Cecilia Vicuña’s Liquid Indigeneity

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter in a book


Much of the work by Chilean poet, filmmaker and performance artist Cecilia Vicuña over the last decade has concerned itself with the disastrous consequences of the unfettered exploitation of Chile’s water resources. Rather than presenting water as a neutral, transparent vector for flows of capital, Vicuña’s work seeks to reclaim the materiality of bodies and streams of water and the fundamental role they play in shaping the Chilean landscape. In doing so, it posits an affinity between the negative spaces created by the action of rivers and the sea, and those on society’s margins, such as indigenous groups, victims of political violence, and women: hence Vicuña’s frequent linking of water and Andean textiles, as in Mar Tejido (2012), and water and menstrual blood.

This chapter argues that Vicuña’s work articulates a fluid appeal to indigenous identity as a mechanism for ensuring future sustainability, rather than as a nostalgic invocation of a lost way of living. Exploring the political potential of this ‘liquid indigeneity’ as a riposte to the deterritorialising force of ‘liquid modernity’ in Zygmunt Bauman’s formulation, the chapter proposes that Vicuña’s audiovisual work offers a sophisticated response to Sean Cubitt’s call to decolonise ecomedia (2014), and an important decolonial supplement to Astrida Neimanis’ work on ‘posthuman feminist phenomenology’ in her Bodies of Water (2016).

The chapter focuses on the constellation (or, in Vicuña’s terms, the digital quipu) of short essayistic videos, recorded performances and the ‘documentary poem’ Kon Kon that Vicuña has produced since 2009. It contends that through an understanding of audiovisual montage and intermedial play as ecological processes of identitarian exchange between the human and the nonhuman (cf. Viveiros de Castro’s Amerindian perspectivism), Vicuña’s work creates a fluid aesthetic that models more equitable relations between humanity and nature. In concluding, the chapter nonetheless argues that there is a tension between this fluidity and Vicuña’s curation of her own identity as an international artist, a practice which imposes certain limits and stoppages to the discourse of digital flow. These stoppages provoke significant reflections on the place and meaning of ‘indigeneity’ in contemporary Latin American culture.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLiquid Ecologies in Latin American and Caribbean Art
EditorsLisa Blackmore, Liliana Gómez
ISBN (Print)9780367198985
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2020

Structured keywords

  • Centre for Environmental Humanities


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