Werewolves as Hybrid Mediators: Interview with artist Ludovic Hadjeras

Ludovic Hadjeras is a young French artist with Algerian heritage who explores werewolves as a diplomatic figure capable of easing tensions between humans and wolves. His video piece, Diane, was shown at HEK’s recent Wired Magic exhibition. When he came to visit us in January we were able to speak with him about his fascination with werewolves, human and non-human animal relations and what he is working on next!

Isabella Maund: You explain in your portfolio that you associate Werewolves with the indigenous Métis people. Could you expand on why you have this association?

Ludovic Hadjeras: This came from a book by ethologist and philosopher Baptiste Morizot. He uses the figure of the werewolf as an example of a hybrid who is able to calm tensions between humans and wolves specifically in the French alps. This idea of the diplomatic hybrid is linked to the Métis people for me through the history of my family. My mother is French and my father comes from Algeria. I have to learn a lot of things about Algeria and therefore the Métis. The werewolf represents this idea of getting closer to my family history and doing so peacefully, merging together these identities. I myself am learning to be a hybrid and therefore a peaceful mediator. There are two kinds of quests I have started that are going in parallel: merging together my French and Algerian identity and being the human and non-human hybrid.

IM: In your video piece, “Diane”, you combine footage captured in the alps in combination with digital imagery. What importance does the use of technology play in your work?

LH: I really wanted to make a film with a wolf, so Diane is a kind of avatar looking for wolves for me. For maybe four years now I go to the alps every year to look for wolves and try to encounter them. Despite my efforts, I wasn’t really able to encounter them in reality so I had to find a way of tracking the wolves in a different world. The solution I had was to film them in a video game. I tried to avoid following the quests that the game wanted me to. In both the virtual and the non-virtual it was really challenging to find them. An important tool in the process was the trail cameras, that turn on when something passes them. They provided the work with another point of view, which is a bit ambiguous. We don’t know if Diane is the observed or the observer. I wanted to play with point of views and I think that combining the virtual and the non-virtual settings is a good way of exploring this.

IM: Now that you live in Amsterdam, are you still looking for wolves?

LH: I was trying to reproduce the quest of the werewolf in the Netherlands, but it wasn’t successful. It’s not a good environment to find them in. So this helped me to understand that the wolves I am really looking for are living in the alps, especially because there is a link with my family and the borders of the country. Wolves were extinct in France and came back in 1992, crossing the Italian border. This is also why I have started to add an “H” to w(h)erewolf so it becomes location specific. However, while I was struggling to find wolves I noticed that there are foxes living in the basement of my studio in Amsterdam. I started to enter a relationship with these two foxes. The danger is to domesticate them, I don’t want to give them food or approach them too much but at the same time, I have to find a good way to communicate with them while being aware of the power dynamics.

IM: Where do you see the boundaries between human and non-human animals?

LH: It was funny when I came across these foxes in my studio basement, because the animals always seem to come to me when I am not looking for them. My studio is on an industrial harbor and I am in between two petrol factories. It’s not somewhere I would think to come across foxes. There are always big boats and lots of human noise but despite this the foxes choose to live there. It was a way that I understood that wildlife or what we call wildlife is everywhere in the intersections of human territory. We used to think we had the power and control of cities and natural space and earth, but in fact there will always be some other forms of existence. We are used to seeing territories from a human point of view, made of borders and boundaries but these only exist so explicitly to humans. The separation between wild and non-wild spaces is not so explicit.

IM: Boundaries and borders appear to be a continuous theme throughout your work. Could you explain the importance of the concept of territory, especially in context to your piece, “New Enemy” in which you mix together your own urine with that of wolf urine?

LH: It’s true that these are strong keywords in my work. Communicating with urine is a way to adapt to communication with canine animals. Foxes, dogs and wolves are communicating through urine. The idea behind the piece “New Enemy” was that it was created for an exhibition open to dogs. I had this wolf urine that came from Canada, as it’s used for hunting purposes. I mixed it with my own urine to create a form of invisible hybrid. I wasn’t educated on how to communicate with it so, it’s likely I am not speaking or understanding the language of urine very well. But even if I do it badly, this exploration allows for a different point of view. Especially from the perspective of the dogs entering the space, that could detect this hybrid urine. Generally, it seems that people associated canine urination as a marking of territory and not much else than that, but it’s really a lot more complex than this.

IM: This merging of urine reminds me a bit of biohacking. This quest of becoming werewolf is also echoing this. Would you consider trying to become werewolf a form of biohacking?
LH: I couldn’t say that I am close to this area, but I know of it and am curious about it. I don’t know if you could call it biohacking, but for one year I was eating 100g of blueberries every day to improve my eyesight. Blueberries are supposed to help with night vision. It’s all about myths and beliefs. I never really considered this biohacking, but I guess it’s closer than I thought.

IM: Werewolf mythology claims that werewolves have healing powers and some form of eternal life. How does the mythology of werewolves impact this concept of the werewolf as a mediator?  

LH: I think that during the first steps of the werewolf quest I was trying to avoid the myth of the werewolves, I was trying to really focus on the idea of diplomatic/pragmatic werewolf outside of the mythology. I didn’t really dig into the myths of immorality or the transition with the full moon. But then with time it became important for me, especially the full-moon myth and the symbolism of the moon. It’s something really magical for me and important. Even if I don’t really work directly with it, there is something behind the idea. When it comes to the concept of immortality I have created works in relation to dead people, specifically with my father who passed when I was 9. There are works I have made in collaboration with him through my dreams, challenging the idea of death and exploring the in-between. It’s not directly exploring immortality, but I have been trying to find a way to over-pass the dead and or state of death.

IM: Do you see technology as a form of magic?

LH: I consider technology as a tool for magic, I think that virtuality is a way to project into something else, into another state or point of view. I think that technologies should be used as a way of being able to see or feel something else. I really use it as a tool for developing something else and exploring other states of being, which is maybe close to what we would call magic.

IM: Where do you see the future of your work?

LH: Right now I am starting a work about sheep, at first it came from a kind of joke. I was thinking it could be funny for a wolf to adopt a sheep and become friends with it. More and more I am digging into this figure of the sheep, which is a very important symbol in Chirstian, Muslim and Jewish cultures. The sheep is an ambiguous figure. It is often the animal to be sacrificed. Sheep are closely linked to wolves also, as they often occupy spaces near to each other. The main reason humans don’t want wolves to kill sheep is to eat them after. I don’t know where it’s going but this is where it’s beginning.

View more of Ludovic’s work via his website!