the doll games
shelley and pamela jackson


interviews: rob wittig

Shelley: did you play with dolls? Not baby dolls, the other kind.

Rob: 'the other kind'

hmmm . . .

that would mean

'figurines with adult proportions,' I'm guessing . . . (right?)

(I mean . . er. . . right?)

(I mean . . . um . . . what follows is going to seem rather silly if that's not what you mean)

Invocatory Association Ever seen artist Charlie Ray's large, realistic sculptures of a naked man woman and child . . . all the same height? The figure with toddler proportions over six feet tall is unbelievably disturbing. Reminds you that babies (and babydolls) can't touch fingertips over their massive heads . . . the proportions look "normal" . . . but a six foot baby would be just as terrifying as a living, foot-long human with adult proportions . . . think of it . . . terrifying enough to make you scream involuntarily.

My Astronaut Guy
As a fourteen year old,
in the hospital wracked with psychedelic levels of pain,
--- evidencing one of a series of organic construction defects
(plumbing and pneumatic)
that, in any other place and time, would have me dead several times over ---
I clung to a little wire and plastic astronaut guy
(aware of how doll-play was a regression)
(although unembarrassed by the gender transgression)
He was in a red pressure suit with impossibly thin accordeon joints
and had a generic face
'generic' partly because of its artless mold and painting
and partly because he was not a brand-name toy
he was a generic toy
and the distinction was quite clear to me then.
Fond as I was of him, he wasn't quite as good as a name-brand toy
Why not?
Well . . . he didn't have a name, for one thing.
He was probably just "Astronaut" on the packaging.
But, more importantly, he didn't have an existence beyond my hand, my bed.
Advertised, brand name guys can be seen on TV . . .
. . . the figurine in your hand refers to the Platonic Ideal
of that figure
who (as I'm trying to understand it now) must exist in the same
as other TV and movie characters
that Olympus that is more real
(because more people want what's there)
(because more people want to be who's there)
(because more people want to be with who's there)
than the dumpy blah life around you
and the Name Brand doll serves to connect you
with the Validity of the Name Brand world
And probably, I was even fonder of my astronaut guy
BECAUSE he was generic
because I wasn't feeling too Name Brand myself, at the time.
He had a egg-like, hard-shell pressure suit,
that snapped around him,
(it was
like a deep sea diver's rig with short pants)
so he could walk on the moon
walk on the moon, yeah right.
What did I DO with him?
Well . . . I didn't really DO anything with him . . .
. . . I put his pressure egg on
and took it off . . .
(and treasured him as a typical "gift"
to me
a "toy"
given with love
like in the movies)
I pogo-ed him around on both feet
kind of lacklustrely
on my hospital-blanketed knee
using the internationally recognized
doll bouncing motion that represents
and I held him
and beheld him
. . . a grown man
(who hadn't died as a kid)
with a whole body
(count 'em 2 legs 2 arms 1 torso 1 head)
maybe a 'me' of the future
who could stand upright
(currently not part of my physical vocabulary)
and even maybe go
in his generic sort of way
to the fucking moon.

Rob Wittig was a leading citizen of the literary group Invisible Seattle and co-founded the literary bulletin board IN.S.OMNIA (1983-1992). This led to Fulbright work on the practical and theoretical aspects of electronic literature with Jean-Francois Lyotard and Jacques Derrida. His account and meditation on these adventures, "Invisible Rendezvous," was published by Wesleyan U. Press in 1994. Rob is currently director of TANK20_literary_studio, works with design consultants Thirst, and is teaching in the graduate design program at North Carolina State. He is 45 years old.