Maintenance Pornography

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Maintenance Pornography is an art-based research project that explores the less spectacular side of the networked self. Using a dollhouse as a theatrical interface, this performative installation looks into domestic and repetitive actions on a sexcam platform. Through a humorous yet critical play, this piece asks about the role of maintenance practices in the generation of value in the platform, and 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 for the laboring of affect: 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 laboring of affect 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.’ [1] 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’[2] 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.

 

References

Crary, Jonathan. 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep. London: Verso, 2014.

Ukeles, Mierle Laderman. “Manifesto for Maintenance Art (1969).” From Theories and Documents Of, 1969.

 

[1] Ukeles, “Manifesto for Maintenance Art (1969).”

[2] Crary, 24/7, 9.

Project updates

  • 2019 – Sexcams in a roman dollhouse November 4, 2019 I 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!
  • 2019 – On money at the MoneyLab! November 4, 2019 I will be presenting on money (or tokens, actually) at the MoneyLab conference .
  • 2019 – book! September 4, 2019 I’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, 2019 Maintenance 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, 2018 Performative Research Grant from Hexagram!

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