Cecilia Vicuña: About to Happen by Michael Wilson

Part of the Editor's Choice series.

BOMB 140 Summer 2017
231581482 06222017 Bomb 140 Cover 500Px

Discover MFA Programs in Art and Writing

Cecilia Vicuna About To Happen Bomb Magazine 02

From Cecilia Vicuña: About to Happen, 2017. Courtesy of Siglio Press/Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans.

(Siglio Press, 2017)

“My art began on a given day in the year 1966, in January, when I felt that the ocean was alive and had as much awareness as I do now.” This deadpan account of the beginning of Cecilia Vicuña’s multi-pronged career is not only unusually precise with regard to timing, it also encapsulates the Chilean’s unabashed romanticism.

In its allusion to our tempestuous relationship with the sea, the line identifies a primary subject of Cecilia Vicuña: About to Happen. A modestly sized but nonetheless ambitious blend of catalog, monograph, and artist’s project, the book accompanies a touring exhibition of the same name which opened at the Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans, in March 2016. It’s also the second annual installment in a series copublished by the venue with independent press Siglio, each book produced by a different artist.

A poet, filmmaker, and multidisciplinary artist, Vicuña takes a predictably broad-based approach, combining the visual and the verbal, and juxtaposing her own fragmentary texts with sustained commentary by others. In fact, there’s almost too much in these 160 pages, which document a sequence of projects from small, scrappy sculptures that Vicuña assembles using flotsam and jetsam to Water Songs (Cantos del Agua), a “sound-weaving improvisation” conceived in response to the privatization of water in Chile from 1998 to 2005.

Cecilia Vicuna About To Happen Bomb Magazine 01

From Cecilia Vicuña: About to Happen, 2017. Courtesy of Siglio Press/Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans.

Of the book’s three essays, Lucy Lippard’s is the most compelling, placing Vicuña’s complex ancestry in the context of environmentalism. Lippard successfully illuminates the intersection of verbal language with materials and images that color the artist’s life and situates her work around the contested narratives of indigenous cultures. Explicitly concerned with histories of people and place, and with struggles for survival and self-determination, Vicuña sets herself a fearsome challenge that this book makes clear. There’s a thematic and tonal richness to what Vicuña does with words and images. It contains multitudes, even if her wonderstruck tone makes its demands of the reader.

Michael Wilson is editor of the Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. His book, How to Read Contemporary Art: Experiencing the Art of the 21st Century, was published by Abrams in 2013.

The Total System by Andrew Durbin
John Cage Diary Bomb 1
Lutz Bacher’s SMOKE (Gets in Your Eyes) by Ben Handzo
Lutz Bacher

Regency Arts Press, Ltd., 2008

Seth Price’s Folklore U.S. by Ben Fama
150610273 03042015 Seth Price Bomb 131 Sm

Seth Price’s Folklore U.S. documents a series of installations and exhibitions stemming from his dOCUMENTA (13) contribution, which included the Folklore U.S. SS12 fashion show (with collaborator Tim Hamilton), an exhibition at Hauptbahnhof, and a series of shop windows and garments for sale at SinnLeffers.

Design for a Difference: Andrew Castrucci Interviewed by Chris Molnar
A wooden table with an artist book on it next to a pair of white gloves and two artworks on the wall above it.

Two artist books that interact with grassroots activism.

Originally published in

BOMB 140, Summer 2017

Featuring interviews with John Giorno, Lidia Yuknavitch, Iman Issa, Eric Baudelaire, Ieva Misevičiūtė, Daniel Borzutzky, and more.

Read the issue
231581482 06222017 Bomb 140 Cover 500Px