Luckykiss_xxx: Adult Kisekae Ningyou Sampling
Curator's Note

"`Kisekae' is Japanese for `changing clothes'. It's a popular play for little girls. They are given `kisekae ningyou' (dolls for changing clothes) and play changing clothes of the dolls. And, girls' manga magazines sometimes provide paper dolls and clothes for kisekae. (You can also find swimsuit collections and popular comic heros wearing naughty leather gear)." [1]

1. Open Kisekae: an open source art form

Luckykiss_xxx is a sampling of adult kiss dolls presented as online art. Kisekae ningyou paper doll sets migrated from Japanese shoujou (girl) manga paper comic books to computers in the mid 1990's. Through the web, "The World KiSS Project" attracted doll creators first in Japan and then internationally. KiSS viewers and development kits are available freely for PC, Mac, and Amiga platforms. Similar to the active cultural production and online exchange of computer game add-ons at both code and content levels, the World KiSS Project's operating principles are founded on the hacker gift economy endemic to the Internet. Instructions for ethical (non-profit) distribution of KiSS doll sets are included with the development kits and viewers for KiSS.

KiSS is an open source collaborative art form enabled by networkability. Both KiSS visuals and code are developed through collaborative online interactions between multiple artists and programmers, rather than by a select, elite industry sector, (in the case of the original girl manga books, a select group of comic book artists). As a distributed interactive software, KiSS is open to a multiplicity of artistic visions, practices, cultures, genders, ages, and artistic skill levels. Variety and play, a dynamic chain of alternates, imaginings and reimaginings, characterize KiSS. The role of the KiSS developer merges with role of the KiSS player, the KiSS player is also usually a KiSS artist, reading is writing, authoring is using, consumption is production.[2]

The process of creativity employed by KiSS artists is a form of cultural sampling, hacking and appropriation, a form of play from which new configurations emerge from tweaking what another artist has made and so on, a dynamic recycling of anime and other visual lexicons as well as a repurposing of the interactivity of paper doll play and other forms of interactivity. (These very processes of play and creative remixing are also built into how the user interacts with the KiSS doll itself as s/he dresses and undresses the doll.) Designer Russell Talyor has described the initial phase of a design process as a "playtype". According to Taylor, "playtype" is preferable to "prototype", as the latter term is imbued with notions of originality and proprietary authorship. A playtype is "about free movement, action, an activity and interactivity" and is not about a frozen "product, artifact and object."[3] The David "KiSS Jam" by multiple authors is an example of this playful, collaborative, dynamic creative design process.[4] In each KiSS data set frame, a Michelangelo's David statue doll wears a different costume designed by a different female artist, ensembles ranging from lederhosen to fishnets.

2. The Shape of Online KiSS

Even though KiSS doll set production activity peaked only a few years ago, about 1997, sleuthing for KiSS dolls is already a detective assignment for a cyberarcheologist. If I try to branch out of a small number of centralized KiSS archiving sites, such as Dov Sherman's invaluable KiSS archive, and access individual KiSS artist home pages, I will dead-end in many "404-page not found's". This is especially true on Japanese servers, where KiSS is an older phenomenon, and also where trends seem to propagate and burn out even faster than in the West. (I find myself surfing in dead link wastelands, following only indexical traces--the hyperlinked descriptions of ghost sites.)

The topology of KiSS sites can be roughly mapped into three different communities of users and developers. The first and earliest community is the Japanese girls and boys who build cute KiSS sets to play doll dress up, drawing from children's anime sources and girl manga. Second are older Japanese teenage boys who build more erotic adolescent KiSS dolls sets to play "undress up" or strip tease, drawing from casts of teen anime characters.[5] And the third clustering is of Western teenagers, and Western young women and men, who build erotic KiSS dolls to play out adult fantasies. This third user group references both anime, Western pop culture, gothic underground alternative culture, cartoons and other eclectic, (international, non-Japanese), sources. This community is presently more active in comparison to the first two communities. Each community shares dolls with each other and members link to each other's sites, forming hyperlink clusterings that serve to reinforce community identity and exchange. Out of these three sometimes overlapping fields of cultural production, Luckykiss_xxx exhibits KiSS dolls created by adult artists participating in the second and third fields.

3. My Doll, My Avatar

Paper dolls, sexy dolls, anime characters and computer game avatars are all inhabitants of fantasy life. The children's micro world of doll houses, puppet shows, and miniature soldier landscapes has been extended into the virtual, where children grow into adults and continue active fantasy lives.[6] Doll as miniature fetish play object and avatar as a fragment of self are both components of player/avatar/doll interaction. I am my avatar, I objectify my doll, my doll is my sex toy, I play with who I am, I dress up as other, I don’t recognize myself and I delight in myself as other. The subject switches places with the object and jumps back again. In Glyndon's goth KiSS doll set "X" the player transitions through a variety of outfits from pony girl to maid to goth boy, (when you strip the doll in data set one s/he is endowed with a penis and in data set two her breasts disappear).

In the online fetish ball of KiSS dolls, the doll is not frozen in time into one subject position and gender position.[7] Fluid and infinitely mutable, the digital doll cycles through a play of (potentially contradictory) signifiers as the user flips through the standard ten frames or "data sets" of the KiSS viewer, each data set presenting a new doll costume and a new identity. Gender/subject construction is effected through gender play and role play. What is important here is to recognize the process of play as a modality of gendering. Gendering is not a process whereby the subject is a passive recipient of social gender norms, but neither is the subject isolated from these norms. The subject employs agency as s/he interacts with given gender categories, a back and forth playful interchange as s/he rotates through various roles or creates/implements new roles as the creator of a new KiSS doll. This gender play can be both liberating and funny as the player/creator evades a fixed and frozen subjectivity, but should not be underestimated as an effective gendering process.

