It should have been obvious that my wings would never fit in this

by flaunt

Kate Browne's COCOON series
Kate Browne’s COCOON is an evocative sculpture project that manifests in temporary “cocoon” structures installed all over the world. The art works address trauma and community history through an embodiment of personal memories. Each piece takes up to two years to complete. When finished they are illuminated to produce a sense of hope and a feeling of community. Viewers are encouraged to walk through and explore the sculptures and the personal contributions from which they are built. We spoke to Kate about the project.

What is COCOON?

COCOON is a large temporary structure that is an extension to public space in the shape of a cocoon. [I]n Paris in the Goutte d'Or there were about four hundred people that I asked to make a small sculpture that represented themselves from what they have in their pockets or in a bag. Then I hire people to build the structure from circles, which are made out of what is there locally. [I]n Mexico City we used poliducto and about three thousand veins of banana leaves. The sculpture is always the same but the materials are very different. The skin in Paris was corn.

What’s left if you experience trauma?

It's about getting people to talk about memory... It’s a variety of testimonies that are then podcast. I make a map because usually there isn’t a map of the location and then I get them to create marks on the map and write a number and then they write on a slip what the memory is.

They build this little village around the skeleton of the cocoon and they wrap the skeleton of the cocoon and we illuminate it, and people can walk through it and that’s when they hear the testimonies.

Is it difficult to get a community to work together?

It is very challenging. It’s a lot about chaos and then chaos becomes this really beautiful object. I’m really fascinated by how different people approach objects and it’s of course about history and about how trauma plays out in the present.

Was there a direct experience or event that triggered your inspiration to begin COCOON?

My theatre was always object based and I wanted to create a work that has those elements. It’s very abstract but I felt that [people] would be understanding of it. So in that sense I wanted to make work that was not inside an institution—not inside a building. So I think it probably grew out of the work I was doing in the theatre.

How hands on are you or do you leave it to the community to create it?

I’m really hands-on, I think it’s their voice that you hear and their objects inside. Every neighborhood is different, but we ask about what materials they think would work with the artwork. But the sculpture itself is the same basically so it has to be built a certain way although we have a lot of feedback from people. The pattern is the same in terms of how people participate—it’s a way of participating. There’s so much that you have to work with… People are always surprised by it when the lights are turned on and you can see it.