Frank Sweeney / Q&A
Frank Sweeney is one of six artists working with EVA International as part of the ‘Platform Commissions’ initiative of the 40th EVA International (31 August – 29 October 2023). In this Q&A, the artist briefly introduces the project and his working practice.
EVA: What are some of the key themes or ideas that are explored within your artistic practice?
Frank Sweeney: I frequently explore the historical relationship between media technologies and collective imaginaries. A couple of larger ideas like Historical Materialism, Cultural Hegemony and Imagined Communities often frame my interest in research materials.
EVA: Could you expand upon the materials and methodologies you tend to be drawn towards within your artistic practice?
FS: Although I engage with state archives, I generally try to forefront ‘unofficial’ memories like folklore, oral histories and social media as the core materials in my research. There is also a strong emphasis on sound in my work, and I often apply musical techniques such as rhythm, repetition and sampling to my film practice.
EVA: Could you introduce your upcoming Platform Commissions project that will be presented as part of the 40th EVA International in Autumn 2023?
FS: My project A Few Can See (working title), examines the legacy of Irish and British state censorship of the Troubles. The work attempts to address the absence left in state archives by the censorship of the Northern Ireland conflict and political movements during this era. Although the project accepts that this material cannot be recreated, I hope that the process of attempting to do so might create a space for considering the legacy of censorship on the collective imaginaries of these islands.
EVA: Are there any particular research and development processes or approaches that you generally engage in when preparing for a new commission or for the production of a new work?
FS: It generally varies for collaborative projects, but for work I initiate myself the first point of research is usually going through as much published material as possible from my local library. From there I might try and find people who were involved in the subject area and ideally begin to conduct new primary interviews if the subject is within living memory. Through these interviews, I might try to identify personal and community archival material.
EVA: Could you expand upon any research plans that you hope to undertake during the development of the A Few Can See project?
FS: I will be carrying out new oral history interviews with people censored during the Troubles and people who worked at state broadcasters during that period. The Oral History Centre at Mary Immaculate College in Limerick will be archiving the full unedited recordings and making them available for public access coinciding with EVA in 2023.
EVA: Are you working towards any other upcoming projects, residences or exhibitions currently?
FS: The EVA commission is part of a series of works relating to cross border media, with two related projects being created this year. The first is a collaborative installation with Tom O’Dea at CCA Derry-Londonderry during July and August 2023. The second is a film titled ‘2 Channel Land’, commissioned by aemi & Sirius Arts Centre, which will premiere at the Cork Film Festival this November. In different ways, both projects explore the history of analogue radio and television signals spilling across the borders of Ireland and Britain.
Frank Sweeney is an artist with a research based practice, using found materials to approach questions of collective memory, experience and identity through film and sound. Recent projects include People Enjoy my Company screened at (Transmediale Berlin, 2021); The Narrow Gate Of The Here-And-Now (IMMA, 2021-22); (Cork International Film Festival, 2021); and (BFI Southbank, 2022); and Made Ground screened at Agitation Co-op (Temple Bar Gallery + Studios, 2020-2021).