobos.

With special thanks to Cecilia Vicuña and Lilah Dougherty.

Season 7: Cecilia Vicuña is on our mind is co-curated by Jeanne Gerrity and Anthony Huberman and is supported by an Innovation Grant from the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation.
Cecilia Vicuña is on our mind.

by Jeanne Gerrity

I’m writing this text from San Francisco in August of 2020. Walking outside feels like standing downwind from a bonfire, the air hazy and hot, thick with the stench of burning forests. Lightning-sparked blazes around California rage uncontrollably, lives lost, buildings reduced to ashes, natural habitats destroyed. We swap our surgical masks to protect against the global pandemic for thick masks with filters to preserve our lungs.

I am reminded of Cecilia Vicuña’s Burnt Quipu (2018), wide ribbons of knotted wool dyed the colors of fire, ash, and soot hanging from the ceiling in her exhibition About to Happen at the Berkeley Art Museum two years ago. The installation was a response to the northern California fires that year, but also points to a recurrent theme in Vicuña’s work: the disastrous effects of climate change resulting from reckless human activity. Our best recourse is to coexist with the natural world, as Vicuña, drawing from Indigenous traditions, has been telling us all along.

For five decades, Vicuña has been making art in the forms of poetry, performance, installations, sculptures, paintings, and street actions that resist capitalism and disrupt colonialism from a feminist perspective. In this present moment, her life work is more pressing than ever.

(... continue reading).
(... sigue leyendo en español).

More about the artist

Cecilia Vicuña (b. 1948, Santiago, Chile) is an artist, poet and activist currently based between New York and Santiago.

Here are additional resources to learn more about her:
- a biography and exhibition history
- excerpts from essays written about her work
- some of the artist's own words, from written texts and interviews
- a selection of the artist's poems.

Please also visit Vicuña's website to find additional images of her objects, paintings, installations, performances, films, and more.

Schedule of Events (September 2020 - July 2021)

On September 28, the artist and Wattis Curatorial Fellow Jenni Crain hosts a reading group titled Whose footsteps are these? Where have they gone? with readings by Ranajit Guha and Miguel A. López, among others.

On October 19, the art historian Mia Liu hosts a reading group titled What is permanence anyway? with readings by William Butler Yeats, Julia Bryan-Wilson, and Cecilia Vicuña.

On November 23, the artist Ricki Dwyer hosts a reading group titled Can our materials be our witness? with readings by Cecilia Vicuña, Tatiana Flores, Gloria Anzaldua, and Julie Phillips Brown.

On December 14, the writer and curator Brian Karl hosts a reading group titled What are the “red threads” that help make new rituals make sense? with readings by Julia Bryan-Wilson, Monica Uszerowicz, and Victor Turner.

On January 28, 2021, the writer and curator Miguel López speaks to Cecilia Vicuña’s practice in the form of a letter addressed to the artist. He shares his intimate perspective on working with Vicuña over many years, as well as the enormous impact of her visceral entanglements between words and seed, sound and thread, quipu and blood.

On February 11, 2021, Cecilia Vicuña premieres four new short films created between 2018 and 2020, followed by a conversation with Chilean-American poet Daniel Borzutzky.

On February 25, 2021, the curator and art historian Julieta González introduces her landmark exhibition Memories of Underdevelopment: Art and the Decolonial Turn in Latin America, 1960-1985 (2017).

From March 15 to August 15 2021, a series of letters between Julie Patton, Maya Abu Al-Hayat, Marcella Durand, Deborah Richards, and Rosa Alcalá is sent via mail to anyone who would like to sign up to receive them.

On May 15, 2021, artist Indira Allegra presents a new commissioned performance at Lake Merritt in Oakland.

On May 21, 2021, artist Emerson Uýra shares stories and challenges inherent to life in the Amazon in 2021.

On June 30, 2021, Jennifer Ponce de León and Colleen Lye discuss Ponce de León's book Another Aesthetics is Possible: Arts of Rebellion in the Fourth World War.

From July 7 through August 18, we share three syllabi conceived by artists Ximena Garrido-Lecca, Marshall Trammell, and Faith Wilding.

On July 28, 2021, we host an outdoor screening of videos by Carolina Caycedo, Denise Ferreira da Silva and Arjuna Neuman, Sky Hopinka, Thao Nguyen Phan, and Charwei Tsai at Headlands Center for the Arts.