Julia Bryan-Wilson demonstrates that fiber and cloth are holders of memory with their set of complex gendered, cultural, historical and classed abstractions that, despite their seemingly visual innocence, are laden with profound meaning. The beauty in all of the chapters in Fray, intersected throughout with lush imagery, is the beauty of the fragile nature of cloth.
In Read Thread / The Story of the Red Thread (Sternberg Press, 2017) one must expect the unexpected of Cecilia Vicuña: various episodes of red yarn gracefully positioned in different spaces – a tree, the street, a bike. Some are woven, cat-cradle like in different scenes, others a singular thread, quipu-like, hanging by themselves. Her revisioning of the quipu (the record-keeping textile device used between c. 1350 and 1532 in the South American Inca populated Andean region) is a way of evoking a ritualistic history of her ancestry, while criticizing the loss of these ancient systems of communication, partly through war and partly through Spanish colonialist forces.
The appearance of Vicuña’s red thread is a powerful meditation on many things. The red color symbolizes blood, guts, menstruation and what’s within us. There is also the idea of red being analogous to political opposition – communism, revolution – revolution being something that Vicuña would have been familiar with, growing up in post-Allende Chile with all of the fear and intimidation associated with the Pinochet regime.