El Vaso de Leche
The politically engaged works of the Chilean artist and poet Cecília Vicuña’s (*1948, Chile) are tapestries of personal, national and ecological references. Weaving together different thematic threads is at the core of many of Vicuña’s performative actions. Deeply influenced by the indigenous people of the Andes, she frequently works with threads, textiles and texts. These are also symbols of female work and domesticity – another key subject addressed in Vicuña’s art. In 1966, even before graduating from the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes de Chile, she began creating sculptural-performative interventions suggestively called “Precarious” (precarious works). A “Precarious” is an assemblage of found materials – wood sticks, leaves, stones, feathers, threads, shells, plastic and bones – which she arranges and displays in the landscape. As the name suggests, these works rapidly deteriorate and are reabsorbed by the environment. In 1972-73 (1973 being the year when the Popular Unity coalition of President Salvador Allende was overthrown by General Pinochet’s military coup), Vicuña exhibited 400 “Precarious” works as an act of political and cultural resistance: “Politically, they stand for socialism, magically they help the liberation struggle, and aesthetically they are as beautiful as they can be to comfort the soul and give strength.”
In 1979, Cecília Vicuña described the performance El Vaso de Leche (The Glass of Milk) in the following: “It was estimated that 1,920 children had died in Bogotá from drinking contaminated milk. A company had added paint and water to the milk in order to make more money. To protest the ‘milk crime’ I announced the spilling of a glass of milk in front of the residence of the liberator Simón Bolivar. People gathered, I spilled the glass. This work was performed by invitation of CADA (Colectivo de Acciones de Arte from Chile) as part of their piece Not to Die of Hunger in Art, performed in Santiago.” (Cecília Vicuña) This film combines documentary material, such as photographs, press clippings and drawings, with a re-creation of the original performance.
Courtesy Cecilia Vicuña