A Model Society
September 12 - October 05 2007
This project, started in 2005, uses the form of the iconic Icelandic lopi sweater, popular with tourists but also a vital part of the Icelanders’ self-image, and the expression of an intimate relationship with an epic landscape. The nostalgic and idealised representation of the iconic Icelandic lopapeysa through knitting catalogues (‘traditional’ though only invented around the 1940s) coincided neatly with Browne’s own received impressions of the place: sublime scenery, a hardy people and a historically isolated though very advanced society. This project marks an attempt to address these sentimental or simplified representations with people who actually live there.
The artist placed an advertisement for knitwear models in Reykjavik newspapers, and the respondents (male and female, aged between 5 and 85) formed a kind of micro-community or focus group for me to base my research. They were asked to complete a short survey about life in Iceland, and their answers are edited and knitted into the lopi sweaters I make for each of them. (Texts on sweaters: Rotten Politics; Free Clean Water; Gossip; Safe Jobs/ High Taxes; Exclusive Isolation; Awesome Daycare; The Bank Owns Us; No War. The sweaters are modeled in poses and locations typical of the utopian imagery of knitting pattern photographs, which depict harmonious social relationships (often the nuclear family) and the perfect union of people with nature. These images operate as a kind of currency and models are paid in kind with a photographic print. The exhibition also includes new work by the artist on related themes and a new publication, Sequence.
Sarah Browne’s work examines macro social structures through engaging with micro audiences. The work is typically carried out with the participation of a ‘community’ where the work is based, or creates a fictional or temporary community for itself. She graduated from Sculpture at the National College of Art and Design with a first class honours degree in 2003, and her practice includes exhibitions, commissions, publishing, education and critical writing. Residencies and exchanges include the Apexart international residency, New York (2006), Bolwick Arts, Norfolk, UK (2004), Site-ations International, Iceland (2006), and Art from the Rucksack 3, Kobe, Japan (2007). Projects this year include Sweet Futures, a temporary public commission for Visualise Carlow; Home Improvement, a commission for the National Sculpture Factory in association with the des/IRE housing conference; and Aon Ait Anseo, an event exploring art and interlocalism, curated by Andrew Duggan and based in Dingle. She has received a number of awards from the Arts Council of Ireland for Visual Arts and Literature, including a Travel and Mobility Award in 2005 to facilitate work and research in Thailand. She is based in Co. Leitrim and lectures part-time at IADT.
Current/ recent projects: www.sweetfutures.org ww.apexart.org/residency/browne.htm www.spaceshuttle.org.uk/mission2.htm
A Model Society was originally commissioned through Site-ations International artist exchange, and developed further with the support of a Travel and Mobility Award from the Arts Council.