Maintenance Pornography / Sexcams in a Dollhouse
Maintenance Pornography / Sexcams in a Dollhouse is an art-based research project that explores work on the platform. Using a made-up dollhouse as a theatrical interface, this performative investigation looks into domestic and repetitive actions on a sexcam platform. Through a humorous yet critical play, this piece asks about social reproduction and the platform economy, the role of maintenance practices in the generation of value, the incorporation of new technological infrastructures into daily life.
[some exercises on] maintenance pornography
By promoting online sexual performances, personal interactions, and monetary exchanges, sexcam platforms are machines of social reproduction: machines that exploit, accelerate, and capitalize on it. As expected, the main source of value is the broadcast of sexual performances in which performers compete creatively for the audience’s attention. However, as this project explores, this extraction relies as well on practices of preservation and care: of the transmissions, the audience, the infrastructure.
Maintenance Pornography follows Mierle Ukeles’ call for the recognition of maintenance practices in the art context. The recognition of that repetitive and prosaic work that bears development, the concealed work that ‘allows for all other work.’  In her Manifesto for Maintenance Art, Ukeles defined two basic systems: maintenance and development. If development is about innovation and creation, newness and constant change, maintenance is occupied with preserving and sustaining, renovation and repetition. Despite their invisibility, maintenance practices are at the core of every activity.
The dollhouse is here a figure and a research device, an expanded interface between the performers and the audience, a temporary place of reunion and a common ground for their/our maintenance practices. As a stage, it allows the exploration of this shared networked domesticity: speculated yet inhabited by bodies, data, instances of software: the domesticity of the online self. As in a feedback loop, the dollhouse holds the sexcam platform and broadcasts into it.
The dollhouse operates here on two levels: the room and the building complex. At the room level, I engage with miniaturized objects with my hands, too big for them. I clean up the kitchen, arrange the bed, mop the floor, dance on a small chair. I broadcast my actions through the sexcam platform, sometimes receiving attention, sometimes do not. When I do, I have to take care of my audience. Talk to them through the chat, make jokes, write their names in a small notebook, clean up more. I have to be creative–and I have to sustain and repeat that creativity. Develop and maintenance, in a nutshell.
Combined, the individual rooms create the building complex. Not only an aggregation of rooms but its regulations, infrastructure, discourses, allowed and prohibited activities, rent already due, desired and undesirable neighbors. Unlike social housing, the tenure is unstable and the structure flexible. So flexible that if we get distracted (or not distracted enough) the ceiling will not protect us from the rain. To exist there is to be active–or to be replaced, like in a musical chairs game. In this building complex–the dollhouse at that level, the sexcam platform–you are allowed to stay but you cannot turn the lights off. With a constant influx of young and naked bodies that smile to the camera from their rooms without windows, this building complex is that ‘illuminated 24/7 world without shadows’ that never stops, never sleeps, never disconnects.
Sexcam performers compete for attention through gymnastic shows or by spinning luminescent hula-hoops. However, they have to run less visible practices and take care of the lighting in the room, the frames per second of the transmissions, their fanbase. Performers should look authentic and spontaneous, but with regular schedules that recreate the platform again another day. These maintenance actions are hidden not only because they are boring (they are) but because their visibility would reveal a secret: the work of the work, the fragility of the infrastructure, the decay of the platform.
 Ukeles, “Manifesto for Maintenance Art (1969).”
 Crary, 24/7, 9.
This project was supported by the Research Council for Social Sciences and Humanities (SSHRC), Hexagram (Research-Creation and Performative Research) and Mitacs.
Many people have collaborated with this project, among them my special thanks to:
- Ronnie Araya
- Francisco González-Rosas
- Myriam Jacob-Allard
- Manuela Martelli
- Liz Miller
- Eduardo Pérez
- Marian Salamovich
- Gabriel Vigliensoni
While this project is linked to my economy, I do not perform on Chaturbate for money. If you feel like giving money, please consider donating to RedTraSex (Red de Trabajadoras Sexuales de Latinoamérica y el Caribe) here.
- ISEA2020 November 20, 2021The dollhouse had its moment at ISEA 2020, at the panel ‘Queering Infrastructure.’
- Radical Care: Embracing Feminist Finance June 1, 2020I had the privilege to participate in this ezine that Amateur Cities and the Institute of Network Cultures prepared.
- Post Money-Lab December 11, 2019MoneyLab # 7 was wonderful for me (I will write about it at some point). My thanks to Silvio Lorusso for his comments on my presentation and that of Lana Swartz. If you’re curious, the video of the panel is here.
- 2019 – Sexcams in a roman dollhouse November 4, 2019I am completely delighted to say that I will be presenting at the John Cabot University at Rome on November 18/2019. Thank you very very much Donatella for the fantastic invitation! update: this article explains my research better that I would ever do. Thank you Natalia!
- 2019 – On money at the MoneyLab! November 4, 2019I will be presenting on money (or tokens, actually) at the MoneyLab conference .
- 2019 – book! September 4, 2019I’m totally delighted that this small but not so shy project will have a section in the upcoming Selfie book edited by the great Selfie Conference. More to come!
- Maintenance and Care January 15, 2019Maintenance Pornography was featured in ‘Maintenance and Care’, great article by the great Shannon Mattern > Places Journal. Many thanks!
- Sexcams in a dollhouse / 2018 July 28, 2018Performative Research Grant from Hexagram!