Cecilia Vicuña

Chilean poet, artist and filmmaker

Cecilia Vicuña (born 1948) is a Chilean poet and artist based in New York and Santiago, Chile.

Quotes edit

  • Plant your will!
    • fragment from the poem "Jungle Kill, translated from the Spanish by Suzanne Jill Levine
  • words
    are the loom
    of the stars

    life's breath
  • From the start, my work has been an interaction between art and poetry.
  • I began to define my work as “about to happen” in the 1970s. This is my view of how art exists: art is not what you think it is, but art is what is about to happen. It’s consciousness and awareness.

Interview (2020) edit

  • We have scholarship and scientific proof that climate change exists, so what is it going to take for people to understand and participate?
  • (What did ecofeminism mean to you in the 1970s and what does it mean for you, today in 2020?) CV: First of all, I never heard of the term ecofeminism in the ’70s, no one was using that term. [Laughter] I don’t know if anyone used the term to classify their art. I was thinking about it–I was doing it in the ’60s–I was working through what I was seeing and feeling while living in Chile, you know and being near the South Pacific Ocean. I was doing and making what people now call land art long before that language existed as a name or concept, and I’m not the only one either who was shaping the movement without using any terminology to define it.
  • If you think about human beings, [laughter] people have been people for almost a million years, and what we understand as art and art history is only a fleeting moment in that story.
  • For me, I think my inspiration is the attitude and the feeling that you are here to sense, feel, shift, relate, and dance with art.

Interview (2019) edit

  • My own indigenous history was erased—my mother and grandmothers were made to feel shame about their DNA. With my poems and performances, the quipu and the spirit of those ancient cultures are activated again.
  • Our understanding of time is so limited. We have very basic markers of time. We live and we die, but what else? In my opinion, a poem is created outside of time entirely. A quipu, on the other hand, is like traveling through time. We all experience this ability to travel back and forth in time in our souls, in our imaginations, and in our hearts. Mathematicians and physicists attempt to create these fantastic theories and equations, but I have been making art about this all along. I think that poetry has given me this gift of knowing. Not every poet has this. I think it is reserved to certain cultures, perhaps. One must open themselves to these other forms of knowing, but Western cultures have suppressed this. I call it a colonization of the mind.
  • (Would you say that your practice seeks to confront that ancestral trauma?) CV: I don’t think my work confronts it as much as faces it. In other words, it is my point of departure. I don’t think it’s something that can even be confronted because it has already happened. You have to allow for your being, your soul, your spirit, and your body to feel that and become fully aware of its importance. We now live in a culture that denies pain and denies trauma, and therefore if you deny that, not only are you bound to repeat it, but you’re bound to live in a world of lies. I think it’s very dangerous not to acknowledge such things. I think it is probably our first task. Otherwise I don’t think there’s going to be any more humanity.

Interview (2017) edit

  • Every living thing is nature. I mean, why are we on this suicidal move, and why is it that people refuse to see what we are doing to the environment even though we all feel it? That is the real question for our times. Why are we indifferent to our own death?
  • The position of poetry in oral cultures is of tremendous power and reach. In fact, the oral poets say this plainly: the reach of an oral poem is infinite because it can be sensed, it can be heard, it can be told, it’s alive and moving and changing.
  • Western education is about teaching that knowledge belongs to an elite. Therefore, you either join through a difficult long struggle or you are devoid of any value. So that is the teaching of this culture, there’s something ingrained in the system and worldview, which we know not to be true. I have done many educational projects with Indigenous peoples and that is one of my principles: that you don’t teach what people ‘ought to know’. On the contrary, you let them discover their own wisdom, they’re own insight, they’re own realisations – those which are infinite once they relax into seeing their own self, their own being. It’s a human thing, everybody has this power and this gift. It’s not something special.
  • If you think that you don’t know, you don’t know. But if you think that you may know, if you think that it’s perfectly possible that you have a knowing, then you can find it. So it’s a matter of opening. It’s a matter of releasing the structures that have been imposed upon you, realising that every form of education is an imposition that’s coming from outside your being. I think the liberating force of art and poetry is that it releases you from that, and it puts you in the place of discovering, of exploring, of acknowledging that you have senses, that you have awareness, that you perceive and are paying attention to the precise form of those perceptions. That’s the joy of the poet, the joy of the artist, to focus completely, zero in on those perceptions and see the universe expanding out of ‘a grain of sand’, as William Blake said. Everything has infinite possibilities of knowledge and that’s what it means to be human. We have been brought up to believe that the machine knows better than we do. Everybody believes that now. That’s preposterous! Machines only know how to do operations, they can’t imagine, they can’t imagine the unimagined, they can’t travel like we can to the end of the galaxies just by thinking about it. So, why are we so willing to renounce our agency as creators? That is what is troubling.
  • Only by becoming collectively aware of the pain we inflict on each other is there a chance for change, for a new moral code to prevent it. We need to archive not just art and literary works – often the record of the unacknowledged behaviour we have witnessed, or felt within – but also its effects on others. The social context makes change possible.
  • Even in the ’60s, the ecological disasters had begun, and I think by focusing on dissolution and regeneration of the lifeforce, I was instinctively responding to that pain, the pain of the ocean, the pain of the sand. I walked on this beach as a kid and the sole of my feet would get black from oil, everything was already blackened. That was 50 years ago. We have lived with this denial and destruction for 50 years, and when you think of the damage that those 50 years have done, if there’s a future for humanity, those 50 years are going to be known as one of the most criminal.

Quotes about edit

  • Chilean Cecilia Vicuña is obsessed with constructing a new way of writing poetry, of uniting fragments and objects through conjunctions and through the elaboration of well-arranged, pre-fabricated words. Her poetry, which reflects a gaze filled with beauty and seduction, implies a new configuration, as well as the constant knowledge that language is the legacy of women.
    • Marjorie Agosín Introduction to These Are Not Sweet Girls: Poetry by Latin American Women (2000)

External links edit

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