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A Month in a RV With a Man-Sized Rag Doll

Laura spent a lot of time driving around in a solar-powered Airstream being intimate with a six-foot rag doll named Dolly who has glow-in-the-dark eyes. She's mad about the environment and says this is her sustainable relationship.
Ellis Jones
London, GB
October 2, 2009, 10:58am
doll face

By now everyone in the world pretty much knows we’ve royally fucked up the planet with our selfish ways and unabashed negligence for I don’t know, things like, forests and clean water supply and fossil fuels. We’ve even managed to fuck up the sky by putting holes in it and creating something called global warming. Because of this people  paint catchy slogans on some cardboard, attach it to a stick, and march around streets. Then there’s

Laura Zuspan, a woman who spent a lot of time driving around in a solar-powered mobile home with a six-foot rag doll named Dolly who has glow-in-the-dark eyes. She says it's a sustainable relationship.Vice: Hi Laura. So what’s going on here? Laura Zuspan: A Little Pocket Utopia/Life's A Mess is a project that underscores the obvious importance of relationships, love, society, and how closely woven these influences are to sustainable life. For the month of August I inhabited an ancient, newly solar-powered mobile home with a six-foot man/rag doll, becoming a living installation and performance. Dolly and I role-play an intimacy typically associated with romantic human relationships and explore our own "sustainable" (totally creepy) life. I’m interested in creating a symbolic experience that comments on the daunting climate crisis while illuminating a pocket of dark hope within the chaos. And are you guys still living in the Airstream or are you back to reality? At this point in the project Dolly and I are no longer living in the solar-powered Airstream. He infiltrates my normal life in waves. We are attending an eight-bit small-scale solar powered technology lab so we can learn how to make all of his electrical elements powered by solar cells instead of batteries (Literally, he'll be off the grid!). We’re also interested in having fun and basking in the ridiculousness of life. What drove you to do this? The conception of this project blossomed out of my growing rage with changes in climate and the literal desertifaction of planet earth and how these global influences affected reoccurring themes in intimacy, procreation, and human relationships and behaviors. I wanted to create a project where the idea of sustaining human life--procreating--is questionable when we're a greedy enough species to destroy the environment that we rely on for everything. And I also wanted to have fun and laugh while I was doing it because most of the time I sit around totally infuriated. What better way to illuminate how nothing is actually sustainable then by living with a gigantic rag doll? I mean, it’s a totally cockamamie idea! Yep, that is pretty much the perfect word to describe it. Did you make this doll yourself? Yes. Making the doll was a hilarious experience because I had my mother hovering over me the entire time putting her two cents in on aesthetic choices. She was really concerned with the way he was going to look; it was like she was attempting to make the perfect man for me. I thought it was incredible symbolically, how mothers are always concerned with whom their children end up with. Historically, mothers made rag dolls for their children that reflected the culture and times they were living in, so it's appropriate that my mother had such a huge hand in his construction. She was really worried when I told her he would have electronic LED light eyes. She said, "What if he catches on fire?" I was like, if he catches on fire that will be the perfect ending to our romance. Did you have an idea in mind of how he would look? I didn't make any sketches but I did have a visual sketch in mind. Projects can go one or two ways usually for me: they can either come about intuitively where I'm like, where did this come from? Or they are very planned and cerebral. This particular project I planned for because it required me to move across the country. So was the short hair deliberate? Do you prefer dark-haired guys/dolls? All the aesthetic choices I made concerning Dolly’s look were deliberate. I had a very strong sense of what kind of man I wanted. Is this doll a little gender confused? Its name is Dolly and you refer to it as “he” but it kind of looks like a girl. What’s up with that? Dolly is a reflection of me. He is a grotesque example of where my mind has gone in fantasy and acts as a mirror from the inner depths of my most bizarre being. The fact that he looks slightly feminine does not surprise or alarm me. There is so much imagination involved in this project that if he looked like the elephant man