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

"Tied Face (Life and Death)," 1970
"Tied Face (Life and Death)," 1970


In Chile, Vicuña began to develop a body of work that largely exists through precarious, impermanent gestures — their degradation, disappearance, and experiential impact communicate an intention to illuminate, preserve and pay tribute to indigenous history and practice, and also to the natural world. In doing so, Vicuña draws attention to the urgent side effects of modernity, wherein essentialist command has bred widespread violations of the environment, of human rights, and of cultural traditions.

In 1967, Vicuña and five peers founded the Tribu No. Their intent, as demonstrated by the ‘No Manifesto of the No Tribe,’ was to “undermine society from within” through subversion and through loving, and to “leave humans naked, without preconceived notions. Without conventional attachments/attire.” “As long as life’s magnificence persists in our solitary yet connected experiences, nothing worries us,” they shared. And thus, through writing, drawing, painting, playing, performing, improvising the group sought to destabilize conservative, canonical and authoritative governance forced upon the world.

In 1972, Vicuña relocated to the United Kingdom for postgraduate studies at Slade School of Fine Art, University College London. Following the violent coup against President Allende in 1973, Vicuña decided to stay in London until 1975 when she relocated to Bogotá, Colombia. The works that she developed in London and Bogotá, in isolation from her native country, as well as in New York, where she relocated in 1980, and also into the future, became mediations of protest and of pedagogy, exploring the possibilities of connection, imagination, and liberation in rethinking one’s navigation of terrains of the everyday.

"Casa Espiral," 1966
"Casa Espiral," 1966


A retrospective exhibition, Cecilia Vicuña: Seehearing the Enlightened Failure, which includes of over one hundred works and materials related to the artist’s oeuvre, is on view through October 25, 2020 at the Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo (MUAC) in Mexico City. The exhibition, curated by Miguel A. López, traveled from Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam. A comprehensive catalogue of the same title, complete with new and existing essays centering on Vicuña’s work, as well as a collection of texts authored by Vicuña herself, was published on the occasion of the exhibition.

Between 2017 – 2019, Cecilia Vicuña: About to Happen, the first major US solo exhibition dedicated to Vicuña’s career traveled from the Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans, LA to the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley, CA; Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, PA; Henry Art Gallery, Seattle, WA; and the Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami, FL.

In recent years, further solo exhibitions and installations of Vicuña’s work have been held at numerous institutions including but not limited to Cecilia Vicuña: Lo Precario | The Precarious at the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, OH (2019); Quipo Desaparecido at the Brooklyn Museum, NY (2018); Cecilia Vicuña: PALABARmas at the Neubauer Collegium, University of Chicago, IL (2018); Artists for Democracy: El Archivo de Cecilia Vicuña, Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos, Santiago, Chile and the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Santiago, Chile (2014). Water Writing: Anthological Exhibition, 1966-2009, an overview of four decades of Vicuña’s practice was held at the Institute for Women & Art, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ in 2009.

"Otoño," 1973
"Otoño," 1973


Vicuña’s work has been included in an extensive number of group exhibitions throughout her career including A Year in Art: 1973, Tate Modern, London (2019); Collaboration for a Dark Sky, Centro Cultural de Espana, Santiago (2019); Artistic License: Six Takes on the Guggenheim Collection, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2019); Migrations and Material Alchemy, Princeton University Art Museum, New Jersey (2018); Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960-1985, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2017) and traveled to the Brooklyn Museum, New York and Pinoteca de Såo Paulo (2018); Documenta 14, Athens, Greece and Kassel, Germany (2017); Movimientos de Tierra, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artest, Santiago, Chile (2017); Embodied Absence: Ephemerality and Collectivity in Chilean Art of the 1970s Now, Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA (2016); Una imagen llamada palabra, Centro Nacional de Arte Contemporáneo, Cerrillos, Chile (2016); La emergencia del pop. Irreverencia y calle en Chile, Museo de la Solidaridad Salvador Allende, Santiago (2016); the 18th Sydney Biennial, Australia (2012); DANCE / DRAW, ICA Boston (2011); ON LINE, Drawing Through the Twentieth Century, Museum of Modern Art, New York (2010); Subversive Practices: Art under Conditions of Political Repression, Württembergischer Kunstverein, Stuttgart (2009); WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution, MOCA, Los Angeles (2007); Antagonismos, Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, Barcelona (2001); Agitación como ritual cotidiano. Cartografías del deseo, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid (2001); Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1997); Inside the Visible. An Elliptical Traverse of Twentieth Century Art in, of, and from the Feminine, ICA Boston and traveled to the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C., the Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, and the Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth (1996); America: The Bride of the Sun - 500 years of Latin American Art and the Low Countries, Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp, Belgium (1992); The Decade Show, New Museum, New York (1990); 2nd Havana Biennial, Cuba (1986); Video from Latin America, The Museum of Modern Art, New York (1981); Ikon & Logos, The Alternative Museum, New York (1981); 4th Medellín Biennial, Colombia (1981); and the Bienal de Arte INBO, Cochabamba, Bolivia (1981); among others.

