The work of Catalina Swinburn operates on a shifting border she establishes between cult and artistic practice. Her exploration of diﬀerent visual media –video, installation, photography and performance results in often metaphoric and symbolic manipulations, which challenge reality as a representation of a world the artist is living in. Her practice summarises her identity as a female Latin American artist in an era with a multiplicity of encounters and realities.
Working with the geopolitical concept of displacement, Swinburnweaves pages of historical archives, including documents of displaced patrimonial treasures such as Persepolis in Iran as she is interested in giving back to art a place of transcendence. ‘I think there is a need to return to traditional culture, to relate with nature in a more respectful manner and to focus on sustainable projects that aspire to a certain degree of transcendence, hence the choice to work with noble and perdurable materials such as marble, stone, bronze, leather, paper.’
The installation Anauša II –Immortal Warrior, 20018-2019 combines several of Swinburn’s concerns and practices into one.Made from documents relating to the displacement of archeological stones from the historical site of Persepolis, it brings us closer to the topic of cultural identity on the one hand as it refers to one of the cradles of civilisation, while aiming to strengthen the integration between various communities from the Global South in making reference to female resilience.
Having operated as both cloak or armour - depending on the viewer’s interpretation - this piece also contains dual significance in its final form, given the piece was previously worn by the artist in a performance and later boxed and displayed as a sculpture. The artwork is therefore activated by the artist’s position as both fabricator and performer of the sculpture. This could be seen as a metaphor for resistance, where woven narratives are portrayed as a substitute for the silence of women throughout history.
Lastly, it is important to remember that Swinburn’s sensational sculptures are produced by intricately weaving pages of texts together into constructed robust structures. Through this labour intensive approach, the material transforms from delicate pages of books to garment-like arrangements that the artist then wears as a cloak to perform in, as such her works undergo an important process of transformation and recycling. The recycling aspect in this work happens through many dimensions: content, form and process. Following her performances, the works become sculptures with a history of their own and result in an amalgamation of history and memory. Regenerating these narratives articulates for the artist both a sense of urgency and a mode of resistance.
The Immortals (also known as the Persian Immortals), was the name given by Herodotus to an elite heavily-armed infantry unit of 10,000 soldiers in the army of the Achaemenid Empire. This force performed dual roles of being both Imperial Guard and standing army. The Persian denomination of the unit is however uncertain. It is suggested that Herodotus' informant may have confused the word anûšiya- (‘companion’) with anauša- (‘immortal’), a theory that has been criticised by the German linguist and Iranologist Rüdiger Schmitt.