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Art for porn's sake

What do you do when you’re an artist with time on your hands in a small town in central Iowa? (a) Spend your time flying a kite; (b) Volunteer for...

STATUE OF LIMITATIONS Neff hopes to have his pantograph completed by 2007.

What do you do when you’re an artist with time on your hands in a small town in central Iowa? (a) Spend your time flying a kite; (b) Volunteer for highway cleanup; (c) Invent an arcane machine with an ultimately X-rated function.The answer, of course, is c.

Though not yet complete—John Neff hopes to have a full-size prototype developed sometime next year—the gist behind what he’s calling a “sculpto-graphic device” can be grasped via a mixed-media display at Western Exhibitions gallery through October 21. Via blueprints, photos, mannequins and even a wheelchair, Neff’s Rube Goldberg invention-to-be can be seen in the installation Pornographic Pantograph with Allusion to Juan Sanchez Cotan (In Progress, Patent Pending).

A title like that requires its own annotations. To wit: A pantograph is an old-school tool used by draftsmen to trace one drawing while simultaneously producing a copy. Juan Sanchez Cotan is a relatively obscure 16th-century Spanish painter. Patent pending means that, yes, Neff is working on a provisional patent application (“definitely a more difficult process than I imagined”), which will protect his idea for a year while he further develops it. We trust you won’t need any help with the porn part.

Should it ever be built, the machine will enable a person to use it on a live guinea pig—er, model—to replicate his favorite poses from Internet porn and rephotograph them. Ah yes, that must explain the restraints on the small-scale model of his device, though they kinda give it an IML feel.

A former resident of Chicago in the late ’90s, Neff chuckles when asked about any S&M overtones. The restraints are functional, he insists: You have to be able to precisely pose your model, after all. A man with a deep appreciation of old machinery and analog technology, Neff points out that because of long exposure times, “early photography, such as daguerreotypes, also utilized bodily restraints to produce images. That’s one of the reasons people look so stiff in 19th-century photographs.”

If it ever becomes a reality, you might get a different kind of stiff using his pornographic pantograph. “It’s not necessarily a rational machine,” Neff says. But strapping in your favorite model could be lots of fun.—Web Behrens

Pornographic Pantograph...(patent pending) is on view at Western Exhibitions through Oct 21.

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