September 28, 2020 –
August 1, 2021
Cecilia Vicuña is on our mind.

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)

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, and 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. Find more information and sign up here.

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. Find more information and sign up here.

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. Find more information and sign up here.

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. Find more information and sign up here.

More events will be announced soon.

The CCA faculty group who collaborated on this research included 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.

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.