Gizmodo Gallery: Sex Machine (NSFW)

"Marlon Reynolds' Prototype Machine" (Timothy Archibald)

Interview by Noah Robischon

Given the explosion in popularity of doing-it-yourself, it's surprising that so few hacks and mods are devoted to the greatest form of doing it ever: sex. But an exhibition that opened earlier this month at the Museum of Sex, "Sex Machines: Photographs and Interviews by Timothy Archibald," shows that there is an active community of sex toy hobbyists. The dildonics on display are not intended as artwork. The function comes first, and any design that results is coincidental. Most - but not all - lack the ironic message that pervades so much modern artwork. As a result, these inventions resemble a kind of folk art sculpted from the Home Depot palette. Archibald's photographs capture the juxtaposition of the hard-edged machines in the comforting and familiar settings where they are built and used. What surprised Archibald most, though, was that the inventors - an entirely male bunch - "aren t sexual fringe characters or people who answer the door wearing a leather zipper mask," he says. "These people go to PTA meetings, mow the lawn, eat good food."

After the jump: an interview with Archibald, and a gallery of his NSFW photos.

Name Timothy Archibald
Age: 38
Education: B.A. in art, Penn State University
URL : Timothy Archibald Photographs
Timothy Archibald Sex Machine
Sex Machine Diaries
Sex Machines

Gizmodo Gallery: Sex Machine (NSFW)

GIZMODO: How did you become interested in DIY sex machines?

TA: I had always been interested in independent inventors, people who were not associated with a university or a commercial enterprise. While doing the research for a photo story on that, I came across a listserv where people who were inventors of sex machines were sharing tips and talking about problems they had overcome with their inventions. And they also had photographs of their machines on that site that they shared with each other. When I saw those, it was this combination of human phallus with stuff that looks like it came out of a high school shop class. All mechanical, hard components. The project that evolved out of that was a look at the people who are making the machines. The machines are fascinating, but the people s stories are what made it cohesive, more of a human experience.

Gizmodo Gallery: Sex Machine (NSFW)

"Kristy With The Orgasmo" (Timothy Archibald)

GIZMODO: Is the fetish in the making of the machine or the machine itself?

TA: These are tinkerers, people who like to mess with all things mechanical. And they have a sense of creative invention - they are proud of these things when they create them. But also they think about sex a lot and this is what resulted from that combination. It s not just a sculptural thing. They are making it for a purpose. A number of them are married, they are making it to try and introduce something to their wives. Some may be using it to attract women - or they think it might attract women. And for some of them it s a business. But they are not part of a scene, like a sexual scene. It s more that they got the idea independently that this is something they wanted to make, they wanted to have.

Gizmodo Gallery: Sex Machine (NSFW)

"Ivana With The Thrill Hammer" (Timothy Archibald)

GIZMODO: The Thrill Hammer is one of the most sculptural machines in the show. What is the function behind that design?

TA: It is an internet controlled sex machine that was originally built by the inventor to allow people to use the machine on a woman from the comfort of their own home. People could pay, log on and control this machine as a woman sat in the machine - and they would be affecting the sex machine upon her through their mouse and keyboard. It truly did work. The time I hooked up with the inventor he was installing it at a legal brothel in Nevada. The whorehouse had licensed this machine from him for that very purpose. It was also set up so that it could film the person that the machine was being used upon, and it had professional lighting installed on it so that the video feed would look like they wanted it to look. Pretty high-tech gadget.

He went on to make another machine that was based on a couch that he saw at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. He was influenced by popular culture. His desire was to make something that visually said something. He liked this science fiction-y look to it that it has, that was intentional. In the book and the show there are probably two or three machines that design was a big part of it. Different inventors try to implement things in their own way, but oftentimes it was very primitive or simple, and the function would come first. But Thrill Hammer was heavily designed. As was the Monkey Rocker.

Gizmodo Gallery: Sex Machine (NSFW)

"James and Allisa's Second Machine" (Timothy Archibald)

GIZMODO: Several of the machines are built into toolboxes. And the name is right there on the side - Craftsman, Huskette. There must be some kind of message in that.

TA: With the Huskette and even the Craftsman, these guys thought it was funny. They appreciated the inherent humor in having this logo that we ve all seen being twisted and used for another purpose. They knew it would be funny. They were self-aware.

It was also an affordable, neat and clean way to contain the moving parts that are necessary, and could seem a little dangerous in a venture like this. There are hard edges and a flywheel. The inventors needed to find a way to encase these things so that the machine would be more user friendly. If there was something over the counter that they could buy in bulk and then modify to their own ends, that would be the solution to that kind of thing. Also, it allows the buyer to hide the thing. You got a toolbox under your bed no one is going to look twice at that - well, maybe they will look twice but not three times.

Gizmodo Gallery: Sex Machine (NSFW)

"Ruiin and Tuesday" (Timothy Archibald)

GIZMODO: The coffin seems very intentionally self-aware. And it doesn't quite fit with the other machines. What's the story there?

TA: They called that thing the Holy Fuck. That was meant to look like a little coffin, and had all the details of the coffin. They were trying to create a piece of art there that had this function. But they were young, they were these gothic kids. And I wanted them in the project for that reason. But their thing wouldn t really fall under the guise of folk art because it s intentional. They had the neat idea to make it in a tiny coffin and give it a funny name. It reflects them, like any piece of art.

To me all these things are art and they tell us something about the creators and the times we live in. But some of them are more self-conscious than others. Some of the more harsh looking machines end up being portraits of the inventor and all their concerns. Something like Thrill Hammer or Holy Fuck, they are trying to make something cool and it reflects their design taste. But it s not a vision into their brain like some of the other ones are.

Gizmodo Gallery: Sex Machine (NSFW)

"Carl Adjusting the Boom" (Timothy Archibald)

GIZMODO: There are a couple of machines - Marlon Rogers' Prototype and Carl Adjusting the boom - that remind me a bit of David Cronenberg's film Dead Ringers.

TA: I ve never seen that movie. I m dying to see it. I ve never even seen a picture from it. Someone else did bring that up. The more raw the machine, the more it is truly a vision into some of these guys brains. Everything is exposed - you see how it works and because of the phallus you can t help but think it reflects their view of sexuality, or their own sexuality, or how sexuality should look.

The thing to keep in mind is that all of these machines, as different as they seem, as outlandish as some are, they all do the same thing. And that is simply go in and out.

Gizmodo Gallery: Sex Machine (NSFW)

"Jessie In Steven's Living Room" (Timothy Archibald)

GIZMODO: What is the purpose of your work - is it documentary or is there a message you are imparting to the viewer about these machines?

TA: It started out as a documentary project. I saw these machines and thought: who would make these things? The machines are visually fascinating but they must be made by people who could not relate to women, or could not relate to other people. And the lesson I learned is that these people are just like me. These aren t sexual fringe characters or people who answer the door wearing a leather zipper mask. These people go to PTA meetings, mow the lawn, eat good food. And how that broke my stereotype was real interesting, and made me want to pursue the people behind these things. Maybe the surprise of the normal versus the abnormal. Throughout working on the project we were always saying it s not sexuality it s sociology. You can t deny the sexuality of the work. It tells us a bit about men, women, how they relate to each other, how they see themselves.