It has been suggested that art is narcissism. Post-modern provocateur Amber Hawk Swanson has done nothing to challenge this assumption (often volunteered by hard-boiled critics of modern art), but has added a fresh twist to the archetype: where the Greek hero Narkissos tried to seduce his own reflection in a spring and thereby fell into despair, taking his own life, Swanson has taken a leisurely, au naturel dip in that pool.
Swanson’s stock-in-trade is the ostensibly feminist exploration – and very public sexualization – of herself. In her video exhibitions That’s Deep and That’s Deep Again, she is taken from behind – in the former by a man, in the latter by a woman with a strap-on dildo, while rotely uttering “That’s deep.” Make of that what you will.
Swanson’s newest, headline-making project records her Las Vegas wedding to a Real Doll based on herself.
Last July 4, after several weeks of negotiation, Swanson put $6,000 down on a doll that would be four inches shorter than her, with a waist six inches smaller, but have a face identical to her own. (A full body replica would’ve doubled the cost.) She set the date for her 3-D facial scan executed by Burbank-based Cyber F/X, which caters to Hollywood to coincide with her birthday so she and Amber Doll would share the same one.
In the months before the doll’s arrival, Swanson prepared her home, buying the doll gifts of jewelry and clothing that often matched her own. “I increasingly began thinking about her as my ideal woman and eventual wife,” she says. “I would lie in bed and rub my hand on the sheets where I knew she’d be lying soon.” … She had her wrist tattooed with the word “Bully” and had Realdoll paint the word “Prey” in the same font on the doll’s wrist.
Some aspects of Swanson’s project take self love far beyond the fleshy folds of masturbation. It perturbs, as I’m sure she intended, calling in question concepts of sexuality, degradation and self. The doll’s design (not an exact replica due to the exorbitant cost) is creepy in its similarities, but revealing in its differences. Amber Doll has to give the appearance of a woman twenty to thirty pounds lighter, darker hair, whiter teeth, a slimmer waistline and perkier breasts. It is, in short, the male sexually-idealized inanimate version of herself, the perfect “prey” in her cutting feminist critique…
…Which would make the “Bully,” though subverted by Swanson’s utility in a one (real) woman performance, the traditional male role. The marriage, the objectification, the subjugation, the simulated rape scenes: Male. She might very well be suggesting women take an active role in their own objectification (hence the “blank pornface expression,” as OfficialShrub.com notes), but the underlying suggestion is clear.
Lost in the hype over Amber Hawk Swanson’s use of a Real Doll was the recognition that her vision was nothing more than a boring message of “the hate that dares not speak its name,” misandry.