Flashback Friday

In organizing the Kickstarter campaign for Object of Her Affection, I’ve been reflecting on the inspiration that led to the performance.  I’ve been developing the ideas behind Object of Her Affection for a while: Back in 2010 –  my wheels started spinning when I stumbled upon footage of a woman who wanted to marry an amusement park ride.

The clip was from Agnieszka Piotrowska’s BBC documentary, Strange Love: Married to the Eiffel Tower. It profiled lives of objectum sexuals, including Amy Wolfe, whose display of affection with “1001 Nacht”, an amusement park ride sparked my interest.  While her story was unusual, there was something about her authenticity and earnestness that was relatable and refreshing.

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As an artist who recontextualizes objects and puppets, I’m constantly thinking about animism and the suspension of disbelief.  As a queer person, object sexuality resonated with something deep inside me that had been festering: on the one hand sexual minorities were making great strides. On the other it seemed like LGBT identity was being gentrified in a heteronormative push towards respectability politics.

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2016, Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery, Photo: Debra Broz

You bet I was fascinated by the concept of object sexuality. There was something appealing about the emotional, physical, and romantic desire towards inanimate objects. It explodes traditional categorizations of sexual identity and turns our often cliché ideas about love inside out.  People with object sexuality fall in love with things, rather than humans. They don’t so much want a place at the table as they might long for a relationship with one.

I wanted to know more. As I delved into research, I also learned about Erika Eiffel, another of the domentary’s more articulate subjects. She appeared on a number of talk shows like Tyra and the 2013 documentary, Animism: People Who Love Objects (where she discussed her falling out with the Eiffel Tower and the park service).  I also reviewed  a number of episodes of My Strange Addiction that touch upon objectophilia (and related identities) including a woman who marries a ferris wheel and a man who has intimate relations with his car.

Artist Talk, Baltimore 2011

In 2011, I was putting together an artist talk about the role of fantasy in our daily interactions with objects. Even though my slide-show was fun (it covered puppetry-adjacent fetish topics like furries, high-end sex dolls, and masking) and toured art colleges, a dry lecture didn’t really encapsulate my investment in the material. There was something more to it that felt deeply personal – this universal need to find love.

Marsian De Lellis, 2011, Photo: Uconn Puppetry Department
Marsian De Lellis, 2011, Photo: Uconn Puppetry Department

I thought about my own life – mining my own autobiographical material from a safe distance.  During a retreat at the Eugene O’Neill Center in 2012, I began the script. Something about merging my own experiences with the stories of people who fall in love with skyscrapers into a hybrid narrative seemed to get to a deeper truth.

Marsian De Lellis, 2013, Photo: Gina Marie Napolitan
Marsian De Lellis, 2013, Photo: Gina Marie Napolitan

After a series of readings and performance excerpts, I teamed up with director, Michele Spears, to determine staging in scale. In 2014, we presented versions of the performance for test audiences at Automata and REDCAT in Los Angeles with support from the Henson Foundation, The Center for Cultural Innovation, The Anna Sosenko Trust, and Hatchfund.

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Marsian De Lellis (In)/Animate Objects, Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery, 2016, photo: Alex Griffin

In 2016, I made (In)/Animate Objects, a large-scale installation for the COLA Artist Fellowship that formed the second half of an installation-performance diptych with Object of Her Affection.  The installation focused on the excesses of the protagonist, Andrea’s doll-hoarding grandmother, years after Andrea fell from a building she was in love with. For the installation I created over a thousand handmade, distressed rag dolls with a pop-up team of collaborators that testified to the insatiable need for love at the heart of the obsessional life.

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It’s 2018, and I’m thrilled Los Angeles Performance Practice has invited us to perform at Automata for a three-weekend run with funding from the Henson Foundation and The Foundation for Contemporary Arts. We have continually refined the script and built better puppets, props, and set pieces to support the story.  It has been a dream of mine to have a longer run where more people can experience Object of Her Affection. I hope through wider exposure, the performance will one day be able tour. Your support will help me to create a dynamic performance that occupies a precarious border between beauty and terror as I further examine the fringes of our shared world.

If you would like to support Object of Her Affection, please consider giving to our Kickstarter Campaign, coming to one of the performances, or spreading the word.

Object of Her Affection has also been made possible through generous funding from The Jim Henson Foundation, The Center for Cultural Innovation, a Foundation for Contemporary Arts Emergency GrantThe Anna Sosenko Assist Trust, and Hatchfund,  with additional support from The Automata Residency Program, the National Puppetry Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, REDCAT, Impro Theatre, Harvard Westlake School, and Los Angeles Performance Practice.

Video and Photographs: Alex Griffin, Automata, Gina Napolitan, Bart Roccoberton, Debra Broz, Los Angeles Performance Practice, Marsian De Lellis, Rafael, Hernandez, REDCAT, Steve Gunther, Wallace Molina, William, Clip from: Strange Love: Married to the Eiffel Tower