Land~Edge, an exhibition by John Sunderland, will be presented in the Glucksman Gallery, UCC during the days of the conference.  John will present a paper on his work at the Art and Geography session on Friday May 5th at 13:30-15:00 in ORB Room 101.  

Artist's statement

At a time when physical and artificial barriers to movement are being constructed, both in America and at the edges of the European Union, and the allegiances to the EU are being debated, voted on and changed, I started to question what an actual border is and what might be a better way of considering the boundaries of the environments we occupy. National boundaries can and do change over time; they are symbolic and political. My interest lies in asking: What are the persistent borders, or the edges of land, that transcend national and political identities and what could be learnt from considering these edges?

 

This research and practice is ongoing, but the answer so far lies in the concept of bioregionalism. With Richard Evanoff, “I prefer the term biocultural region, which designates a local geographic area in which specific human cultures develop in relation to the natural ecosystems they inhabit.”[1] In terms of the edges of these regions, they are defined by physical geographical and ecological factors, rather than purely cultural considerations. These include changes in terrain or ecosystems that limit movement and provide a natural physical boundary to the environment as it is experienced, rather than a cartographic, and possibly arbitrary, border drawn on a map.

In this project, I interpret a bioregion as the habitat that I bodily occupy and move within, but also as a space with physical limitations, including borders that, without mechanical vehicular assistance (such as an aircraft or a ship, for instance), I would be unable to pass. This region is the land I relate to as a lived, embodied space rather than a specific national and therefore political identity. It is fundamentally a geological, ecological and cultural space that I am part of and relate to as having multiple identities dependent on the constitution of the space and what I encounter within it. The shoreline itself is both the edge of two habitats, land and ocean, and a habitat in itself. For both human and non-human life, it can be both a site of pleasure and relaxation, and a site of danger and tragedy, as recent and ongoing events in the Mediterranean Sea remind us.

 

Land~Edge considers the shoreline as a physical boundary that persists beyond humanity’s constructed borders and the resulting works are therefore interpretations of the bioregional edges of land, for as Lucy Lippard states; “Bioregionalism seems to me the most sensible, if least attainable, way of looking at the world.”[2] The project has three parts; {1} The Search for Sisyphus, exhibited here, {2} The Fall and {3} Sisyphus Found.

 

Each work is a photo-collage with one image above and a composite human-scaled aerial view below. This method was devised to investigate and reflect on the nature of perceiving an edge; to move through it and be spatially, temporally and peripherally aware. The effect of these works is intended to be vertiginous to the viewer, as if on a precipice, as well as investigating themes of movement (across water in this case), with inferences to be drawn by the viewer through the subject matter depicted. The work is subtly geopolitical in this sense.

 

[1] Evanoff R. & O’Neil E. (2012) Building Bioregional Politics for an Ecological Civilization interview at http://www.policyinnovations.org/ideas/briefings/data/000241 accessed 12th May 2016.

[2] Lippard, L. R. (1997). The Lure of the Local: Senses of Place in a Multicentered Society. New York: New Press.