by Cecilia Vicuna
Chanccani Quipu by Cecilia Vicuña is a modern interpretation of the 5,000 year-old quipu, which recorded the literature of the Incas on knotted cords. It is a remarkable work, which embodies the intention and essence of a poem by Vicuña translated into English by the poet along with Jerome Rothenberg. Chanccani Quipu is perhaps the most experimental work published by Granary Books. It certainly takes the most liberties in provoking and extending the form of the book while creating a stunning verbal / visual work. Accompanying Chanccani Quipu is a full-color signed drawing inserted into a pamphlet entitled Instruction Manual & Orientation to Various Meanings. These items present insightful meditations on the project by the artist based upon her near-lifelong engagement with the quipu as intellectual, aesthetic and spiritual configuration.
From Instruction Manual & Orientation to Various Meanings:
In Chanccani Quipu breath metaphorically imprints the unspun wool floating as a shadow or unstable mark on the outer hairs of a river of fleece.
Chanccani Quipu reinvents the concept of "quipu", the ancient system of "writing" with knots, transforming it into a metaphor in space; a book/sculpture that condenses the clash of two cultures and worldviews: the Andean oral universe and the Western world of print.
The floating words take the place of knots, and the fleece takes the place of the twisted threads.
No record of a historical or archaeological quipu constructed with unspun wool, or with words "printed" on wool has been found.
Chanccani Quipu may be a command or a plea (depending on the tone of voice).
It is a prayer for the rebirth of a way of writing with breath, a way of perceiving the body and the cosmos as a whole engaged in a continuous reciprocal exchange.
In Quechua the writer/reader of the quipu was called: quipucamayoc (khipukamayuq), literally: "the one that animates, gives life to the knot."
was produced and published by Granary Books in an edition of 32 copies each made entirely by hand. The poem was "printed" on unspun wool using stencils made by the poet who also knotted the threads. The quipu
is tied or bound to a 16 inch bamboo spine from which it hangs to about 48 inches when installed. The work is housed in a hand-stenciled box (18 1/2 x 18 1/4 x 4 inches) made by Susan Mills. Silicon Gallery Fine Art Prints in Philadelphia printed the drawing and the pamphlet in full-color. Cecilia Vicuña and Jerome Rothenberg signed the edition of 32 numbered copies.
View a pdf of "Installing Chanccani Quipu,"
a how-to guide for opening and installing the quipu with artist/poet, Cecilia Vicuña.