Cecilia Vicuña (1948 - )

eman si pasión/parti si pasión (1974)

Collage on blue paper
height: 21.5cm
width: 28cm

Purchased with the assistance of PINTA Museums Acquisition Programme 2013


This is a good example of Vicuña’s energetic imagination. In the spirit of 1970s radical activism and sexual and political liberation she takes the words emancipación and participación, and manipulates them to suggest other embedded meanings in a way that works almost as well in English: passion unites liberation and engagement. In Spanish there is also the affirmative , yes, as added encouragement, and in English the parti seems also to be an invitation to party. Or perhaps not: what in fact is written is si, without an accent, which means if, raising doubts about what at first seems an optimistic call for affirmative action. This is how Vicuña’s playful punning is meant to work: it invites us to explore the possibilities that we ourselves can find embedded within individual words. She says she enters into words ‘as if they were architecture. What is inside them is a way of being human’. (Yo entro en las palabras como si fuera una arquitectura. Lo que está dentro de ellas es una manera de ser humano.)

As with Palabrarma, this work dates from 1974 and needs to be understood, at least in part, as a passionate response to the military coup that had overthrown Salvador Allende’s Popular Unity government the previous year. The red, white and blue of the Chilean flag and the gesturing hands are elements often present on the posters and murals of the Allende period (see the poster by José Balmes, EL PUEBLO UNIDO JAMAS SERA VENCIDO), a visual language that by 1974 had become integral to demonstrations and protest movements that sprang up all over the world in support of the people of Chile. The big smiling lips and welcoming hands above invite us to participate in a world of passion, but as with the words, on reflection perhaps the pointing finger and closed fist below introduce an element of ambiguity. In the end the viewer/ reader has to decide how far to enter into this enticing world of possibilities.

Valerie Fraser, 2013

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