Originally designed by Dr. Antoine Louis back in the late 18th century, the guillotine is one of the few design classics you don’t really want to have first-hand insight into. As part of a new multimedia installation, though, you can now have an authentic guillotining experience for yourself–and walk away with nothing worse than a paper cut on the back of your neck.
Created by paper artist Mandy Smith and interactive artist Hal Kirkland, Paper Cuts gives participants a chance to experience the snicker-snack of the French Revolution’s famous instrument of death. And here’s the gimmick: The guillotine is made entirely out of paper, right down to the blade.
Smith says the Paper Cuts guillotine is a departure from her usual work, which tends to center around small and pretty papercraft objects. The inspiration to connect with an audience at the end of a massive guillotine blade came to Smith after she started thinking about the sorts of events that people gather for today, compared to the public events of the past.
“I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of capital punishment,” Smith says, in a video about the project. “I just find it really bizarre that executions used to be the biggest call of the crowd, to get together to see someone be killed.”
But with the Paper Cuts guillotine, it’s not just the crowd that gets to witness the execution. The guillotined gets to see their execution first-hand, too. (Titillating for all!) Every time the paper blade falls, a camera set up in the guillotine basket records the final seconds of the victim’s life.
“People are kind of stepping into this apparatus of death, but they know it’s an invitation to do something fun, something unexpected, something different. It’s funny to watch them have this personal moment,” Kirkland admits.
If everything goes right, Paper Cuts’ victims walk away a little startled. And if it goes wrong, and they get a paper cut on their nape, there are Band-Aids on hand.