Cecilia Vicuña: Disappeared Quipu, Indigenous Chilean art

Cecilia Vicuña: Disappeared Quipu at the Brooklyn Museum in Prospect Park from May 18 – November 25, 2018, brings back the magic of memory stored in Indigenous Quipu, an ancient knotted cord writing and reading system of the Andean peoples.


Quipus are basically a form of book made from knots tied in cords. It’s an ancient recording method of the Andean people.

Like everything else about our Indigenous culture, the Conquistador Catholic clergy banned and did their best to destroy the quipu during the Spanish colonial period.

Cecilia Vicuña

Cecilia Vicuña is a Chilean poet, artist and filmmaker based in New York City and Santiago, Chile. She works the realm of language, memory, decay, and exile within a feminist – ecologist framework.

Vicuña was born in the capital Santiago de Chile in 1948. She got her MFA from the University of Chile. At the beginning of the American-supported Pinochet dictatorship in 1973, Vicuña went into exile in London.

It is notable how much the Pinochet dictatorship has affected an entire generation, or two, of Chileans. Creative resistance seems almost inseparable from contemporary Chilean identity. It’s a passive warning that we must not allow our own country to fall into dictatorship.

Like most Latin Americans, Vicuña has an Indigenous heritage. For some reason, in the United States, people tend to think of Native Americans as somehow different from the “Indigenous” people of Latin America. In reality, we are a continuum of Indigenous peoples from Alaska and the Northwest Territories to Tierra del Fuego at the tip of Chile and Argentina.

The study and recreation of quipus form a significant part of Vicuña’s artistic practice.

Opening on the same day as Cecilia Vicuña: Disappeared Quipu, Cecilia Vicuña La India Contaminada, (The Dirty Indian) opens at Lehmann Maupin gallery in Chelsea, Manhattan. It is on view Monday – Saturday, through July 6.


Cecilia Vicuña: Disappeared Quipu

In this exhibition Vicuña creates immersive installations and participatory performances that are paired with ancient quipus in the Brooklyn Museum’s permanent collection. She is resurrecting a nearly lost ancient language.

If we ever meet our makers or whoever is out there among the stars in the sky, you’d want to have someone like Cecilia Vicuña present to help us understand each other.

The exhibition includes thirteen ancient Andean textiles curated by Vicuña. Seeing them, you can’t help but wonder how these fragile objects survived hundreds of years and the conquistador and clergy’s attempts at destruction. It’s a miracle, akin to the survival of African traditions in the Americas. Perhaps great art is eternal.

The exhibition is organized by the Brooklyn Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. In Brooklyn, it is presented by the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art and organized by Catherine Morris and Nancy Rosoff with Serda Yalkin.

Cecilia Vicuña: Disappeared Quipu Tickets

Tickets are available at the door.

General Admission: $16
Students (Valid ID) or 65+: $10
19 and under: Free

Visiting the Brooklyn Museum

200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn,  NY 11238
(in Prospect Park at Washington Ave)

(718) 638-5000

Wednesday – Sunday: 11 am – 6 pm (10 pm Thursdays)
First Saturdays (except September): 11 am – 11 pm


(2) (3) to Eastern Parkway – Brooklyn Museum


B41 and B69 to Grand Army Plaza
B45 to St. Johns Place and Washington Ave

For more information, visit www.brooklynmuseum.org

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