[Group Show] – “Ser Pallay”
Reception: December 11th, 10am - 3 pm
_VIGILGONZALES Sacred Valley | Jr. Grau 654
_VIGILGONZALES is pleased to present Ser Pallay, a collaborative textile project curated by Florencia Portocarrero.
Text by Florencia Portocarrero (Lima, Peru)
Ser Pallay is a textile project that revolves around the creation of kunan pallaykuna [contemporary Andean textile iconography] and results from the collaboration between textile artists -María José Murillo (Arequipa, 1989) and Verónica Levy (Lima, 1994) and eight weaving artists associated with the Traditional Textile Center of Cusco (CTTC): Alipio Melo (Pitumarca,1989), Celia Sabina Pfoccohuanca (Accha Alta, 1985); Cintia Ylla (Chahuaytire, 1997); Cristina Ylla (Chahuaytire, 1997); Hermelinda Espinoza (Sallac, 2004); Luz Clara Cusihuaman (Chinchero, 2004); Miriam Quispe (Chinchero, 2006) and Norma Ojeda (Patabamba, 1980). The project was built through a series of semi-presential meetings, between September and November 2021, which took place at the CTTC headquarters in the city of Cusco and the Vigil Gonzales gallery in Urubamba.
The main objective of Ser Pallay has been to generate a space for the exchange of knowledge, collaboration and finally co-authorship among artists who, although they have dissimilar origins and training, share a real knowledge about the practice of weaving and Andean textiles. The Andean textile is made up of two inseparable elements: the pallay and the pampa. The pallay, whose more exact translation into Spanish would be "textile design", is part of a complex vocabulary through which Andean communities express their ways of thinking and feeling in various textile pieces that accompany their daily lives: the lliklla, the poncho, the chumpi, the chuspa, among others. The pallay is only possible thanks to its complementary opposite - a plain and monochromatic fabric where no design has yet "sprouted" - called pampa. Currently, Andean textiles are mainly created on the backstrap loom, a tool that is integrated into the weaver's body and is characterized by a simple and portable design.
Despite the complexity and richness of the Andean textile tradition, it occupies an ambivalent place in local art historical narratives. Indeed, since weaving is an eminently feminine, non-figurative expression, related to the indigenous body and animal fiber, it was not only unassimilable for the European fine arts tradition, but also became an aesthetic practice excluded even from the popular arts project conceived by Sabogal. Omnipresent and at the same time invisible, towards the middle of the 20th century, Andean textiles were "rediscovered" by Bauhaus artists Anni Albers and Sheila Hicks, becoming a pillar of modern design. In more recent years, the art world turned its gaze to indigenous peoples. In this context, Andean textiles have received renewed recognition. While admiration for the excellence of their workmanship is entirely justified, in most cases it is not accompanied by a real interest in understanding the role that textiles play in the communities that produce them, the knowledge they condense and the density of a history that extends back to pre-Inca times. Going against this tendency to fetishize non-Western material culture, one of the most important premises of Ser Pallay has been to generate a space for dialogue and interlocution that gives prominence to the knowledge and concerns of the "weaving artists of Cusco" grouped around the project.
Can the Andean pallay, a community and ancestral language, produce a critical testimony about the present? This was the question that, after some time working in different NGOs in Cusco dedicated to the promotion of traditional Andean textiles, led María José and Verovcha to conceptualize Ser Pallay. The first step to make the project a reality was to count on the support of the CTTC, an institution that published in its extensive networks an open call inviting interested weavers to "participate in a project whose purpose was the creation of kunan pallaykuna". Although the objective that brought the artists together was given beforehand, the methodology implemented during the meetings was rather exploratory and was based on sharing stories about personal and collective experiences through weaving. In fact, to inaugurate the sessions, each one brought a significant pallay, which was later analyzed as a group from technical, formal and affective perspectives. In this way, weaving became a gateway to the weavers' ways of seeing the world. It was precisely in this process of examining their own practices, as well as the possibility of implementing new forms of textile rhetoric, that the weaving artists made it clear that, although the Andean pallay has incorporated new meanings, formal attributes and materials proper to the contemporary world, it resists as an ancestral language. To explain this condition, they repeatedly referred to the idea of Andean cyclical temporality, emphasizing that the experience of contemporary life in the Andes is not separated from the ancestral. Thus, the Pallay proved to be-in their eyes-a changing continuity capable of intertwining the past with the present.
As a material response to these conceptual reflections, the weaving artists produced the two central pieces that make up the textile installation Ser Pallay at Vigil Gonzales gallery. The Kunan pallaykuna are thirty-two individual weavings that revolve around five thematic axes that reflect the importance of the connection -personal and communal- with nature in Andean culture. On the other hand, the communal column loom is a four-meter long warp that emblematizes the collective spirit of the project. This loom traveled through the 5 communities where the weaving artists come from: it was in Pitumarca with Alipio, in Chinchero with Miriam and Luz Clarita, in Chahuaytire with Cintia and Cristina, then spent a few days in Accha Alta with Celia Sabina to later visit Norma in Patabamba, who finally made it reach the hands of Hermelinda in Santa Cruz de Sallac. As if it were an exquisite woven corpse, in these "stops" each weaver added a pallay in reaction to the immediately preceding one. Now, installed in the gallery, the two pieces function as a single expanding body. Thus, far from being a closed product, Being Pallay is inhabited by the process: an anteroom records the most important moments of the meetings that took place between September and November, placing special emphasis on the journey of collective weaving; while in the middle room the communal column loom makes its appearance, which, integrated to a backstrap loom, extends to the main gallery where the constellations of the Kunan Pallaykuna are finally born, intertwining personal and collective stories.
Ser Pallay has been a learning process for all the agents involved: artists, curator and gallery. A desire for dialogue and transparency, as well as a concern for the project to "act" in the real world in accordance with what it was proposing at a discursive level, guided each of the project's decisions. In this line, the most important bet was to give prominence to the knowledge and interests of the weaving artists, as well as to involve them in most of the decisions related to exhibiting in a commercial contemporary art gallery. This seemingly symbolic gesture gave rise to a series of profound redefinitions, both in the way collaborative relationships between academically trained artists and traditional artists in our milieu have normally been conceived, as well as in the aesthetic hierarchies that differentiate art from craft. The impact that Ser Pallay will have on its artists has yet to be evaluated. However, at first glance it is evident that the space for the exchange of knowledge generated by the project has produced mixed and collaborative vocabularies that position the pallay as a powerful tool to account for the present.
María José Murillo
Celia Sabina Pfoccohuanca
Luz Clara Cusihuaman