Joseph P. DeLappe: Masturbatory Interactant

  • ©1996, Joseph P. DeLappe

  • ©1996, Joseph P. DeLappe



    Masturbatory Interactant


Creation Year:



Artist Statement:

    Masturbatory lnteractant is a computer-interactive electro­mechanica I installation that is the ultimate realization of several years of conceptualiza­tion and creative interest in critically examining the human/ machine interface. The work is a synthesis of concepts and processes related to post­modernism, feminism, neo­-Luddism, and art history. The installation is directly influenced by Marcel Duchamp’s seminal work of mechanized eroticism: The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass), 1915-23.

    Masturbatory lnteractant incor­porates a bar-code-activated Macintosh computer, an LCD video projector, and kinetic electromechanical sculptural elements. Duchamp’s bride has become an inflatable female party doll, painted white and continuously suspended inside a transparent enclosure by the air flow of three 20″ cooling fans. The floating female form acts as a projection surface for randomly selected computer-­based visual information — essentially a hyperkinetic image stream primarily consisting of a combination of short, provoca­tive QuickTime video segments of digitized close-ups of a nude male figure conducting self-­erotic actions, 3D computer ani­mations of the “bachelors” from Duchamp’s piece, text, and audio.

    The imagery is selected ran­domly through an automated interactive process. The “choco­late grinder” from Duchamp’s piece has become a kinetic sculpture whose tapered drums are covered with bar codes, slowly rotating around the cen­tral axis. All the while, the bar­code scanner, a pen-like device mounted on an extending and retracting armature, randomly scans the bar codes. The scanned bar codes send predefined commands to a Macintosh computer mounted above the grinder, which chooses image segments from a Macromedia Director-based multimedia pro­gram. The selected images are then projected onto the floating body by an LCD video projector, the third element of the “chocolate grinder” mechanism, attached at the top of the structure.

    This installation creates an absurd incident, in which the visitor, the so-called “empowered” user of interactive machines, becomes a passive, voyeuristic spectator of a device whose sole purpose is to interact with itself; hence the title, Masturbatory lnteractant. This piece critically investigates male sexuality, technological hegemony, and multimedia hyperbole through humor, high-tech absurdity, and non-participatory computer interaction.

    The doll, a pathetic idealization of the female form designed for pure male fantasy and control, becomes an active matrix for the critical exposure of male power and desire. The intent is to transform what might be a purely insulting object into a metaphorical carrier of feminist ideas. The actual structure of the female body form, mass-produced from primitive sections of cut and assembled vinyl, suggests connections to the design of 3D-modeled virtual bodies in cybersex fantasies. The automated selec­tion and projection of imagery, combined with the frenetically moving projection surface, creates a viewing experience that is difficult to grasp for more than a fleeting instant. The non­linear, digitally-processed image flow creates a temporal, fluid, and ultimately post-modern experience of randomly chosen visual information.

    In part, the piece serves as a critique of contemporary high technology, particularly through the use of an intention­ally non-interactive bar code process by which the piece functions, creating an incident for the consideration of information, consumption, access, privilege, and power in the information age.