Developing an artist led walk from the Dundas Gallery to the Royal Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh in July.

I have now started the process of preparing for a walk in Edinburgh using the poem by Cecilia Vicuña Thread and Word.This walk will be part of the exhibition of “Threads” at the Dundas Gallery in July which has been curated by the Artists Pool.

The walk will develop from #ThreadandWord which took place from Espacio Gallery to Leadenhall Market on March 5th. Details of the development of this walk can be found on this blog and also on my website.

As I was developing the walk in Shoreditch I was not aware that the exhibition would be travelling to Edinburgh. When I was contacted by Renee, curator at the Artists Pool about the possibility of the exhibition continuing in Edinburgh in July,
I was elated as it is the location where Cecilia Vicuña wrote her poem ‘Hilo y Palabra’ (Thread and Word) in 1997. It was published as a limited edition print as a part of an installation at Inverleith House in the Botanical Gardens.

I have copied the archive describing Cecilia Vicuña’s practice below.

I am starting to research the walk with a trip to Edinburgh next Tuesday, where my plan is to visit the Dundas gallery and then walk to the Royal Botanical Gardens. Cecilia Vicuña’s installation was titled ‘Precarious'(Precario).

I think PRECARIO is a good working title for this walk as it expresses the fragility of the threads that bring us together.
I will update this blog with images and ideas as my research and thoughts evolve.

Cecilia Vicuna: Precario: Words & Thread
26 October – 5 January 1997

This was the first exhibition in Scotland by Cecila Vicuña, a Chilean artist, poet and film maker who works with the tradition of oral poetry, song, and weaving in the high Andes.

Vicuña’s earliest recorded art work was a ritual performance, Con-con, that took place on a beach near Santiago, Chile in, in 1966. The piece involved drawing lines in the sand – a practice recalling pre-Columbian divination rituals – and arranging various found objects including stones, sticks and feathers. Another important early work exemplifying her interest in natural materials and ephemeral forms was an installation piece, Otono, 1971, for which Vicuña filled an entire gallery of the National Museum of Fine Arts in Santiago with autumn leaves.

In the mid 1960s, Vicuña began making what she called “precarious” of “basturias” (bits of garbage), small assemblages of found materials such as feathers, sticks, shells, leaves, bones, and thread.

The art critic Lucy Lippard called Vicuña’s sculptures “visual poems”, and she has compared their recognition of inherent value in what is normally lost or discarded to the work of Richard Tuttle, Jimmy Durham, Alison and Betye Saar, and David Hammons. “These materials are lying down and I responded by standing them up” explains Vicuña. “The Gods have created us and we have to respond to the Gods. There will only be equality when there is reciprocity. The root of the word ‘respond’ is to offer again, to receive something and to offer it back. ‘We are made of throwaways and we will be thrown away’, say the objects. Twice precarious, they come from prayer and predict their own destruction. Precarious in history, they will leave no trace. The history of art written in the North includes nothing of the South. Thus they speak from prayer, precariously.”

Vicuña’s interest in weaving derives from the great metaphorical significance of this practice in the rituals and myths of the ancient Andes. In Pre-Columbian times, finely woven textiles were often burned or interred as offerings to the dead. In Quecha, the language of the Andean people, the word for “language” also means “thread”, and the word for “complex conversation” also means “embroidery”. Vicuña’s identification with weaving is no doubt also strengthened by the fact that the wool used in Andean cloth is taken from her namesake, the mountain vicuña. According to legend, vicuñas are born in the sources of springs high in the Andes, and the fibre made from their wool has come to symbolise the paths of mountain streams and the tenuous thread of life itself. “Everything is falling apart because of the lack of connections”, says Vicuña, “Weaving is the connection between people and themselves, [between] people and nature.”

Cecilia Vicuña was born in Santiago, Chile, in 1948. She completed post-graduate studies at the Slade School of Fine Arts in London and worked with a variety of music and theatre groups n Bogotá, Columbia, during the 1970s. In 1980 she moved to New York city where she continues to live and work.*

* Extracts from an essay written by Lawrence Rinder, curator of the University Art Museum, Berkeley, California.

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A Walk on March 5th, #ThreadandWord

@espacio gallery for Threads Exhibition curated by the Artists Pool

Rope knotted by Robert Zammit Pace
who joined the walk after attending the PV at Espacio.

I hope this gives you a flavour of the walk.

Welcome at Espacio

We have quite a crowd and I must confess to feeling rather nervous. So we began with A Walking Yoga Sutra*
 for Thread and Word by Julia Riddiough
Read by Elspeth Penfold.

 Pantanjali’s Yoga Sutra – Book 1:20 *Sanskrit sūtra “thread”

Shraddha-virya-smrti-samadhi-prajna-purvakah itaresham

Followed by choosing ropes,

and a reading by Virginia Fitch;

‘The weaver sees her fibre as the poet sees her word.
The thread feels the hand, as the word feels the tounge. 
Structures of feeling in the double sense of sensing and signifying,
the word and the thread feel our passing.’
(Cecilia Vicuña)

Then, off we went,

Only a couple of doors down,

A shared reading with Hazel Mountford. We were next to a main road which I now realised was very busy on a Sunday and we had to work hard to make ourselves heard.

 ‘Ponchos, llijllas, aksus, winchas, chuspas and chumpis are beings
who feel 
and every being who feels walks covered in signs. 
“The body given entirely to the function of signifying.” 

