Theatre Arts & Performance Studies


As a performance artist, Amber Hawk Swanson has explored care, animacy, and desire in the context of queerness and disability. Her complementary scholarly interests focus on investigations of enabling objects and actions; technologized, roboticized, and transpeciated bodies and selves; animacy and animal intimacy; and worldmaking in the online forums and livestream channels that have served as the primary platforms for her work. Hawk Swanson’s practice has embodied these concerns through a material and conceptual engagement with captive marine mammals, silicone Dolls, and networks of care among the community of silicone Doll-loving men known as iDollators. Recently, she began exploring sites of belonging and protection that simultaneously function as spaces of violent exclusion, and, along with her collaborators, Synthetiks advocate Davecat and his robotized silicone spouse Sidore, she examines how sexual racism functions in the Doll community. Hawk Swanson is interested in exploring how Dolls are racialized by those who market or live with them and, inspired by disability scholar Eunjung Kim, Dolls as an embodiment of disability. This work, developed alongside her study of Emily Owens’s work on consent in the context of slavery and sexual violence, considers how romantic pairings between iDollators and Dolls challenge contemporary understandings of consent. She also considers the work of disability and transformative justice activists Mia Mingus and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha to propose access intimacy (Mingus) as both learnable (Piepzna-Samarasinha) and, inspired by her involvement in the Doll community, an alternative to transactional consent formations.

Hawk Swanson has exhibited nationally and internationally for the span of her twenty-year career. Scholarly writing on her work, including Amber Jamilla Musser’s chapter on her collaboration with artist Xandra Ibarra in Sensual Excess: Queer Femininity and Brown Jouissance and Jillian Hernandez’s discussion of Hawk Swanson’s early Doll work in “Meditations on the Multiple” can be found here.

Amber Hawk Swanson is the Creative Director and one of three Co-Creators of The Harmony Show. She teaches in the sculpture department of Rhode Island School of Design and is currently a doctoral student in performance studies at Brown University. Hawk Swanson received an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and was a recipient of a Rema Hort Mann Foundation Grant and a Franklin Furnace Fund Grant, among others. She was live on-air as a host / producer during the first two years of Chicago Public Radio’s Vocalo initiative and has additionally worked as a registered carousel operator in Brooklyn. Hawk Swanson was born and raised in the Midwest near the Mississippi River where she lived half of each week in a blue collar community with people who worked outdoors and the other half of each week in a middle class community with people who worked indoors.

Amber Hawk Swanson’s given and legal name is “Amber Hawk Swanson.” Her last name is “Hawk Swanson.” Citations should read “Hawk Swanson, Amber.”