Asia de Guarde, author of many lovely KiSS sets, extended the use of kiss for role play by creating a KiSS doll for her "Boo Liberty" character that she played in an online role playing game.[8] Asia's female KiSS dolls are both sexy, (very nice translucent underwear), and defiant girl dolls whose costumes include combat wear and gadgets. For instance, Asia's "Girl Paradox" doll poses in a confrontational stance facing off the user with her legs firmly planted on the ground, cybervisor and tool vest within easy reach. "Mechanisma" by Yuki Saegusa is an early Japanese (1994) transformer doll that through "kisekae", changing clothes, alters her identity. Mechanisma is a doll inside a doll, disassembling entirely from her giant female robot form to reveal a tiny human girl doll inside of her multiple mechanical parts.

4. Sexy Play

Play is not the exclusive domain of children but is integrated into the adult fantasy life of KiSS players and artists. Pleasure in role play, in interactive, erotic costuming, merges with the interactive pleasure of stripping, of removing layers of often finely crafted clothing to find the next layer that lies underneath. These KiSS pleasures are further channeled into a variety of more specific sexual fantasies, fetishes and modalities, such as bondage, leather fetish toys and whips, cross-dressing, and mouse action over defined pleasure spots. (As noted by Elena Gorfinkel & Eric Zimmerman, it is sometimes necessary to patiently and repeatedly rub the mouse back and forth over a doll's panties to remove them.) Although many of these pleasures are addressed to Japanese and Western hetro males it is not difficult to find adult KiSS sets which are queer and/or female friendly, or to imagine queer "rereadings" or repurposing of many KiSS dolls. The dark and sulky male Olympia doll lounging in an easily removable Sailor Moon outfit is a KiSS doll that holds potential appeal for straight women and queer men alike. "Glyndon" is the author of a number of elegant erotic "gothic" KiSS sets that explore androgynous, inbetween and queer gender zones. In Glyndon's "X" sets, the dolls are framed by a backdrop of two monolithic overarching penises bound up in ribbons. Appropriating wickedly from Japanese Pokeman games and anime, Glyndon's "Rocket" KiSS sets feature two dominatrix and domimaster/dominatrix Pokeman trainers who can dress themselves up in a variety of leather fetish wear and choose from multiple whips and instruments for training their Pokeman pet.

Although hentai, (Japanese adult anime), and adult interactive narrative games are popular in Japan, in the West very little development has occurred in adult interactive entertainment. Despite lucrative potential, Western game publishers and developers are fearful of creating content that would seem inappropriate for children. In the West, children are commonly understood as the only market for games and interactive content, despite growing evidence to the contrary and a self imposed industry rating system based on age for violent content. Western game developers would prefer to allow illicit game hackers, like the makers of the Nude Raider patch for Tomb Raider, to insert blatantly erotic or pornographic content into games, although suggestive clothing, at least for female characters, is permissable in commercial games. (Unfortunately, much of the erotic content in computer game hacks also reflect the limited erotic imagination of hetro teenage boys, although there are exceptions.) Another unacknowledged active site of erotic gaming in Western culture is in the genre of role playing games, both text and graphical, where text-based social interaction between players can quickly move from flirtation to Tinysex.[9]

As an open source strip doll player, the World KiSS Project allows its users to insert their own erotic fantasies into the mix rather than relying on a particular industry to feed its users prepackaged sexiness. The World KiSS Project is a global collaborative experiment for how to play with sexy interactive dolls and avatars, allowing queer, hetro, female friendly, fetish, Goth, Japanese bondage, anime teen girls, (lots of Japanese anime girls and a few boys), and other fantasies to be distributed and exchanged. Imaging, sound, and interactive aesthetics are refined and evolved over time in the body of work of individual KiSS artists and genres emerge from interactions between these artist communities. Curious, beautiful, and sometimes refreshingly flawed or amateurish, cute or sweet, sometimes perverse or disturbing, adult KiSS "paper" dolls are fun to play with and fun to make, to sample, to hack, to mutate, to reoutfit, dress up and undress, an open ended interactive art form that activates adult erotic fantasies and adult desire for continuous play.

Notes:

1. http://hometown.aol.com/jrbuell2/winbee.html

2. Roland Barthes, The Death of the Author, Image, Music, Text. Ed. And trans. Stephen Heath. New York: Hill, 1977.

3. Russell Taylor, Design for Digital Environments, Unit 1.2 Process Notes, Online Course at the Technical University of British Columbia.

4. Kiss Jam is a term coined by "The King in Yellow", who orchestrated the David Kiss Jam and authored David's Apple Geek costume.

5. Gorfinkel and Zimmerman underscore the act of undressing or stripping as the key interaction with kiss dolls. Elena Gorfinkel & Eric Zimmerman , "Technologies of Undressing: The Digital Paper Dolls of KISS", first published in 21C Magazine, 1997 appearing in SEX: The Art of Allure in Graphic and Advertising Design, Steve Heller, ed. Allworth Press, 2000

6. Gaston Bachelard, Poetics of Space, first published 1958 by Presses Universitaires de France, p. 148.

7. Teresa de Lauretis, Technologies of Gender, Indiania University Press, Bloomington and Indianapolis, 1987, p. x.

8. A memorial site honoring Asia de Guarde's kiss dolls is located at http://home.korax.net/~rsm/asia/. Asia de Guarde passed away at age 26 from AIDS in February 2000.

9. Julian Dibbell, "Samantha, Among Others" in My Tiny Life: Crime and Passion in a Virtual World, Henry and Holt Company: New York, 1998.

Copyright 2000, Anne-Marie Schleiner