Click here for "HotGirl01.TXT" – by Juliana Monachesi
Erotic content websites are among the most accessed, as any internet user behavior research will attest. According to a research by Hitwise, a North American internet research company, published by Folha de S. Paulo newspaper in June 2004, while 18.8% of the Americans that accessed the internet during the research period visited porn sites, only 5.5% logged on to the major search engines during the same period.
Another dimension of cyberporn, this one impossible to quantify, it’s the circulation of porn images attached to emails. There is a “dirty content” swapping culture that feeds a substantial part of internet users mailboxes around the globe. Focusing on this aspect of the web culture artist Felipe Cama developed a series of works about the current relationships between the individual and information, about how the contemporary world deals with the universe of images.
Let’s start with “One and three photographs (After Kosuth)”, 2003, the work that originated the series, so to speak. First shown at 35th FAAP Annual, the work depicts a photo of a nude woman, in a teasing pose, the same image printed over its own simplified binary code (obtained after a reduced size of the image), and a heap of sheets of A4 paper printed with the binary code of the displayed photograph.
The reference here is “One and three chairs” (1965), by Joseph Kosuth, a conceptual art icon constituted by a chair, a photograph of the chair and a photographic enlargement of the word “chair” from a dictionary. Art as discourse. If, with Kosuth, we understand that art is text, in a first confrontation with Felipe Cama’s work, we perceive that the digital media adds new texts to the repertoire of art.
The triad object-representation-language, explicit in the confrontation between the three Kosuth chairs, is less explicit in the three photographs of Felipe Cama’s work. Seen in it’s materiality and in it’s virtuality as well, the three photographs are objects, are representations and are language, concomitantly. In Cama’s show at Galeria Leme, in São Paulo, “One and three photographs (After Kosuth)” works as a preamble for the current production of the artist.
Follow the Nudes from Pixel series, appropriations of porn images that circulate on the web as spam, reworked with a software that calculate the average color between a group of pixels of a chosen area of the image, “Route to Abstraction” (2004), in which one image is seen at four different stages of that calculation, the Nudes from Art History, enrolled in the same logic, and the “Binary Nudes” (2005), which are among his most recent works.
Before dealing with the shown works, which deserve a withheld analysis, let’s talk about Cama’s contribution for a web culture critique. Using of a routine that’s common on the internet – Ad Nauseum circulation of porn images in very low resolution (to accelerate file transfers and accentuate the disposable nature of these images) is very common in corporate computer networks – the artist discloses the relationships between man and the devices used to see.
Felipe Cama plays with the codes of digital photography. If analog photography can be considered, as Roland Barthes (1) says, “an emanation of the referent”, digital image terminates this transparency utopia. Being it manipulated or not, only by containing the possibility of manipulation (which, by the way, was already contained by analog photography, fact that is only evident after the arrival of the digital image).
There is no manipulation in Cama’s images in the sense of altering the “original” image. His almost abstract mosaics consolidate the same information contained in the “original” pixels. The procedure is more clear when we look at another work of the artist, which is not on his current Galeria Leme’s show. The “What seduces you?” series shows counterfeit products, such as Nike shoes, a Montblanc pen or a Louis Vuitton bag, for example, photographed with such technical refinedness that they all look authentic.
What the artist seems to prove is that the photographic image is not, in itself, nor real neither illusory, and that it can only be determined by its pretension to immediacy or by the observer’s desire for such immediacy. Discussing digital photography in their work Remediation, Bolter and Grusin write: “A photography that shows itself to be seen without irony expresses the desire for immediacy, while a photograph that draws attention for its photographic statute is a representation of this desire”.
Its the desire for transparency that is in question: for those who want to see the authentic Nike, Montblanc or Louis Vuitton, the notion of a world mediated by advertising or by the selling of fake images doesn’t apply. As for those who exchange porn images on the web in a daily basis maybe don’t pay attention to the differentiation between “an emanation of the referent” and a handful of data in the form of pixels in their computer screens. A photography that draws attention to its mediatory statute, like the images of Cama’s Pixel series, constitute a representation or a critic to this desire of transparency.
In this series, the artist also represents the implications of the torrents of information with which one deals nowadays and the exacerbation of our scopic pulsion with the advent of the internet. The obscene in the photographs turns into a metaphor for the obscenity of the invasion of intimacy each and every undesired spam or pop-up represents, for the online spying mechanisms, witch monitors our interests and desires wide opening them to the others voyeurism, to the government agencies and to the marketing departments. In his eagerness to see all, the internet user ends up being seen much more than he might like to think he is.
The artist said that once he tried to “reply” the intervention to the web: by re-inserting in the cyberporn circuit the same photos he has received, only this time turned into Word files, containing the binary code sequences of each of those pictures. What might have thought the receivers of that spam? Would they notice that, before that text file, they were seeing exactly the same information contained in the image files with the same name (“hotgirl01″, “hotgirl02″, etc.)?
A visit to Felipe Cama’s show at Galeria Leme makes clear that, although the inspiration comes from digital culture, it is with art history that the artist dialogs. After working with porn images appropriated from the internet, Cama started using nudes by artists such as Van Gogh, Gauguin, Picasso and Courbet, applying same logic to them, proposing an interesting parallel between art and pornography, in what they have in common when the subject is transparency.
1 – In “Camera Lucida” – Roland Barthes – 1980
Originally published at Canal Contemporaneo, June 23rd, 2005.