ALL THAT IS LEFT OF YOU / EVERYTHING YOU ARE NOW
AMBER HAWK SWANSON
I commissioned the production of a life-like sex doll, a RealDoll, made of a PVC skeleton and silicone flesh, in my own likeness—as a prop for my work and academic interests but also as the companion I desired in my personal life. I later abandoned Amber Doll at a number of venues, allowing the public to explore and interact—often violently—without interference. In the resulting project, ideas surrounding agency and objectification are questioned, as are ideas about the success or failure of negotiating power through one’s own participation in a cultural narrative that declares women as objects.
The subsequent performance, video and sculpture, “Amber Doll > Tilikum,” involves me transforming Amber Doll into a replica of the bull orca, Tilikum, who lives in captivity at SeaWorld Orlando and has been involved in the deaths of three people. The story of Tilikum and his body as a spectacle shared remarkable similarities to my relationship with Amber Doll. Assembling his anatomy from parts of the Amber doll, either in look or function, I conducted the ten-day, Amber Doll > Tilikum transformation alone in my studio, but broadcast every moment of it on my Livestream channel to an audience of thousands worldwide.
I transformed Amber Doll from a physical object into an active presence by reclaiming a mangled body; giving voice to the abuse of female and whale. Tilikum has suffered many years for the pleasure of others. Breasts and hands became a tail, a belly button begot a blow hole and fragments of skull became broken teeth, each physical part was assigned a new role—and through this metamorphosis each piece of Amber Doll is used to reissue agency over objectification.
Twelve pounds of silicone flesh were all that was left of Amber Doll’s original form after Tilikum was sculpted. My subsequent work “All That Is Left of You / Everything You Are Now,” displays the non-orca parts of Amber Doll—there are no “scraps,” no “leftovers,” and no “extras”—each piece matters in the struggle to [re]gain agency from objectification. “All That Is Left of You / Everything You Are Now” includes two performances, “Cleaning” and “Ribbon Tying,” and displays the 556 non-orca parts of Amber Doll.