This project was exhibited in The Torrid Zone: Celebrating 25 Years, in August 2017 at KickArts Contemporary Arts gallery in Cairns. Yay, thanks KickArts!

Imagine it’s August 1953. You are a young man, down at the local milk bar, waiting eagerly for your frosty vanilla thickshake to come off the wizzer. 

There are a few magazines on the end of the counter. You pick up the latest copy of American Manhood. The cover features a thrilling scene of a man (‘obviously’ it’s a man) courageously battling a giant octopus. The essence of what it means to be a man oozes from the cover; you feel powerful and adventurous. 

As you read on through the magazine you direct some of that power into your lips, to suck the viscous vanilla thickshake up the straw and onto your tongue. Being a man is cool and sweet.


What does ‘manhood’ mean today, 64 years after that image of man v octopus?

What do we expect of men today? Indeed, what do men expect of themselves? I’ve reflected on my manhood several times over the last year. Most recently this reflection took the form of an art-piece, which I’ve named…. Manhood.

Manhood (Carl Turner 2017)

Manhood reflects on my experience of being a man, on several levels.

  1. My ability to make stuff. Or, in this case, the ongoing struggle to bring another project to fruition.
  2. That other project is a clock, which I’ve named Where do the hours go? It captures my day-to-day experience of being a stay-home-dad. It’s a slightly unusual clock that requires some electronics and code to make it work, and I realised the components I had just weren’t going to work. Manhood repurposes those components.
  3. The different sizes of the gold ‘eggs’ in Manhood depict the experience of a fast-moving hockey ball + surgery. Since then I’ve worn a box when playing hockey. 🙂

CarlTurner2017 Manhood front.jpg

If it’s not obvious, the components of Manhood are arranged to depict parts of human anatomy. Whether it’s male or female is up to you, and that question is really at the core of the concept. Traditionally, a person’s sex has determined their social (gender) role. And that’s still overwhelmingly the case today, but there’s also a lot of change happening.

Some interesting and thought provoking dialogue bubbling around more recently includes:

What did I learn from making Manhood?

  • For me it was a good experience of design process, specifically failure. And how failure is not the end, but the beginning.
  • There’s a type of prototype between breadboards and PCBs, using perfboard.
  • How to go from using an Arduino, to a standalone and smaller ATTiny44 microcontroller. And how to program that controller – see instructions from MIT here.

Make Your Own Manhood

Manhood breadboard ptype CarlTurner2017.jpeg

Breadboard prototype, using Arduino as an ATTiny programmer.

Here’s the code:

  • Manhood code for ATTiny 44 (to run on Arduino: 1. check your motor pin assignments, and 2. check the register names for the timer, against the Arudino’s microcontroller datasheet).


  • 1x 5V micro stepper motor (15mm)
  • 1x 5V 28BYJ-48 stepper motor
  • 2x L293D h-bridge chips
  • ATTiny 44 microcontroller
  • Power (see Instructable here):
    • LM7085 voltage regulator
    • 10uF capacitor
    • 1uF capacitor
    • battery holder
    • USB cable

(Header illustration by Henry Carl Luhrs was the cover image for American Manhood June 1953.)

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