Tuesday, 29 September 2020

A Digital Quipu through Mapping 
A Different LENS with cgeomap.eu 

A Different LENS was produced through Thread and Word  for the Margate Bookie with support from Arts Council England and Margate NOW 2020.

I started a very fluid artists group called Thread and Word in 2014 . When I create ideas for projects I reach out to artists who I think might be interested in walking and working with me on a particular theme.. I then create a project brief for us to explore and develop ideas. A wonderful group of people, including artists, authors, friends and community members gathered under the umbrella title Thread and Word and  co-created the map A Digital LENS with me. This took more than six months as we met, discussed and developed our ideas. 

Thread and Word is inspired by the Chilean Artist Cecilia Vicuña”s poem  Hilo y palabra. This means Thread and Word in Spanish. The poem was written in the 1970’s with a limited number of copies being made and shared. 

      I was lucky to walk with Professor Jonathan Skinner in the blue bell woods at Warwick University. He is a friend of Cecilia Vicuña’s and shared this image with me. 

In  2010 I  created an immersive installation in a gallery space in Whitstable that was inspired by the poem.  I have since used elements of the poem for walks in Edinburgh, where the poem was written, and in London, Margate and Whitstable. 

       A line from Cecilia Vicuña's poem.

I am from South America , born in Bolivia . I was spoken to in Quechua, an Andean language,  by Justina who looked after me as a child  In Quechua  the word for “language” also means “thread”, and the word for “complex conversation” also means “embroidery”. In Quechua, no word exists for a singular entity. In the ancient Andean communities, a single thing  was an aberration while the interrelated pair was the norm and defined completeness. This is  also reflected in the weavings which documented life during the time of the Incas, before the Spanish conquest.  I can see connections between this ancient world view rooted in the land and I believe making this connection might  contribute to a greater understanding of the map, which I hope blurs the boundaries between  organisers , artists, and participants mirroring the duality and reciprocity found in the Quechua word: Ayni

 The digital map A Different LENS has entries which are made up of many threads (texts, photos, video and sound) these are spun together to create multilayered stories. Some of these are secret or hidden. The map is a tapestry , an embroidery of multilayered conversations about selected authors and their stories. These are woven into the fabric of Margate and its  surrounding area in Kent. 

Image: entry by Jack Lowe , Follow Galileo around the Gates to Dreamland.

If you look at the map it is visually very beautiful with repeat patterns  of blue . green , grey and pink. Each colour represents an area in Kent.These locations are placed  on the green surface of the gps  satellite mapping that connects the entries for you to feel connected to and enable you to explore  the location. The repeated shape of the tear drop with a magnifying glass in the centre  points you to the locations chosen by each artist for their entry on the map. This symbol  was designed by Fred Adam, artist and curator of Cgeomap. The magnifying glass is the lens with we choose to view our  engagement with place and literature. I am here taking you through my own lens for viewing the map.

The map’s design reminds me of a Quimpu which is the cloth that was held in the highest regard by the Incas.The Inca civilisation used textiles rather than written text to record their stories, The Quipus are knots used by the  Incas to record and document valuable  information and remain with us today in museums as artefacts for display representing a past civilisation. I have been walking in the Uk for over six years exploring the relationship between weaving, walking and storyteliing. Participants who walk with me are invited to knot ropes to record the experiences of the walk .  

The design for these walks  often includes selected poetry readings, and performative actions. When the walk is finished I then attach the knotted ropes to a vara or pole  which has a particular weave wrapped around it This weave is woven on an inkle loom and responds to the theme or location of the walk. These weaves are symbolic,  like those of the woven Quimpu . The knotted ropes from the walking event are then attached to the vara or pole and each vara becomes the text for a walk. At present I have  22 varies of the walks I have undertaken in collaboration with Festivals and co-created  with participants who join me under the umbrella of Thread and Word. 

A Different LENS our map has embedded in it the process of knot making while walking . The  knots connecting the stories on our digital map  A Different Lens are through the locations as each becomes a url node or a nodulo (in  Spanish word for knot is nudo ). Nudos during the time of the Incas would have been known as quipus.

The map A Different LENS contains many further connections to the past culture of the Andes including  elements of the Quechua concepts of Thread: Ayni, Ukhu, Tinku, Q’iwa, and Ushay . These are comprehensively described  by Rebecca Stone  whose article I have referenced at the end. These five ideas illustrate how the general Andean worldview is complex, layered, and based on a  different understanding of the world to that of most Westerners. For instance, whereas we say the future is ahead because it is a place not yet reached, Quechua speakers say it is behind because it is not yet seeable. I hope that the digital layering of our map illustrates this complex multilayered world view. 


My final thought is with reference to the secret entries on our map A different Lens . These are pink markers if you view the map on your laptop or,  if you are outside walking it , theses are signalled by the chimes of the Margate Clock . Our Secret entries open to reveal a walking prompt designed by Sonia Overall. These  link to the artists locative entries and responses  to the  chosen texts. These texts include, James Joyce, Milton , Thurber , Borges , Deanna  Quietwater , Bill Lewis and the music of Victoria Claire. 

Our #DistanceDrift prompts to secret entries on our map have become the “Tinku” of the map . This concept from the Quechua language  is beautifully described byRebeca Stone  as the novelty of what is produced by encounters between different people and things which allows for creative innovation. The image attached is  of a response by Julie Brixie Williams  to a secret entry #DistanceDrift prompt which is  attached to Dancers an entry on the map by Diana Lane.  In  the Quechua  word Tinku  means change is  or that which is different. Tinku adds  the element of change to the balancing idea of ayni, which means generally to encounter and  specifically when two things converge into a new third entity. The Distance Drift offers all who engage with the map the opportunity to take part and in this sense the entry gets changed through this participation and becomes our Tinku.  

Image;Julie Brixie Williams, participated in #distancedrift on Twitter. We liked it so much we uploaded onto the map.

The idea of connecting  our Digital map  to Quechua and through this language structure to the the Quipu  became clear to me following a short talk I gave as part of a panel discussion on Locative media and Literature, the Spaces between the Words  chaired by Geert Vermiere. I am grateful to Geert my fellow panellists and the attendees who through their conversation pointed me in this direction. I have written this to connect the threads of a conversation which were discussed  a part of this panel. My ambition when I started my walking practice was to research the relationship between walking weaving and writing. I am very much enjoying the journey and would like to thank all who have contributed to this rich and ever evolving experience.

A Different LENS : A digital Quipu


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