LandEscape Art Review, Special Edition

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LandEscape meets

Michael Sweeney To my strength, and sometimes detriment, I am an associative thinker. Thus, my approach to visual projects is akin to those writers who assert that their characters tell them what will happen as they develop their novel. As an artist, I am influenced by processes and approaches from both Art and Craft. I value the slowness of hand production and the presence of mind and reflection that can occur while working. Most recently, I have been engaging ideas about how each of us recognizes what we know, as well as an interest in the process of seeing accurately in a noisy world. I am currently pursuing two projects: Cloud & Horizon (begun in 2019) and The Books of Things We Do Not Know (begun in 2014). Both deal with aspects of knowing. Cloud & Horizon, a project consisting of numerous woven paper cutouts, was sparked by the ubiquitous metaphor of “the Cloud” that the Tech world has successfully incorporated into our social consciousness. This digital “Cloud” exists as a virtual climate, a mass of data that we abide in, we add to, we allow to structure much of our social, societal and cultural weather. Like weather, it is transient and uncertain - able to provide comfort or to strike worry and fear. A digital climate and landscape, like a physical one, provides context by having diverse effects, personality, agendas, and relationships. And so this project began by weaving the metaphor of “the Cloud” into a physical form. All beings are effected, formed, and influenced by their context. In this sense, “landscape” and “the Cloud” can be considered similar in kind - each are contexts that we both live within and form. When close, clouds (real and digital) are big, but not the only elements in the landscape. Their scale and influence is seen in their relationship to other things. After weaving clouds as an analogy to the digital cloud, I began to make woven mountains (also big elements), and then cityscapes, architecture, trees – smaller elements through which people and nature have association and connection. I combine these separate elements in installation to present the complexity of a landscape. As my Cloud & Horizon project progresses, each piece I form and add to the scene propels me to consider digital systems as analogous to a complex skyscape and landscape, containing all the cultural challenges of scale and distance, of clarity and noise, of intent and agenda. Much like our experiences of digital contexts, each element and installation of my landscapes challenges the “quick read” or the “pigeon hole” with which we normally travel the world. In a related project, my Books of Things We Do Not Know are intended to remind us how much is unknown in the world. Mindful of books, an old technology, as the record or artifact of human thought, my intention is that the Books of Things We Do Not Know occupy a “fine book” or “antique book” space. Being carved and constructed as solid blocks of wood, un-openable and with their content unknowable, they trigger both a desire to open and a frustration of inaccessibility. Not merely objects and representations, one of these books can also engage awareness of what we may not know without attaching this recognition to some immediate feeling of personal ignorance. By simply being aware of the things we don’t fully know (about the nature of the world, about each other, about what happened), we are acknowledging uncertainty. In doing so, the need for tolerance can become more evident - tolerance of not just of each other, but of our own limited capacity to be certain of what we understand and declare as true. Acknowledged uncertainty can be a powerfully positive force. It can expand our capacities for best actions, course corrections, and reconsideration.

An interview by Ralph Landau, curator and Katherine Williams, curator

Hello Michael and welcome to LandEscape.

Before starting to elaborate about your artistic production and we would like to invite our readers to visit in order

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