1966 – “The Womaniser” – Bruce Lacey (British)

The Womaniser, now owned by the Tate Gallery, which was inspired by 'wondering what it would be like to be a hermaphrodite and make love to myself. It had six breasts and rubber gloves that inflated every 30 seconds'.

A life-sized figure, assembled out of inflatables and prosthetics, has been strapped to a dentist’s chair. The figure’s see-through head is filled with cuttings from porn mags. Instead of hands, it sports half a dozen rubber gloves, and whenever a battered old engine begins pumping air into these rubber gloves, they inflate and start to fondle a row of breasts arranged along the figure’s chest.

Art & the Sixties, exhibition themes, Swinging Sixties…..1960s Britain witnessed a seismic shift in attitudes towards sex and sexuality. The contraceptive pill made casual sex easier and safer. The 1957 Wolfenden Report recommended the decriminalisation of homosexuality, finally legalised in 1967, and abortion and divorce were made easier. All this led to the idea of a ‘permissive society’.

But liberalisation of attitudes towards sex did not mean liberation for women. While some artists’ work reflected the new, freer attitudes, others articulated anxiety about the objectification of woman and the commodification of sex. All these social changes were not only reflected in the art and photography of the period, but also perpetuated by such images.

Lacey made a number of humanoid robots from an eclectic collection of redundant objects. Here these include real prosthetic limbs, a Victorian dentist’s chair, a stand for displaying bras and a plastic head filled with cuttings from pornographic magazines. Lacey wanted to express the unease he felt at the way society’s increasingly liberal attitude to sex objectified women and conditioned men to become womanisers with sex ‘on the brain’.

From The Tate.

Visual Indigestion
In this vast and crowded portmanteau show there is a welcome amount of colour and humour. Take Philip King's inventive sculpture 'Tra-La-La' (1963), an exploration of colour in space, in pink and blue plastic. Bruce Lacey's 'Womanizer' (1966) couldn't be more different – a seedy figure reclining on an ancient dentist's chair, with three pairs of pink, rubber-gloved hands, which inflate and deflate at regular intervals in an appalling quiver of lust.

The Spectator; London July 31, 2009

See other Bruce Lacey robots here, here and here.

See other Pneumatic, Fluidic, and Inflatable robots here.

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