Between 1973 and 2019, Cecilia Vicuña has published 30 written works, many of these compendiums of her poetry. new and selected poems of cecilia vicuña was published by Kelsey Street Press, Berkeley, CA in 2018, which collects both Spanish and English language poems from various works and series, such as [in order of appearance] The Taste of Me / Sabor a Mí (1966-1971); PALABRARmas (1966-2015); Precarious / Precario (1966-2015); The Vicuña / La Wik’uña (1990); Word & Thread / Palabra e Hilo (1996); Cloud-net / Tejido de Nubes (2001); The Temple / El Templo (2001); QUIPOem/The Precarious: The Art and Poetry of Cecilia Vicuña (1997); Instan (2002); Spit Temple (2012); twelve previously uncollected poems previously published in magazines, newspapers, and anthologies; as well as notes for nine performances dating between 2001-2008. Collectively, these works give an overarching perspective of the connective thematic threads that have carried through Vicuña’s multidisciplinary motivations, such as memories written in the land and on bodies, metaphor as a temple of contemplation, political persecution, revolution, exile, recovery, Andean complexity and imagination, creation, fecundity, natural and polluted environments, the cons of civilization, multiplicitous identities, the weaponization of language, the potential of a poetic future.

"Precario / Precarious," 1983
"Precario / Precarious," 1983


Vicuña has presented no less than 65 performance-based works including Clit Nest at the Serpentine Galleries, London (2019); Doubled, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2017); Tugar Tugar Salir a Buscar el Sentido Perdido, Proyecto Fondart, Caleu, Chile (2011); To Weave is to Awake, Pratt Institute, New York (2014); Artists for Democracy, Columbia University, New York (2014); Quipu Thoughts, Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore (2013); Water Quipu, Birkbeck College, University of London (2013); Saborami, California College of the Arts, San Francisco (2012); Ak-Oruk, Amnesty International, Native Spirit Film Festival, London (2010); Paracas, Fundación Telefónica, Lima, Perú (2010); Kon Kon, Naropa University, Boulder, Colorado (2009); Heresies, MoMA PS1, New York (2008); Mapuche Poetic Traditions, People’s Poetry Gathering, City University of New York (2007); Violeta Parra, Viña del Mar, Chile (2007); Gabriela Martiana, Americas Society, New York (2002); Gabriela en el MoMA, The Museum of Modern Art, New York (2001); The Precarious, Art Institute, Sterling, Scotland (1996); Tongue-Less/Double-Tongued: the experience of Latin American Poetry in the US, St. Mark’s Poetry Project, New York (1998); Writing on Air, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York (1995); Fertile Scriptures, Naropa University, Boulder, Colorado (1995); El Ande Futuro, University Art Museum, Berkeley (1992); Oir y orar, Tercer Congreso de Culturas Hispánicas, Universidad de Chile, Santiago, Chile (1992); Arte Precario, School of Architecture, University of Puerto Rico, San Juan (1991); The Latin American Diaspora, Boston University Art Gallery, Boston (1988); Eros del Sud, a vision of ancient and new eroticism, Franklin Furnace, New York (1984); Usos de la Imaginación, Fundación Aigle, Buenos Aires (1984); El Vaso de Leche, Alianza Colombo Francesa, Bogotá (1979); Ojos que no ven, Goethe Institut, Bogotá (1978); Arte y Poesía de Cecilia Vicuña, Teatro Experimental de Cali, Valle del Cauca, Colombia (1976); Art & Literature since the Chilean Revolution, ICA London (1974).

For more, you can browse her website.