Cecilia Vicuña, the mystery of the Inca quipus

Investigation by Charlotte Groult


A Chilean artist with a protean and committed oeuvre, Cecilia Vicuña has been working for nearly forty years on quipus, the mysterious knotted cords used by the Incas before they were destroyed. While we do not know exactly what these objects represent, we still know that they are midway between a language and a mode of calculation.

[ 1 ]

Cecilia Vicuña, Saborami, Beau Geste Press, 1973.

[ 2 ]

Julia Bryan-Wilson, Fray: Art and Textile Politics, The University of Chicago Press, 2017.

[ 6 ]

Interview of Cecilia Vicuña in Water Writing: Anthological Exhibition, 1966-2009, Institute for Women & Art, Rutgers University, 2009 : https://www.academia.edu/15324905/Cecilia_Vicu%C3%B1a_Water_Writing_Anthological_Exhibition_1966-2009

[ 7 ]

Cecilia Vicuña, extracts of the poem “Sound is the mother”, in The Red Thread, ibid.

[ 8 ]

Don DeLillo, The Names, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. New York, 1982

[ 9 ]

Pierre Déléage, « Les Khipu : une mémoire locale ? », Cahiers des Amériques latines, 2007 : https://journals.openedition.org/cal/2157

[ 10 ]

Daniel Cossins, “We thought the Incas couldn’t write. These knots change everything”, New Scientist, 2018 : https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg23931972-600-we-thought-the-incas-couldnt-write-these-knots-change-everything/

[ 11 ]

Pierre Déléage, Lettres mortes. Essai d’anthropologie inversée, Fayard, 2017.

[ 12 ]

Juliet Lynd, “Precarious Resistance: Weaving Opposition in the Poetry of Cecilia Vicuña”, PMLA, 2005.

[ 13 ]

Michael Taussig, Mon Musée de la cocaïne, Éditions B42, 2018.

[ 15 ]

Note written by the artist during the realization of her painting Angel de la menstruación (1973), The Red Thread, ibid.

[ 16 ]

Interview of Cecilia Vicuña by Yenny Ariz Castillo:  http://www2.udec.cl/juanka/entrevista.html

[ 17 ]

Michael Taussig, ibid.

Multidisciplinary artist, Cecilia Vicuña, is a poet, visual artist and filmmaker. Born in Chile in 1948, she was at the forefront of conceptual art (art that favours idea over form), land art (art that uses natural settings and materials often with outdoor works) and performance (art of action) from a very early age. While she…

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