Performance: Amber Hawk Swanson (amberhawkswanson.com)
Tech Assistance: Renato Velarde
Amber Hawk Swanson’s Sidore (Mark II) / Heather > LOLITA is the newest work in her alchemic performance series transforming lifelike silicone sex dolls into models of captive whales.
In a series of actions that are at once tender and destructive, Hawk Swanson will dismantle Sidore (Mark II) and Heather, two poseable RealDolls, repurposing and combining their PVC skeletons and silicone flesh in order to build a replica of Lolita, the oldest living killer whale in captivity, named for the protagonist of Nabokov’s 1955 novel. For 43 years, Lolita has resided in the brutal confines of the Miami Seaquarium, a dilapidated aquatic park with a substantial animal mortality rate—in a shallow pool far less than twice her length. In addition to addressing the specificities of Lolita’s long-term confinement and exploitation, Hawk Swanson’s Sidore (Mark II) / Heather > LOLITA poses broader feminist questions of surrogacy, domination, and enclosure that suture doll, female, and whale bodies—synthetic, organic, and literary.
Sidore (Mark II) / Heather > LOLITA is commissioned and made possible by Sidore (Mark II)’s and Heather’s longtime partners, noted synthetics advocate and doll husband Davecat and doll owner Jesse. The project takes place exactly two years after Amber Doll > TILIKUM, a ten-day performance involving the artist’s own RealDoll. Amber Doll, made in the likeness of Hawk Swanson, was the artist’s artistic and romantic companion for five years. In 2011, Hawk Swanson transmogrified Amber Doll into a replica of Tilikum, a bull orca currently living in captivity at SeaWorld Orlando who has been involved in three human deaths.
Hawk Swanson has been a part of the doll community since 2005 after acknowledging her failed attempts to date “organic” women. She developed an affinity with “doll husbands” who consider dolls to be life partners. Now, Hawk Swanson works at the threshold of the art and doll worlds as a material translator between the two. Her female-to-whale transformations explore the synthetic capacity for synthesis and salvation, and the promise of the copy. The anatomical logic that connects the working bodies of the doll, woman, and whale touches upon the sinews that conjoin ownership, intimacy, and exposure. With this performance Hawk Swanson delves into a feminism of the interior to find capaciousness in tight spaces.
Sidore (Mark II) / Heather > LOLITA will take place in Hawk Swanson’s New York City studio, with simultaneous broadcast via Livestream, over the course of six consecutive days. The entire performance will last approximately 60 hours. Members of the doll and marine mammal activist community will participate via call-ins. Doll husband Davecat will read, in person and via Skype, Nabokov’s Lolita while Hawk Swanson transforms both dolls. Davecat’s reading will bring the sub-narratives of Hawk Swanson’s piece to the surface, articulating the struggle to break free of bonds. Over the phone, Jesse will describe the secret room he built for Heather to live inside for 15 years. Former marine mammal trainers turned advocates, many of whom recently appeared in the acclaimed Sundance and CNN documentary Blackfish, will discuss the realities of marine mammal captivity. Each of these narrations—Davecat’s reading of Lolita, Jesse’s architectural descriptions, and the former trainers’ accounts—are integral parts of Hawk Swanson’s attentive reconstruction.
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