Whether using elemental, mineral, animal, or vegetable elements, Marion Hawecker questions our relationship with non-human living beings and their environment. Throughout her process, she observes her connection with these elements and how she perceives them through her sensations.
Les métamorphoses weaves connections between these worlds through imitation, analogies of forms, and silent evocations. This series grew out of Marion’s early mimic explorations of organic materials and marks the transition from the artist’s two-dimensional works to three-dimensional sculptures.
Marion Hawecker: Feathers were for me ‘triggering objects’ or ‘objects with poetic reactions’*. By manipulating them, cutting them, and transforming them, they constantly transport me to other worlds. They make me travel through a multitude of known or fantasized landscapes. This phenomenon of evocation operates in me in the same way with the debris of bones, rocks, calcareous concretions, geodes, pebbles, coral, or wood, polished forms, moving, mixing at the same time curves of a human body with those of an animal or a landscape- like simultaneous fragments of reality. I realized recently when I went back to my parents’ house that I grew up surrounded by these objects installed in the four corners of the house and they have finally shaped my familiar environment. Working with organic forms is like a dive into my childhood, my most intuitive and intimate expression.
Then my training in haute-couture also reinforced this interest in natural forms and mimicry. Fashion and the decorative arts never cease to revisit ornamental motifs inspired by nature. The art of the featherworker often consists of imitating or immortalizing the latter by creating artificial flowers, fake furs, feather marquetry imitating wood or metal, or even herbariums and fantastic animals, or armfuls of flowers flying on infinite dresses. All this has only opened my eyes even wider to my environment. I like to observe, contemplate, and analyze how the organic world organizes itself, grows, and develops following geometrical laws: symmetries, repetitions, and proportions. I am inspired by this to compose my feather movements and thus try to approach a little more the harmony of forms and colors which composes all that lives and what amazes me so much.
*As Le Corbusier said about Charlotte Perriand’s collections of natural objects.
Marion Hawecker: This series stemmed from these first explorations of mimicry of organic materials. At first, I worked flat, in two dimensions, and as I experimented, I realized that the effects of movement that I was trying to render with the feathers were more apparent in the third dimension. It was the feather material that led me to experiment with volume to revive in me this organic formal repertoire that had been unconscious and inactive until then.
I started the first piece of this series, Niobe, in early 2020, then Phinée followed as a larger attempt until I dared Echo. I was able to develop and implement thanks to the halt in orders caused by the pandemic. I had this time offered to try my hand at modeling and began these first explorations around the question of hybridization.
Marion Hawecker: Over time, I see this series as a kind of collection of fragments that I gather where my real and imaginary travels merge. They come from this tenuous frontier between my dreams, the memory of places I borrow, and the living that moves me. They take shape very clearly in the form of an apparition that I reproduce or when they are more confused and I only perceive a certain essence, an intention of life, I try to reveal their forms by the body and the gesture, by the manipulation and the research.
The starting point of a new piece is then either activated by a “trigger-object” defined by a shape or certain kinds of feathers that transport me into an atmosphere or a micro-landscape made of hybrid elements, half-animal, half-vegetal or mineral such as sliding scenes, superimpositions of beings and troubling things like in dreams. I often start by drawing these sensations, indistinct forms, and wills of movements. I then define the tints and establish a selection of feathers. From this, I model a ‘body-support’ in flexible material like clay, plaster, or textile. From there, a continuous back and forth of reflections between the forms generated by the hollows and reliefs, and the feather placements that will come to lodge there, sometimes discreet and matt, or revealed in an iridescent abundance playing with the light.
Marion Hawecker: Pasting feathers one by one induces a porous, hard, or flexible support like fabric or a membrane. In this series, the body of the piece is entirely clothed in feathers or bits of resourced skin, revealing an “embodied” character where no other material can be read as identifiable.
Clay and plaster are the materials that best meet my need to quickly model my supports. It must respond to a certain impulse, a fulgurating of ideas and instinctive gestures. A rhythm that I then lose with the application of feathers where I spend many hours sorting, selecting, cutting, and gluing. All of these manipulations push me in a long, patient, and meticulous time and several times very organic. I approach my medium as a territory to be tamed, an environment to be colonized like a living organism slowly making its way through the folds of the world. I like to navigate between these two stages of creation, vibrant and in touch with my body at the beginning, then suspended and held back for the second phase. One step always leads to the desire to return to the other in two-beat music. To speak more specifically about the choice of the types of feathers, it will depend on the starting idea. I choose them according to the effect of matter or pattern I am looking for and draw from a palette of about twenty species of birds from common farms such as the goose, turkeys, hens, roosters, ostriches, peacocks, ornamental pigeons or pheasants. The variety of shapes and textures offered by these few birds is already a source of an infinite number of possible interpretations of shaping.
Marion Hawecker: The question of the relationship I have with non-human living beings quickly arose in my work. Beyond the use of feathers, I became more and more attentive to these beings that live in our human world. Birds, insects, and plants were no longer extras in the landscape but became actors in their own right, almost stealing the show from the human. They manage to distinguish themselves by their own rhythms and thus draw in our daily life incursions and interactions. They weave with us and between them a mesh of multiple territories where the meeting is possible. Deaf to these exchanges, I dream of being able to understand what is at stake in everyone’s life, or at least to imagine it.
These questions led me to discover a whole literature produced by a recent current of ecological and ethological thoughts around the question of the living. At the time of the threat of the sixth mass extinction of living species and of the climatic disturbance endangering entire ecosystems, this subject is a fertile and engaging ground, a source of possibilities and hopes for a common future more conscious and respectful of everyone. Many authors are participating today in a new rewriting in the form of ‘eco-fiction’ stories and animal kingdom essays like Jean-Christophe Bailly, Anne Simon, Emanuele Coccia, Vinciane Despret, or Donna Haraway for example.
They intellectually enrich me with their thoughts, and their sensitive approaches resonate with these feelings that I can only put into form through the material. Also, the discovery of the anthropology of nature with Philippe Descola questioned me about the type of relationship that humans could maintain with nature in many different ways all around the world. I was interested in work paths converging with my plastic research. I was particularly interested in the animist approach, which perhaps manifests the most intimate links between humans and non-humans through their cosmogonies and practices. Accordingly, the differences between species are very close.
Every being participates in a balance to be preserved for the good of all humans, animals, forests, and spirits. Everything is always in permutations, exchanges, and metamorphoses of flesh or perceptible or invisible substances. This is why this series was inspired by the figure of hybridization. To illustrate this meaning of a certain notion of unity in the Living. It was thinking like a new form of a story for the beings and things existences facing the ongoing peril, as a possible outcome, or a new adaptive strategy, free of all physical rules, obeying only the impetus of an inter-species hybridization fantasized; as a dream based on ancient myths of Ovid where ‘everything flows, every form is wandering and moving’. Where only a permanent dynamic prevails over chaos.
Always moving, blooming, and quivering until dreaming of becoming for a short moment a simultaneity of beings and elements according to our imagination: bird-rock, human-lichen, river-fern, it doesn’t matter the type of the chimera, as long as they make us dance a second with the whole of the Living.
Thus, everything participates in the same common life in a scenario where human beings do not try to extricate themselves from their animal nature, but rather dialogue with each being that surrounds them in a quest for lasting harmony that benefits everyone. A place where all lives are equal and become sacred and precious. So I try to imagine my pieces with this feeling of sacredness that I feel in front of everything and every living thing. I attempt to reveal it with care brought to create repetitive and precise arrangements, a rich abundance of contrasting textures or plays of brilliance and iridescence evoking small jewels or delicate furs.
Words by Rita Trindade and Marion Hawecker | Photography Marie Benattar