Sidore (Mark II) / Heather > LOLITA (starting December 10, 10am

Sidore (Mark II) / Heather > LOLITA
December 10-15, 2013
Performance begins online at 10am est on December 10th; please see link for exact performance times on subsequent days  Livestream:

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.

Amber Hawk Swanson (b. 1980, Davenport, Iowa) is a video and performance artist living and working in New York City. She has exhibited internationally, including at the Palais de Tokyo, Paris; Momenta Art, Brooklyn; and Locust Projects, Miami. Her work is included in the permanent and MPP collections of the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago. Hawk Swanson is a recipient of a 2013-14 Workspace residency made possible by Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. She is also a recipient of a 2013 MacDowell Fellowship.

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TILIKUM Sculpture Details / Making-Of Amber Doll

To mark the year anniversary of my completing my replica of Tilikum, I am posting details of the sculpture himself. I am also re-touching my Tilikum tattoo today as a marker of the date.

I have recently been interested in reviewing the 2007 footage of the Making-Of Amber Doll in preparation for FIVE DOLLS. I am posting some Making-Of photographs as connect the Making-Of Amber Doll with the Making-Of Tilikum in prep for future projects.

Cleaning / Ribbon Tying


A year ago today, I made the first incision into Amber Doll's flesh in order to transform her into Tilikum. Twelve pounds of silicone flesh was all that was left of Amber Doll’s original form after Tilikum was sculpted. My solo exhibition "All That is Left of You / Everything You Are Now," included two performances: "Cleaning" and "Ribbon Tying" and displayed the 556 non-orca parts of Amber Doll. To mark today's incision-anniversary, I have a new 3minute compilation of excerpts from "Cleaning" and "Ribbon Tying."


After transforming Amber Doll into a small replica of the bull orca Tilikum , then branding my body with his name and posing with him for pin-up images, I wanted to make work that addressed Tilikum's inability to re-enter the ocean.

For the reasons outlined in my previous post about the stresses of captivity for marine mammalseven if SeaWorld were willingTilikum is not a candidate for reentering the ocean on his own.

He was originally captured in waters near Berufjörður off the east coast of Iceland in November 1983 at about two years of age. (Born in August 1980, I am the same approximate age as Tilikum.) As I describe in my letter to Amber Doll, I will take (my replica of) Tilikum to Berufjörður as a gesture toward the re-entry that is not possible.

As a first step toward our joint travel, I visited a fjord about a thirty minute drive from Berufjörður. I shot a second Amber Doll > Tillikum pin-up during a windstorm there.

Solo Show: All That is Left of You / Everything You Are Now

Solo Show: All That is Left of You / Everything You Are Now
August 17—September 07

All That is Left of You / Everything You Are Now presents the remains of a transformation from
female to whale.

To: Amber and Doll
From: Michael

Date: Thursday, May 20th, 2010 at 6:00pm

….The thought that it was you, a piece of you, never occurred to people. She became a sex toy
and in a way a piece of you did as well.

Amber Hawk Swanson commissioned the production of a life-like sex doll, a RealDoll, made of a posable PVC skeleton and silicone flesh, in her likeness—as a prop for her work and academic interests but also as the companion she desired in her personal life. She later abandoned Amber Doll at a number of venues, allowing the public to explore and interact—often violently—without interference. In the resulting project, ideas surrounding agency and objectification are questioned, as are ideas about the success or failure of negotiating power through one’s own participation in a cultural narrative that declares women as objects.

Hawk Swanson’s subsequent performance, video, and sculpture, Amber Doll > Tilikum, involves the artist transforming Amber Doll into a replica of the bull orca, Tilikum, who lives in captivity at SeaWorld Orlando and has been involved in the deaths of three people. The story of Tilikum and his body as a spectacle shared remarkable similarities to Hawk Swanson’s relationship with Amber Doll. Assembling his anatomy from similar, either in look or function, parts from Amber Doll, the artist conducted the ten-day, Amber Doll > Tilikum transformation alone in her studio, but broadcast every moment of it on her Livestream Channel to an audience of thousands worldwide.

Amber transformed Amber Doll from a physical object into an active presence by reclaiming a mangled body; giving voice to the abuse of female and whale. Tilikum has suffered many years for the pleasure of others. Breasts and hands became a tail, a belly button begat a blow hole, and fragments of skull became broken teeth, each physical part was assigned a new role—and through this metamorphosis each piece of Amber Doll is used to reissue agency over objectification.

Twelve pounds of silicone flesh were all that was left of Amber Doll's original form after Tilikum was sculpted. Hawk Swanson’s solo exhibition, All That is Left of You / Everything You Are Now, displays the non-orca parts of Amber Doll—there are no "scraps," no "leftovers," and no "extras"—each piece matters in the struggle to [re]gain agency from objectification. All That is Left of You / Everything You Are Now invites viewers to observe the transformation process in a 36-hour Amber Doll > Tilikum video and to view protected pieces of silicone flesh before Amber Doll’s remains are editioned and sold at auction.

To: Amber and Doll
From: prashant
Date: Saturday, April 14th, 2012 at 7:01am

i want to buy an amber doll how can i get one

The value is to be determined by you: the audience, the patron, the bidder.

To: Our Viewers
From: Tilikum, Amber Doll, and Amber Hawk Swanson
Date: September 6, 2012 6pm-9pm cst
You are invited to attend the closing performance event of All That is Left of You / Everything You Are Now as we prepare the remains of Amber Doll for auction. Your physical presence is requested at 217 North Carpenter Chicago, IL and/or your virtual presence at

All That is Left of You / Everything You Are Now (Catalog)

My solo show All That is Left of You / Everything You Are Now opens August 17th. The below suite of twenty images are for the corresponding catalog of a selection of the 556 pieces of Amber Doll that remain after the Tilikum transformation (which also includes my recent Letter to Amber Doll).