FLOW.15: Rob Swainston
The Project: Who owns the sky?
Installed along Randall’s Island Park’s southeastern shoreline, Rob Swainston’s Who Owns the Sky? takes the form of a large-scale semi-transparent billboard, hand-printed with images of clouds inspired by historic woodcuts and engravings of sky motifs. These printed cloud patterns fall in and out of sync with the city’s firmament, and the viewer can observe their constantly shifting relation to cloud patterns both alongside the frame and behind the translucent fabric. These shifts, according to the artist, evoke and recreate the human quest for direction and meaning in the heavens. Historically, without the power of flight, the results of such quests remained intangible; contests of ownership, territory, and geopolitical power played out only on the surface of the earth. Ownership of the heavens was left to the gods, as depicted in myths, described through religions, and displayed in art. However, with the advent of aerospace technology, constellations have ceded their dominion to planes, no-fly zones and drones. Globalization and global climate change further complicate this story. Who Owns the Sky? questions our attempt to assert power over a firmament in which our presence remains transient.
The Artist: Rob Swainston
In the series “Who Owns the Sky?” Rob Swainston reminds us that humans are not just consumers of icons but observers and producers of images. All of our images are historically negotiated assemblages between humans, our machines, available materials, and social structures. As a printmaker, Rob challenges power structures perfected as pure image with multiplicities created through difference in repetition. Image technologies are not given, they are invented, and continue to be reinvented by artists and industries. Rob received a BA from Hampshire College (1997) and an MFA from Columbia University (2006) and runs the collaborative printshop Prints of Darkness.