Then Helen Peacock introduced her intervention, ‘What is Left behind’

as we walked, we were asked to pull out a thread.

Helen Peacock then read:

’Acts of union and separation. 
The word is silence and sound.
The thread, fullness and emptiness’.
(Cecilia Vicuña)
                                                                From here we went to the Rope Sculpture:

Here, Virginia Fitch,Read;
(she had to compete with the street food vendors which made the reading quite performative)

 ‘And the energy of the movement has a name and a direction: lluq’i,to the left, paña, to the right. A direction is a meaning and the twisting of the thread transmits knowledge and information. The last two movements of a fiber should be in opposition: a fiber is made of two strands lluq’i and paña.’

(Cecilia Vicuña)

At this point it was very nice to have two people who had wanted to join the walk catch us up after missing us at Espacio. Good to have you both with us!

We continued to the railings opposite Shoredtich station, with their own form of weaving, in the shape of padlocks as love tokens, and…chilean flags.A great setting to be reading the following extract from a Chilean poet.

‘In the Andes, the language itself, Quechua, is a cord of twisted straw,
two people making love, different fibers united. 
To weave a design is pallay, to raise the fibers, to pick them up.’
(Cecilia Vicuña)

and on under the railway tunnel, near a very busy Shoreditch station. We are near the five-a-side football pitches and the whole area is alive with people enjoying their Sunday.

Knotting while reading Keith Grossmith’s ‘The Word is the Thread’

We then had a reading by Veronika Marsh (in German) and Sheelah Mahalath Bewley (In English), from TS Eliot’s The Waste Land:

‘When I count, there are only you and I together
But when I look ahead up the white road
   There is always another one walking beside you
   Gliding wrapt in a brown mantle, hooded
   O do not know whether a man or a woman
•   But who is that on the other side of you?’
 ( TS Eliot  The Waste Land)

A reflection on our life’s Journey. From here on to, the
Boat Sculpture at Bishop’s Square.

referencing Eliots use of the Mythic Method .
read by Billie  :
 iv Death 
by Water

Phlebas the Phoenician, a fortnight dead,
Forgot the cry of gulls, and the deep sea swell
And the profit and loss.
                                    Acurrent under sea
Picked his bones in whispers. As he rose and fell
He passed the stages of his age and youth
Entering the whirlpool.
                                                                                       Gentile or Jew
                                                                                       O you who turn the wheel and look to windward,
                                                                                       Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as
                                                                                       You.                                                 (TS Eliot)

Collaborating through walking and knotting

Reflection and knotting during the performance of ‘Voices’,
led by Esperanza Gomez-Carrera.

A simultaneous reading in 4 languages (Greek,Spanish, English and Italian), capturing the rhythm , strength and weight of the words, as performed in a poetry reading at the Dada Festival in Paris in 1920.

We then moved on,

Jill Rock performed “Sprang”.Here I realised that we had people watching who were not part of the original walking group, which was fun.

“Sprang is a weftless technique, a  reciprocal action whereby the
interworking of adjacent elements with the fingers duplicates itself 
above and below the working area.” 

A performance of a section Cecilia Vicuña’s poem  by Jill Rock-  a narrative placing women’s games and traditions using threads and ribbons, “Sprang” Cats Cradle, as a way of communicating across languages and cultures. 

Following on, we walked to Leadenhall street, on the way we lost a section of the group but William ran back and managed to find them. We still had two missing but decided to continue.

Just as Allan’s performance by the sculpture SUNRISE. EAST. JULY / SUNRISE. EAST. OCTOBER ( by Ugo Rondinone ) was about to start, our two stragglers arrived which was great as Allan’s performance was both thought provoking and sensitive.


Seen Not Heard: The Choice of Listening to 


(a copy of the full text can be found on my website.)

Then on to the Leadenhall building where we celebrated Lizi Sanchez’s Cadenetas’ on the trees and read Judy Dermott’s text, written for this walk:

‘Vicuña and Women Centred Modernism’

And the rain came and the hail came , but we ploughed on. Sadly the Leadenhall lifts were not moving, but we were not deterred.

Virginia Fitch read:
                                                                                                   ‘Word is thread and the thread is language. Non-linear body.

A line associated to other lines. 
A word once written risks becoming linear,
but word and thread exist on another dimensional plane. .

Vibratory forms in space and in time’
(Cecilia Vicuña )

On to St. Helen’s square,

desperately seeking shelter to listen to:

 Naya Eleftheriou’s reading of ‘Ithaca’, some of the group spotted a rainbow on a wall. I’m sure it ties in with the mythic method and we can all look forward to a wonderful future following Julia’s Yoga Sutra:

‘Tap into your inner strength to celebrate all the threads that bring us together to connect’

and so to Leadenhall Market, a pause to look at Lizi’s ‘Cadenetas’ and Virginia Fitch’s reading from Word and Thread:

‘ Is the word the conducting thread, or does thread conduct the word-
Both lead to the centre of memory, a way of uniting and connecting. 
A word carries another word as thread searches for thread. 
A word is pregnant with other words and a thread contains
other threads within its interior. ‘

(Cecilia Vicuña)

A huge thank you to all participating artists and walkers. It’s great to collaborate and create new encounters engaging with site, poetry and the city.

Copies of the full texts of readings and performances can be found on my website: