December 10-15, 2013
Sidore (Mark II) / Heather > LOLITA is my newest work in my alchemic performance series transforming lifelike silicone sex dolls into models of captive whales. LOLITA took place in my New York City studio over the course of six consecutive days with simultaneous broadcast via Livestream. The entire performance lasted 70 hours. The project was commissioned and made possible by Sidore (Mark II)’s and Heather’s longtime partners, noted synthetics advocate and doll husband Davecat and doll owner Jesse.In a series of actions that are at once tender and destructive, I dismantled Sidore (Mark II) and Heather, two poseable RealDoll sex dolls, and repurposed their PVC skeletons and silicone flesh in order to build a replica of Lolita, the oldest living killer whale in captivity. Lolita has resided in the brutal confines of the Miami Seaquarium—a dilapidated aquatic park with a substantial animal mortality rate—in a shallow pool far less than twice her length for over 43 years. With troublingly unintentional irony, Lolita was named for the protagonist of Nabokov’s eponymous 1955 novel.
During the performance, members of the doll and marine mammal activist community participated remotely via call-ins. Doll husband Davecat read Nabokov’s Lolita in person and via Skype while I transformed both dolls. Over the phone, Jesse described the hidden room he built for Heather, in which she resided for fifteen years. On the final day of the performance, doll husband Mahtek called in to contribute a reading of the eulogy he wrote for his doll Pheobe’s first body. Each of these narrations was an integral contribution to my reconstruction. Former marine mammal trainers turned advocates, who recently appeared in the acclaimed Sundance and CNN documentary Blackfish, also discussed the realities of marine mammal captivity.My project commingled synthetic, organic, and literary means to address the perverse power dynamics implied by Lolita’s naming and the conditions of her captivity. LOLITA casts a glaring light on the problematic fluidity between the perception of a seductive body and the body in undeniable captivity—particularly in marking a body as "seductive" to erase its “captive” status. In addition to addressing the specificities of Lolita’s long-term confinement and exploitation, the project poses broader feminist questions about surrogacy, domination, and enclosure via the suture of doll, female, and whale bodies.
LOLITA took place exactly two years after Amber Doll > TILIKUM, a ten-day performance involving my own RealDoll, Amber Doll, who was made in my likeness and was my artistic and romantic companion for five years. In 2011, I transmogrified Amber Doll into a replica of Tilikum, a bull orca currently living in captivity at SeaWorld Orlando who had been involved in three human deaths. My female-to-whale transformations explore material capacities for synthesis and salvation, and the promise of the copy. I have been a part of the doll community since 2005 after acknowledging my failed attempts to date “organic” women, and have developed an affinity with “doll husbands” who consider dolls to be life partners. Now, I work at the threshold of the art and doll worlds as a material translator between the two.