Alan Counihan Visual Artist

The work of Alan Counihan

Point of View, 2009.

Point Of View, Installation, Eigse Arts Festival 2009

This installation continues an ongoing exploration of the human relationship to landscape, with how it is inhabited, remembered and imagined. It set out to be a space-specific work engaging with the architecture of this strange building and the types of work processes it is designed to house. However, this being a penthouse suite, landscape, experienced as “view”, has become central to the work.


Here, the presentation of the physical components of what we refer to as landscape have been juxtaposed with representations of it. As Simon Schama has written, our “landscapes are culture before they are nature, constructs of the imagination projected onto wood and water and rock…”. Our ”view” is compromised and shaped by preconception. Our most detailed maps, created by the Ordnance Survey in colonial times for the purposes of military efficiency, portray the land as a pattern of counties, parishes and townlands, of large farms and small holdings, minerals and soil types. They represent a surface palimpsest set down upon nature, an overlay of the activities of successive generations, an anthropocentric bias in the way landscape, and consequently nature, is perceived and treated.


Such a “view” of the world “refuses the idea that long before they were political, cultural and economic entities, these lands were places of stone, wood and water”, as Robert McFarlane writes in his recent work, “The Wild Places”, bemoaning what he describes as our “retreat from the real”. Physical terrain can now be “experienced” cybernetically via satellite with no requirement for the viewer’s presence. Models of visualization are being transformed by global information industries and new power hierarchies. Dominion, demesne, domain. Our appetites devour us.


Perhaps the exploitative culture which separates us from the physical world of nature has its roots in the Book of Genesis and its presumption that the world was created for man to exploit as he sees fit. This fundamental schism is what separates the viewer from the view.