In 1971 Cecilia Vicuña filled a room at the national fine arts museum in santiago with autumn leaves. this piece created in collaboration with claudio bertoni and nemesio antúnez was conceived as a contribution to socialism in chile.
these are the texts that went with the piece:
“to explain this piece to the public i should say that this is an interior piece rather than exterior one, because its conception and the experience of doing it counts more than the sculpture itself. this is what i call to live the sculpture, everybody could do their own sculptures. look at this phrase by lautreamont;rearranged: art should be done by everyone
this piece has no concern for the future. it evolves within the present, the absolute joy of an instant can’t be perpetuated, any attempt to do so will kill this joy, that’s why i used such perishable things as autumn leaves the concern for Here and Now cannot be expressed in a lasting piece because then it would be concern for the Here and Now and A Little Bit later. it is also a “within” piece because bags and leaves are everywhere, it is the perception of them that changes the pieces into art. this “being inside the head” is the most precious thing about art. a person perceiving like that can never feel too bad, “seeing” in a different way, even traffic lights or patterns etched on the road. seeing in this way a person might feel impelled to do creative work, might feel part of greater energies moving in space; perceiving like that a person would enjoy everything in a deeper way. politically people could find it more and more necessary to create and fight for a world where everybody could get turned on by reality. this room wants to give joy. art was born for playing and though people may have forgotten, it is time that they remember. joy is a necessity working on my piece autumn i experienced joy working on my joy i experienced autumn seeing so many leaves people will think i am deeply interested in leaves. they in turn might think they didn’t pay enough attention to autumn or to leaves. whenever doing one thing they are thinking in the next thing to do. knowing no concentration they know no joy. everybody has only 70 years to live (more or less). most of the people coming to see the piece are between 15 and 50 years old; some have 45 years left, some only 20. keep this in mind. people aware of their own death are more likely to become revolutionaries.the “new being” is the one who has a new perception of time and who knows it can’t be wasted. the new being will work to accelerate revolution, to metamorphose her mind and relationships, because it doesn’t make sense to suffer having such short time to live. joy could make people aware of the need to fight for joy. the urgency of the present is the urgency for revolution.” -Cecilia Vicuña
Room (homage to Cecilia Vicuña’s Otoño)
Inspired by Cecilia Vicu˜ña’s Otoño, Room is a collaborative sculpture as a direct response to the student housing crisis which includes and is not limited to rent burden, overcrowding, and lack of affordable housing in the cities in and around the development of Silicon Valley and the tech industry. Room aims to provide a space of awareness, dialogue, and resistance for the student community. Room will function as a transformation from an empty gallery space at UCSC into a bedroom which would include a twin size bed, a lamp, a car seat resting on a bed of leaves.
Here, time (as in day and night) become a metaphor for visibility and invisibility. The anonymity of the car seat and room during the day (while the space is open to the public) would talk about the unsettling crisis which houseless students face as they walk along campus camouflaging through student identity. The harsh reality hits when the sun goes down, and the student must find a safe place to park and sleep in their compact cars. This work will illuminate the intersection of the housing crisis and a mental health crisis. The stress of constantly having to relocate while simultaneously not getting enough sleep due to fear of vulnerability and police enforcement would further induce overwhelming stress on mind and body combined with the stress of student success.
This project materializes through collaboration and community formation by encouraging a revolutionary act of collecting leaves and occupying the space to visualize the change.
*Part of the piece that cannot be but would be if it were possible-
The comfort of a bed and privacy of four walls would be offered to a houseless student to use at night as a temporary sleeping arrangement for the two-week duration of the exhibition. The student would be provided with access to the room only after the gallery is closed. As manager of the space, I would let the student in and they would leave the room in the morning before the gallery opens. Due to university and gallery regulations, I understand that this critical aspect of the piece may never be actualized. This limitation of space and who it is bound to serve considers this installation incomplete.