The Liberation of Mannique Mechanique

USA 1967. Dir Steven Arnold.

With Sonia Magill and ruth weiss. Costumes Steven Arnold.

The artist, photographer and filmmaker Steven Arnold was a muse and model of Salvador Dalí, who always referred to Arnold as his ‘prince’. Andy Warhol star Holly Woodlawn claimed that if Warhol’s Factory was ‘typical New York,’ then the circle around Arnold in Los Angeles ‘was Versailles’. Arnold’s work provides a fascinating bridge between the early cross-gender experiments of Claude Cahun and Pierre Molinier and what the media theorist Gene Youngblood termed the ‘polymorphous subterranean world of unisexual transvestism’ that he saw as a hallmark of the emerging ‘synaesthetic cinema’ of the 1960s. Loosely based on William A Seiter’s 1948 film One Touch of Venus, Arnold’s first film is a macabre, decadent and ambiguous work presenting mannequins and models who travel through strange universes towards possible self-discovery.