“Torsion means to me on a meta level that everything somehow comes back – like our impact on the environment. No matter how we try to change, undo, and even if we don’t immediately see the effects of our way of life – there will be a reaction.”
In her practice, Berlin-based artist Aline Schwörer builds otherworldly-looking installations, using bioplastics to translate stories about interactions between people, the environment and time. The works stem from intensive research and experimentation with materials, where she constantly seeks a balance between form, colour and tactility. In our conversation, we talked about the processes of working with bioplastics and her thoughts on making artworks that respond and reflect on the various influences on our natural world.
SARIE NIJBOER: Your works are a reaction to climate change, not only through the use of materials but also in terms of content. How did you start thinking about the planet and the development of our environment?
ALINE SCHWÖRER: I previously studied biology, where I noticed how everything is connected, how sensitively balanced our environment is and, above all, how little we know about all these processes that are constantly taking place around us – that impressed me very much. There are things that you can’t even imagine, e.g. a planet where it rains iron.
SN: Can you tell us something more about the process of working with bioplastics? How did you started working with this material and what influence does it have on your approach in shaping the works?
AS: I visited the plaster workshop of the Berlin State Museums, where all the casts of the old statues are collected. I asked them how they could get such detailed positives without the silicone we use these days. They told me they used gelatine instead. So I started thinking about what materials I could replace with more natural ingredients. Bioplastics are a huge field of research and a relatively new material, so I’m still experimenting and learning a lot, and you can also learn a lot from the past. It cannot (yet) replace every other material, but it is an important addition to the materials I already use. After making my sketches, I start planning the process of how to build them. Sometimes bioplastic is a good material for the molds or the objects themselves, but sometimes bioplastic doesn’t have the required quality and then I choose a different material.
SN: The shapes of the sculptures, or rather creatures, are part of the series “Torsion”, in which you refer to the origin of the word – the rotation or twisting of an organ. How do these forms come into existence?
AS: Torsion means to me on a meta level that everything somehow comes back – like our impact on the environment. No matter how we try to change, undo, and even if we don’t immediately see the effects of our way of life – there will be a reaction. In the Torsion series I visualize the interaction between people, the environment and time. I set up hypothetical future scenarios and fictional archaeological products – juggling with time and perspective. In the objects, naturalness and artificiality merge inseparably with each other and thus create a very unique taxonomy.
SN: In your works, you mix flora with fauna, found objects with synthetics. How do you select these materials, is it rather experimental or do you have to weigh each ingredient carefully to balance the composition of the work?
AS: It’s a bit of both: I always go with my eyes wide open, which means I collected little things as a child, showed them to my mum and explained to her which color or structure caught my attention. Now I still take these finds with me and try to organize them somehow. They are expanded with materials I found, e.g. in the workshop or in the hardware store. Sometimes they sit in my studio for years before I see the connection between them and another piece. Then I make sketches, try different combinations and at least put them together layer by layer until it becomes a complete object in its own right.
SN: In the postcard series, you have worked with similar materials, but the context is more personal. You also mention that they refer to stagnation. Can you tell us how you incorporated these thoughts into the work and what meaning they have for you now?
AS: The materials are a constant in my work, they are decisive for my style and have turned out to be the most authentic form of expression for me. The series was created during the first lockdown when I couldn’t go to the studio and suddenly had a completely new work situation in front of me. It made me work a lot more with what I already had on this show. Added to this was this forced break that we all found ourselves in – I thought a lot about traveling and drew on memories of other places. This introspection makes this work so personal. At the same time, in my work I also address countries that I have never been to, which have so far only been places of longing for me. They exist in my postcards as an idea, as a feeling, of these places. As a result, they are much more ambiguous and leave more room for one’s own interpretation “between the lines”. Working on this series bridged the lockdown quite well for me and at the same time created my own memory of that time.