Meditations on the doll universe began in 1994 in discussions between Robert Cheatham and Chea Prince. From those discussions came performance works and later texts. As things sometimes turn out, the doll universe lay in remission for a number of years (as it tends to do in general). When Robert was asked to write a piece for a doll show at eyedrum art and music gallery in Atlanta in 2010 his interest was piqued again resulting in a book of essays.
While some may see these excursuses as overstepping the range of something as banal as the doll, they would be wise to reexamine the cultural and philosophical discourses and artifacts which have developed globally around the notion of autonomous, inorganic simulacra, assemblages, and the apparatus. From earlier poststructuralist disquisitions on the inhuman (Lyotard, de Man, Benjamin, Foucault, Deleuze) to contemporary theory on autonomous network activity and object theory (Harman and the OOO-ists, networkists such as Latour, Luhmann, etc) the idea of very real/alive (in some sense), material but non-living others coeval to the human is developing a front row seat. Partly this is due to the incredible ‘society of the spectacle’ that has developed around the computer in alliance with other technical media of storage, transmission, and representation. Our powers of credulity are strained to the limits as our labs create ever more startling doll/puppet/avatar stand-ins to inhabit virtual realities; and, of course, there are the purely fetishistic dolls generated by CGI which concomitantly march into hamburger joints and the shelves of toy stores, there to lay in wait, perhaps to give another push at the bottom end to the Doll Universe. One only has to imagine the truth of the last scenes of Spielberg’s movie A.I. as the imaginal fort/da** travels to the frozen bottom/top o f time to lay in wait for the future coming/going of the super mechas that replaced us to shutter in awe (or horror) at our ‘transformation.’
The combined projects of the doll universe represent our on-going efforts to grapple with the imbroglio of human/inhuman/nonhuman/un-human futures in the making.
**Sigmund Freud’s name for a game played by his 18-month-old grandson involving a cotton reel which the boy would repeatedly throw out of his cot, exclaiming ‘Oo’ (?) as he did so, forcing his mother to retrieve it for him, at which he would utter an appreciative ‘Ah’ (!). Freud interpreted these noises as babyish approximations of ‘fort’, meaning ‘gone’, and ‘da’, meaning ‘there’. The significance of the game, which Freud discusses in ‘Beyond the Pleasure Principle’ (1920), is that it shows the child transforming an unhappy situation, one in which they have no control over the presence of their parents, into a happy one in which the parents are at the beck and call of the child. Freud also interpreted it as a kind of revenge on the parents, a way of saying to them that they aren’t so important. (Also, a compulsion to repeat). And, of course, the name of our publishing venture.