A Thousand Cuts is a pair of vicious machines that embody the violence of the anti-transgender legislation introduced in 2023, and that call on the audience to take part in a cathartic ritual of retaliation and solidarity. They allude to the cruel mechanisms of incision and impalement used by the execution apparatus in Franz Kafka's 1919 story "In the Penal Colony."
The first machine, Cutter, methodically cut harsh phrases stating the true intentions of the bills into paper, over and over. (For example, "WE WILL TAKE YOUR BODY FROM YOU" represents the bans on gender-affirming healthcare.) It’s surrounded by its works — incised lists of all 500-plus bills introduced in the U.S. this year, printed over a fragment of a photo of a gender non-conforming person. This photo comes from the archives of the Institute for Sexual Science, the first gender and sexuality research institute in the world. It was destroyed by a Nazi student organization in 1933 and its library burned in the street.
The second machine, Curser, calls for vengeance. A death mask-like face and two outstretched hands await. When its fingertips are touched, the face spits out a curse on a transphobic legislator. The audience is invited to read it aloud, then impale it on a spike embedded in the left hand in a cathartic act of violence.
Technologies used: Python for data and interaction, Raspberry Pi with capacitive touch sensor and thermal printer, Adobe InDesign and Photoshop, Inkscape, casting, sculpting.
- Legialerts.com and bot by Allison Chapman, Alejandra Caraballo, and Erin Reed.
- Trans Legislation Tracker.
- “Downloading one million pieces of legislation from LegiScan" by Jonathan Soma and pylegiscan Python interface to LegiScan by Chris Poliquin.
- poemBot by Evan Will.
- Jonathan Thirkield, Sirui Liao, Terry Kahn, Fiadh McKenna, Guanhao Zhu, Ally Luo, Pet Magno, and many others for invaluable technical and conceptual help, feedback, resources, and participation.
- Every trans and queer person and our allies who came and cursed.