Madeline Schwartzman is a native New Yorker born in Manhattan. Her artistic practice spans from social art, book writing and curating, to video production, examining human narratives and the human sensorium. All of these diverse fields alternate and intermingle depending on the nature of her current project. “They all come up and disappear as I am working on one thing. There is a cognitive dissonance because one day I am working on a book, and the other day I am making a film.”
Madeline takes us on a journey through her creative process and the inspiration behind Face Nature. She explains how the video series sparked during a trip to Thailand, in 2018. Madeline was hiking with a friend and asked “What do you think about taking chopsticks and alligator clips and putting the nature I find on this island close to my face? Is this valid?”. What started as a personal experiment soon turned into a deeper exploration of our relationship with nature and the environment.
Face Nature is about getting closer to nature, both physically and metaphorically. "We have inherited a kind of 19th century idea that nature is over there. You see nature in pictures, from outside of the car. My kind of process is trying to break that history." By collapsing the distance between herself and nature, literally facing it, she creates an intimate connection with foraged plants in her proximal environment. Her artworks open a discussion on climate inaction and the prevalent state of apathy felt towards nature. Her aim is to start a movement of environmental integration, touch, respect, and mutuality.
Face Nature is site-specific and time-based. The videos vary with the changing seasons and transform due to the natural wilting of plants. The process commences with foraging but her expeditions are not planned, they stem naturally depending on her travels. “I don’t go foraging for Face Nature, I go on hikes. It’s ingrained in what I like to do. It’s more something that comes up if I see something I really like, something I have to do. I take it home thinking I am not going to Face Nature. Then I come home, it’s 1AM, and I think this is going to die tomorrow. So I go into the bathroom and just do it.”
The process of creating each composition can be time-consuming. “Some have taken days, some hours, some minutes. Morphologically you have to think about how you put nature on your face. After you decide how you want it to look, you start gluing, after that, it’s a race against the clock.”
The work showcased at Mediamatic shows Madeline herself as the model and artist. “Often nobody is at home when I have collected the nature. It’s also a little bit embarrassing and uncomfortable. Nature is dying, so it has to happen.” While her videos feel like a private act, she opens her work to the public by letting others experience Face Nature during workshops. In this way, she tries to let the public get close to nature.
As an artist with a restless nature, Madeline continues to push boundaries and explore new avenues for creative expression. Her work reflects a larger question about the future of human bodies and how we might evolve and adapt to different circumstances. By hybridizing plants with human skin, she raises intriguing possibilities for the survival and transformation of our species.
The exhibition is on show till the 31st of August.