Here it is. Paul is a nearly 3-foot-tall headless, legless, armless sculpture with an integrated smartphone charger. The phone docks where the man parts would normally be and the plug part emerges from the rear end. Yes, this is equal parts absurd, funny, and thought-provoking. It's a statement piece. It's sarcastic. It's a work of art. It's commentary on how tech is influencing sexuality. It's the creation of artist Justin Crowe.
"The inspiration for Paul came from being involved on social networks like Instagram and Facebook and from observing myself and others molding unique digital identities," Crowe tells Crave. "Sexuality seems to be the most overt, or even forced, social tendency when moving from a physical presence to digital."
Paul, with the subtitle "The Sexiest Smartphone Charger on the Planet," is up on Kickstarter, where backers can get their own for a $400 pledge, assuming the $8,000 funding goal is met. Paul can be customized to work with pretty much any standard iPhone or micro-USB charger.
My first reaction to seeing Paul was a laugh. I looked again and laughed some more. Turns out I'm not alone, though Crowe has seen quite a gamut of reactions.
"Some people become extremely uncomfortable, some say I have 'gone too far,' some love the idea and jump right into concepts, and others imagine where they would put him in their home," he says. "My favorite type of feedback is when people laugh at him. Paul embodies some important ideas disguised as a joke."
Since Paul is challenging us to consider the impact technology has on human sexuality, I asked Crowe to share his thoughts on the subject. "I think that sexuality itself remains the same, but the tools we use to express it are changing. Because the digital nature of the Internet has robbed us of some of our most 'human' experiences like observing body language, tone of voice, or even physical interaction, our culture has created alternative tools to achieve comparable feelings in this new realm. I think that is incredibly interesting," he says.
Currently, there are two functioning Paul prototypes in existence. Each took 40 hours to make by hand from expandable foam injected into molds and finished with a sanded plaster surface. Crowe hopes to the use the Kickstarter funds to improve the surface treatment and make a massive silicone mold to produce larger quantities.
Paul has a battle ahead to reach its Kickstarter funding goal. Currently, it has $50 in backing with 19 days to go. But if you think about it, $400 isn't nuts for a a functional work of art. It would certainly make a statement in your living room, evoking images of classical sculpture while tying the human form to our modern digital world.