Recently I visited the Tate Modern gallery in London to see an exhibition about Cézanne.
One of the most impressive features of Tate Modern, a decommissioned power station on the bank of the river Thames, is its 27m tall Turbine Hall in which some unusual and striking works are displayed.
When I visited, two large hangings by Cecilia Vicuña filled the space as part of a multimedia installation Brain Forest Quipu.
While photos can’t do justice to its scale or complexity, you can see it by copying and pasting this link: tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/Cecilia-vicuña/material-experiments
It was possible to walk close to and even through the hangings but I found that the better view was from the balcony which bisects the Turbine Hall, where I was able to read more about this work.
I discovered that the quipu is an ancient South American way of recording anything from messages to memories and of communicating using knotted threads. The hangings were white to represent bleached out trees, probably offering a ghostly comment on the destruction of the rain forests.
Woven onto the knotted threads or ropes were lengths of fabric, pieces of cardboard, plant fibres and unspun wool. Whilst drinking a coffee earlier, I’d watched people on the river bank scouring the mud and some items recovered from that bank by South American women had also been included in the quipu.
Each of the hangings had a different, accompanying soundtrack made up of voices (including Cecilia Vicuña’s), sounds of nature and deliberate periods of silence.
There was so much to think about whilst experiencing the quipu; I found it fascinating and over the weeks since then I’ve been thinking about how I’d choose things to include if I was asked to construct a quipu to communicate my own life story and experiences?
What would I hang on the ropes? What fresh new things and what torn and broken remnants and scraps, perhaps some of them almost bleached of their meaning, would I use to represent my life to date? What would I be happy to have on display and what might I prefer to keep away from public gaze?
Like everyone, I experience my human life through so many different textures, layers and contexts, both physical and spiritual. How can I possibly fit all the different elements together and for what purpose? Who could put the pieces together for me? Who sees the whole picture and can share that with me?
The quipu at Tate Modern must be very heavy: the two hangings are so large but they’re fastened firmly to the ceiling so there’s no danger of them falling before the end of their time on display.
I’m experiencing a growing sense of being anchored in Jesus who knows all the bits of my life: those bits I don’t mind displaying and those bits I’d rather keep to myself.
Some of the ‘ropes’ on my quipu are already full, some are full of things which could or should be discarded and there are so many knots, while some are still fresh, almost new and waiting to have things woven onto them.
However complicated that process may become, I know I’ll be safely held as Jesus continues to weave His plans into my life. I wonder what soundtrack He’ll use to accompany this construction?
I’m pretty sure that I’ll never have anything on display at Tate Modern but the fabric of my life is being changed in a way that’s far more precious than any valuable piece of art.
How is Jesus weaving the structure of your life? What things are you offering Him? What might your soundtrack be?