Cecilia Vicuña

author, translator

Cecilia Vicuña is a poet, artist, filmmaker and activist whose work addresses pressing concerns of the modern world, including ecological destruction, human rights, and cultural homogenization. Born and raised in Santiago de Chile, she has been in exile since the early 1970s, after the military coup against elected president Salvador Allende. Vicuña has published more than twenty-five poetry and art books, in Europe, Latin America and the United States, including New & Selected Poems of Cecilia Vicuña, edited and translated by Rosa Alcalá, (Kelsey Street Press, 2018), Spit Temple: The Selected Performances of Cecilia Vicuña (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2012), Instan (Kelsey Street Press, 2001) and Cloud Net (Art in General, 2000). In 2009, she co-edited The Oxford Book of Latin American Poetry: 500 Years of Latin American Poetry. She edited ÜL: Four Mapuche Poets in 1998. This year, Vicuña won the Fifty-Ninth Venice Biennale’s Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement. Curator Cecilia Alemani praised Vicuña for her efforts to preserve and translate works by Latin American writers and for her political activism, which includes lifelong advocating for Chile’s indigenous peoples, and visual artworks “built around a deep fascination with Indigenous traditions and non-Western epistemologies.”

Vicuña coined the term “Arte Precario” when she began creating “precarious works” and quipus in the mid 1960s in Chile, as a way of “hearing an ancient silence waiting to be heard.” Her multi-dimensional works often begin as a poem, an image that morphs into a film, a song, a sculpture, or a collective performance; transformative acts that bridge the gap between art and life, the ancestral and the avant-garde. A partial list of museums that have exhibited her work include: Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro; Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes de Santiago; The Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) London; Art in General in NYC; Whitechapel Art Gallery in London; Berkeley Art Museum; Whitney Museum of American Art; and The Museum of Modern Art in New York.