In the run up to Object of Her Affection, I’m answering some frequently asked questions about the performance and subject matter.
What is object sexuality?
Object sexuality is an emotional, physical, and romantic desire towards inanimate objects that could be anything ranging from buildings, bridges, tools, household items, or other structures. It’s been estimated by some that there are roughly 40 objectum sexuals worldwide.
Wikipedia defines object sexuality (which is sometimes pathologized as objectophilia) as:
“a form of sexuality focused on particular inanimate objects. Those individuals with this expressed preference may feel strong feelings of attraction, love, and commitment to certain items or structures of their fixation. For some, sexual or even close emotional relationships with humans are incomprehensible. Some object-sexual individuals also often believe in animism, and sense reciprocation based on the belief that objects have souls, intelligence, and feelings, and are able to communicate.” (Read more)
Why object sexuality? Why now? And why with puppets?
As a queer person, object sexuality resonated with something that had been festering inside: on the one hand sexual minorities were making historic strides. Meanwhile, a heteronormative push towards respectability politics was gentrifying LGBT identity.
There was something appealing and refreshing about the concept of object sexuality when most define their sexual orientation in terms of an attraction to a specific gender. There’s so many antiquated, cliché ideas about love that object sexuality turns inside out. Objectum sexuals 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.
As an artist who recontextualizes objects and puppets, I’m constantly thinking about animism and the suspension of disbelief. Puppet and object theatre seemed like perfect mediums to explore this material and the questions it raises.
Can I bring my kid?
If I can’t bring my kid, who is the intended audience?
The short answer is anyone who has ever experienced love or loss.
The long answer is that I’m reaching out to a core demographic of outcasts. These disenfranchised adults have been identified by filmmaker, John Waters, as the “minorities who can’t even fit in with their own minorities”, but who in spite of everything still have a sense of humor. I‘m indulging the viewer with sensational almost absurd stories of outsiders made relatable through playfulness and insight, to transform the ways in which we view eccentricities.
I’m sorry I won’t be able to make it, could you bring your performance to my city?
It depends – How deep are your pockets? Do you have access to resources? If so, let’s strategize! If not – no judgement. I recognize the lovely compliment in your question. Perhaps it would be more affordable if you visited LA for the weekend. You could get an Airbnb or make friends with strangers!
Wait, WTF is a “performing object“?
The World Encyclopedia of Puppetry Arts has defined performing objects (or “object theatre“) the following way:
“In object theatre the untransformed “thing” is explored, either in itself (to find its inherent movement/physical properties) or to use as a character/symbol in a story.” (Read more)
2014, Marsian De Lellis, drawing from Married to the Eiffel Tower
OMG – have you seen that youtube video of the lady making love to an amusement park ride?
Yes! Totally! The clip you’re referring to is from Agnieszka Piotrowska’s BBC documentary, Strange Love: Married to the Eiffel Tower. The documentary profiles the lives of objectum sexuals, including Amy Wolfe, whose display of affection with “1001 Nacht”, an amusement park ride, initially sparked my interest.
Erika Eiffel, another of the documentary’ more outspoken subjects has also appeared on talk shows like Tyra and later documentaries like, Animism: People Who Love Objects, where she discusses a falling out with the Eiffel Tower (and the park service). There are also a number of episodes of My Strange Addiction that touch upon objectophilia (and related subjects) including a woman who marries a ferris wheel and a man who is amorous with his automobile.
I saw your performance and it triggered me – made me question whether I may be an objectum sexual. Can you recommend resources for me?
I’m thrilled the performance touched you! And yes, a good place to start would be Objectum-Sexuality International, a support website started by the late wife of the Berlin Wall, Eija-Riitta Eklöf (1954 – 2015) of North Sweden.
So is Object of Her Affection like a documentary with puppets based on actual people?
Not really. When I was writing Object of Her Affection, I was really thinking about my life – mining my own autobiographical material from a safe distance. Let’s not get into details! In the process I discovered that there was something about merging my own experiences with the stories of people who fall in love with skyscrapers and the like, and extrapolating upon them, to create a hybrid narrative that seemed to get at a much deeper truth than if I had written about either separately.
Why go through the trouble of making an expensive puppet show when you could just do something funny on Snapchat ?
We live in an overly connected world, where there’s a collective, growing sense of isolation. People are longing for shared authentic experiences. I’m providing something they can witness in real time that’s tactile and doesn’t take place in an app.
I’m also hijacking the term, “micro-influencer” – reclaiming it from advertisers and social media starlets who short-circuit our brains with a FOMO on behalf of corporations peddling products. As an artist who re-contextualizes object and puppet-based performance art, I own “micro-influencer”. I wield diminutive cardboard objects in intimate settings to activate small audiences in subtle ways with big ideas that may not immediately go viral, but are at least contagious.
How is your work related to Los Angeles?
I‘ve been based in LA for twelve years. I contribute content that grows locally out of pop media narratives inflected with my own experiences, which feels at home here in LA. My work reflects LA’s strangeness, its relationship to body culture and the extremities of reality television, populated by people seeking love and admiration. Perhaps that’s why as eccentric as my subjects are, viewers have reported that they are moved by them and can relate to them.
Who was it that said “In the future, everything will be a disorder for 15 seconds?”
That was actually me.
2018, Marsian De Lellis with Female Trouble era Divine doll (in progress), photo: Jane Pickett