This article explores the art and poetics of Chilean born Cecilia Vicuña in the contemporary context of indigenismo, while simultaneously questioning the capacity of ethnopoetics to fully engage the political, cultural, and social reaches of transnational aesthetics in the twentieth century. Using César Paternosto's study of Incan stone work and architecture, I locate Vicuña's use of the spiral in her 1966 landart installation and poetic performance, Con-cón, in relation to indigenismo's stance within and against the global politics that redefine the late twentieth century during the rise of neoliberalism and the culture clash between an already unstable Latin American middle class and North American consumerism. I locate Vicuña's critique of consumerism, complacency, and the subordination of environmental concerns by comparing her use of the spiral to that of Robert Smithson in Spiral Jetty (1972), to D'Arcy Thompson's writing on the mathematics of biological and zoological examples of spirals and sea shells (1917), and to Vicuña's more recent poetic experiments in text, form, and philology in Instan (2002). The construction of alternative modes of “knowing” and expressing knowledge via the spiral explores ways of reading experimental poetry like Vicuña's and opens experimental poetry as a site for popular readings of democratic language. The experimental politics of Vicuña's Chile, expressed by the spiral at Con-cón, refers to a poetic practice of democratic individualism that begins at the locale, and extends in a non-linear curvature. Vicuña's poetry and art constitute an epistemology that recurs during the performance of locality and redefines the collective expression of historical time from the events of language that realize the present.
Research Article|June 01 2014
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José Felipe Alvergue; Twentieth-Century Experiments in Form: A Critical Re-Reading of Cecilia Vicuña's Indigenism as Episteme. Comparative Literature 1 June 2014; 66 (2): 208–226. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00104124-2682200
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