documentary of an adult video web community. The artist, Show-n-tell,
tells her story
a voyeur and eventually becoming part of this community through a series
of images and actual chat text. Initially shy, she asks men to show her
their rooms. She finds naked men by their computers in their office spaces,
living rooms and bedrooms. She collects images of their naked bodies
juxtaposed with their surrounding computer equipment.
..........Eventually she becomes
a regular within the community and makes friends. People share their
personal crises with her. One woman is living with her
boyfriend but is having an affair with another man online… A prematurely
retired man is feeling lonely at home and tells her, “The wife
works from 7am to 5pm, comes home, watches TV and falls asleep, sex once
on Saturday mornings. Now I play on the computer, a great mind gone to
waste! I lost 20 lbs since June when I finally stopped drinking, but
now I am addicted to these rooms.”
..........The main narrative, however,
is told through Show-n-tell’s voice.
She participates in the community both as an observer and a performer.
After a while she has her own virtual sex show but as a married woman
she too negotiates the limits of her explorations within virtual space
her real life partner.
..........The electronic images gathered in chatrooms are transformed as photographic
stills in the book. Because of the limits of the technology the image disintegrates
into pixels which speak to a new sensibility in image making. The text
also takes on an electronic accent. The members of virtual communities
have transformed the English language by using acronyms that are incomprehensible
to the outsider and yet are understood even by non-English speakers.
..........This artist’s book is a documentation of Show-n-tell’s
navigation through erotic virtual space. But like most documentaries,
has been electronically edited and graphically redesigned to dramatically
communicate her story.
February 2001, I have been visiting an adult video web community and
have collected images and dialogues which make up “webAffairs”.
This book is my visual documentary of the activities, people and events
within this space.
..........With the availability
of cheaper computers, faster web access and small video cameras, virtual
communities have come to include people of all ages,
economic and educational backgrounds, and from all different parts of
the world. These virtual rooms are where singles, couples, straights,
lesbians, bisexuals, transvestites, crossdressers, fetishists... everyone,
come to play. As a friend I met online said to me “it’s safe
sex,” and during these times when sexually transmitted diseases are
a major anxiety, it’s a safe way to flirt and have a sexual encounter.
To some degree this virtual space has become the equivalent of going
out to the neighborhood bar.
..........There are quite a lot of women who log into the adult rooms, but the majority
of the community is male. In the straight rooms, I usually found myself
to be the only woman in a room full of men, all watching me. I was also
fascinated that everything and anything could happen here. A few people
could be chatting about computers, while some others would be making sexual
banter, and still others might be masturbating at the sight of a woman
in the room. The first section of my book is a series of visuals and some
dialogues captured in the rooms which introduces the reader to this community.
..........Once in the room I began
noticing how some men acted very aggressively, constantly asking a woman
to perform for them. This made me want to change
the power structure. When a man asked me to perform for the camera, I
asked him instead to do something for me: “Show me your room”.
It not only changed the dynamic of the relationship, but also allowed
take a peek into his life. I got to see furniture and the pictures hanging
on the walls. Suddenly I was a guest in hundreds of homes and offices
around the world. I began collecting images of these rooms. Sometimes,
I would show them my studio, as well. But other times they would demand
to see more of me, my entire face, parts of my body, my breasts... Ironically,
I began to exchange images of my body in order to collect more and more
images of rooms to be able to include in my book.
..........As time went by I became a regular within the community. I made friends
and I learned about the everyday things that they do. I wondered why my
friends were online so often. One person told me he was working very hard
and had to be at the office until the early hours of the morning, and these
rooms kept him company. I was surprised to learn that many were creative
people who use the computer professionally. After spending all day on the
computer for their work, it seemed natural for most of them to stay there
for their social life, as well. Their professions demanded so much time
out of their lives that the only window to the outside world was again
the computer screen. Ironically, this virtual space replaces their social
life. In my own life as a graphic designer, teacher and artist I too sit
in front of the computer for most of the day.
..........I met a woman who was
deaf. For her, typing was an easier way of connecting
than being in a room full of real people. A prematurely
retired man feeling lonely at home told me, “The wife works from
7am to 5pm, comes home, watches TV and falls asleep, sex once a week on
Saturday mornings (used to be)... now I play on the computer, a great mind
gone to waste! I lost 20lbs since June when I finally stopped drinking,
but now I am addicted to these rooms.” These personal confessions
are at the heart of my book. It is the contrast between being naked and
vulnerable, and to allow strangers to enter into your life. Friends often
shared their personal crisis in the same rooms where they also escaped
for virtual sex. As I surfed through these virtual rooms and met new
friends I catalogued them. Every friend had a folder with images and
My experiences became electronic files and when I began designing this
book the folders on my desktop contained the information that determined
each page. Not only the aesthetics of the book derives from electronic
technology but my process of creation derives from an electronic sensibility
..........The main story in the
book, however, is my participation as an artist and observer, while becoming
a member of this virtual community. I went through
a transformation which is revealed throughout the book in my own voice.
This allows the reader to share my experiences. Despite my shyness I
found myself talking to strangers. At first I would only chat with men
fully dressed, but eventually I had long conversations with a window
on my screen where only genitals were visible. I broke my own rules and
not to have any. I watched how my limits expanded on a daily basis. I
found myself being one of the community, sharing with friends my own
showing old photos, exchanging our real names and web addresses all intermingled
with sex chat. After a while I had my own room, and my own sex show.
I was having virtual sexual experiences with several men at the same
Another body of text in the book reflects dialogues I’ve had with
my husband. As a married woman I negotiated the limits of my explorations
within this virtual space with my real life partner.
..........I struggled with the
question of privacy. How much of what goes on in the rooms can be considered
private? How do I protect my friends’ privacy
and still be able to talk about some of the events that I experienced?
How can I document a space which is public but thought of as private?
I thought that collecting screen shots and saving the text files was
to street photography. But unlike street photography my subjects are
unaware. In fact, I am not even the photographer. Each one of my models
own way of presenting themselves with their own webcams. The pictures
in this book are collaboratively made. My models photograph themselves
I just grab from their broadcast.
..........The electronic images I get from the chatrooms are transformed as stills
in my book. They capture one single moment, and sometimes because of the
limits of the technology as the image is frozen it disintegrates into pixels.
These pixels speak to a new sensibility in image making. Beyond the continuous
tone photograph, today we make digital images out of color patches. The
texts used in the book also speak about a contemporary phenomena. The members
of virtual communities have transformed the English language by using acronyms
that are incomprehensible to the outsider and yet it is because of these
acronyms that even non-English speakers can fluently converse.
..........This book is a documentary.
It’s a documentation of what’s
happened to me, as I navigated through this virtual space eventually
finding erotic encounters. The book has the actual dialogues and pictures
are artifacts of the moments I spent there. However, the material has
been electronically edited and graphically redesigned to communicate
of my story.