I wouldn't be too worried about it. But do you think you’re setting him up for a lifetime of confusion and hard times? No, because he’s not really alive. People tend to be curious about him and what I'm doing with him. Walking around with a gigantic doll strapped to me draws a little attention but they usually don't give him a hard time about it. And when you guys are hanging out throughout the day, do you talk to him? Sure I do, but it feels like talking to yourself and who doesn't talk to themselves? That being said, he is more resilient then any of my previous boyfriends. Speaking of boyfriends, he sleeps in bed with you, right? Is there some snuggling going on at night? Lots and lots of snuggling, I mean, we're talking almost seven feet of pure soft coziness. I often use him as a reading pillow. Then do you ever feel neglected if you go to sleep spooning Dolly and you wake up and his arms have fallen limply to his side? Obviously he has no actual strength or sense of touch to keep them cradling you all night. I’m a pretty deep sleeper. He has LED lights as eyes, right? Is this for nighttime protection? Dolly has LED eyes to serve as an energy efficient nightlight and also it’s a way for him to be literally lit up inside when we’re in bed together. In this picture you’re choking him and he looks kinda happy. Is he into pain and shit or is that just because he has no spine and can’t hold his head up? Dolly is pretty relaxed. When I exhibit him I will literally have to hang him and I’m pretty confident that even this will go smoothly. Well, what about this picture of you naked with him on top, what’s this about? Did you attach any kind of anatomy between his legs? There is role-playing going on. I've attached a penny whistle so we can engage in lyrical fellatio. And besides the occasional lyrical fellatio, what other kind of daily activities do you guys participate in? We're just starting to phase into the real world. Some of my favorite activities have consisted of driving around in Los Angeles rush hour traffic with him seat belted into the front seat. I get a lot of great public reactions. People love a spectacle and these interactions are great because I can't conceptualize to them what’s going on. There is no explanation; I'd love to know where their imagination went when seeing us together. How did you enjoy living in your air stream? Your place looks super cozy and nice. Dolly and I enjoyed our time together very much. However, it was in the heat of the summer and it would get super hot! The solar panels weren't efficient enough to provide air conditioning, so we suffered a little. We also didn't have direct access to a toilet or kitchen so this was slightly trying at times but didn't seem to affect Dolly as much. And what was this ad campaign you came up with about renting Dolly out?  I thought I could rent him out to some lonely folks to make a quick buck. You can personally record anything you want him to say at three different speeds with a voice recorder. Are you nervous someone may fuck him up in some way or try to actually fuck him? That's what TERMS AND CONDITIONS are for: Harassment in any manner or form on the Site or any of the Laura  Zuspan Rent-A-Man products, obscene or abusive language is strictly forbidden. Sexual, intimate and erratic behaviors are strictly prohibited to contained personal environments and no persons under eighteen years of age are permitted to rent without guardian present. Impersonation of others, including a Laura Zuspan employee, host, or representative or other consumers is prohibited. You may distribute, or otherwise disembody through the product any content which is libelous, defamatory, obscene, threatening, invasive of privacy or publicity rights, abusive, illegal, or otherwise objectionable, or which may constitute or encourage a criminal offense, violate the rights of any party or otherwise give rise to liability or violate any law. You may not unload commercial content onto the product or use the product to solicit others to join or become members of any other commercial product service or other organization. All parties involved in the renting of Laura Zuspan Rent-A-Man products are responsible for returning products in the condition they were received. Renting periods are for 24 hours and each late hour encrews a fine of additional $3 until the product is returned to a Laura`Zuspan Rent-A-Man facility. Insurance may be required. OK, last question: Is there something you hoped to accomplish with this project or did you just kind of want a change? This project is my attempt of making sense of the world right now. We're living in a delicate and complicated time and I needed to address it with an intellectual playfulness. Even within the projects inherent absurdity there are very real psychological implications on human behavior and responsibility.