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Quipu

June 26, 2016 - Materialities

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Quipu is a process of mnemonic knot making made by Inca cultures. Inca cultures had no written text or money, and through the process of knot-making they recorded things such as transfer of property, or powers. Strings are tied in certain ways using colour, distance, direction, and knot formation as signifiers. The coded system of knots are still a bit of a mystery and we still only know what about two thirds mean.

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There are many things that I find fascinating about this process of remembering. The first is a that, in this case, the way of remembering reflects the materiel abundant in the culture (Inca’s we masters of the art of weaving and knotting. Their technical understanding was so advance that they made suspension bridges out of just knotted ropes -knotted architectures!

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I imagine that the development of knots as recording and the development of knotting technology are interdependent (I am perhaps being ethnocentric, but this makes me think of our development of micro-processing and the development of digital storage).

I find that the Quipu process of recording resonates with other impressions of knotting that I have. Recording in this instance has a temporal and spatial relationship with the body. They are thought in motion. The act of knotting is a movement on multiple dimensions. In the case of the Quipu the hands of the maker are moving on multiple planes, and the knotted-record protrudes. It is the object of a memory that can be recollected through both on sight and touch.

Further reading:

Article on Quipu: Ascher, M. and Ascher, R (1997) Civilization without Writing -The Incas and the Quipu in Crowley, D. and Heyer, P. (2006)

Digital archive: http://khipukamayuq.fas.harvard.edu/

A weaving project that has some “aside” posts on work with code and Quipu: http://kairotic.org/coding-with-knots-inca-quipu/

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