Catalina Swinburn, Weave Worlds

The power of rituals, Culture & Society, ISSUE 42/2024
Mike Kauschke , 30 April 2024

We are pleased that we were able to create this issue with the work of the artist Catalina Swinburn and speak to her about the purpose of her art.


evolve: How did you find your own form of expression as an artist?

Catalina Swinburn: I studied art, going through all the processes of painting, drawing and sculpture. But somehow I was always particularly interested in spatiality, perhaps because I am the daughter of an architect. This sense of space was very important when I started creating installations very early on at university. But there's no point in having spaces that you can't be in because they feel empty. I wanted to bring a presence into these spaces that has meaning. When people visit an installation, it is not in my control what happens there, how the visitors behave or what they do. So I thought that I will be the only one to stay in the room for a certain period of time to fill it with a sacred or contemplative atmosphere and draw people's attention.

For me it was a ritual that wasn't just about creating art, but about making the creative process tangible and sharing it with those watching. Because the creation of the product is sometimes much more interesting and mysterious than the result itself.

evolve: How did you come to weaving technology?

Catalina Swinburn: The idea of weaving paper came to me nine years ago because of two things: First, I wanted to make a ritual cape out of an atlas because the performance was called "The Perfect Boundary." It's about the mixing of geographies, the idea of borders and identity. When I was looking for the right way of working, I found this technique that I did not invent, but adopted from very old sources. It's more than weaving, it's embedding, because you put one part into another, like a Lego, and then everything starts to come together.

»Small gestures give the room meaning.«
I made the cape and did the performance, and then I didn't know what to do with this huge piece of woven paper. I hung it in the studio and felt its presence, it has a power. Then one of my galleries wanted to exhibit it, and that began the process of making these works wearable for performance, but then also exhibiting them like archaeological treasures.

e: Weaving is an intensive process, with research and finding a topic, finding the books, cutting out the pages, weaving them together and then working with the finished piece in a room. How do you experience this process?

CS: The work is very physical because weaving is something you do with your whole body. I practice a lot of yoga and meditation, and weaving is meditative for me. I weave on the bus or in my house. When we do large works with people in the studio, everyone weaves a piece and we meet again the next day and see how it develops.

At the same time, the research is very intellectual. My studio is like a laboratory. It's like a mini temple where everything has to be organized and where you can be productive and think. We have lots of pieces lying around and calculate the color and cuts. In my team we work on several plants at the same time, so that all processes are interwoven.

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