In 2008, I began a body of work that I would come to call Technically Intimate. The work looked at how technology, especially the Internet, was changing how youth culture viewed sex, intimacy, and privacy.
I had begun the project in an attempt to document how technology was interrupting personal relationships. While doing research for the project, I stumbled across a website titled http://www.sellyoursextape.com, where real couples were paid $1,000/person for a certain amount of video footage of the couple engaged in sexual acts. The suggestions for making the films (which are downloadable from the website) suggest that the couples making the video should also document ‘real moments’ in addition to the sexual acts. They say, “…give the viewer the experience of dating your girlfriend.”
This website was of immense interest to me because of the way that the couple acted in front of the camera. Everything seemed to be overplayed and acted out. The tapes did not come off as voyeuristic, like looking in on a couple that did not know they were being watched. The couple knew very well that the camera was there and actually played to it. The introduction of the camera to the relationship dramatically changed the way that the couple interacted with each other. This was exactly the type of interference that I had been searching for.
I had originally planned on having an image of a couple involved in the process of making a sex tape, and to have that image be a small part of a larger look at how technology was cutting into all types of youth relationships. However, as I began to investigate more, I began to find many sites that trafficked in sexually charged and explicit images / videos that had been taken by young women and sent to a second person, most presumably a boyfriend. These images then somehow ended up on the Internet for the world to see. And what’s more, the images / videos seemed to move from one site to the next, spreading like a virus across the web.
What interested me about this phenomenon was the public display of what was intended to be an intimate and private act shared between two people. Other things that struck me were both the age of the subjects in the images online (although the sites claimed that all ‘models’ were at least 18 years of age) and how much the poses mimicked those of professional pornography. I began to investigate the issue of youths sending sexually charged images and found that it was actually quite common. This began my interest in how youths were beginning to redefine intimacy through the technology that was available to them, mainly cell phones and the Internet.
For Technically Intimate, I used the images that I was finding online as source material. I began to categorize the images I was finding. I then found an image that I thought exemplified a specific category. Using online resources such as Craigslist, Facebook, and MySpace, I placed ads for people to voluntarily participate in the project. Together with someone that responded to the ad placed online, we recreated the moment that the original source image found online was created. I wanted to put the found image into context, to give the character in the image a personality separate from the sexual object that they had become.
In the images that I am creating, I want to contrast the sexually charged poses with the youth and innocence of the character and their environment. I want the viewer to be unsure of what to think of the character in the image, to be torn, to be unsure whether the character is a young girl in need of protection or a sexual object to be lusted after. These are the issues that the viewer is supposed to struggle with. These are the characteristics that make the images I have created for Technically Intimatedisturbing, and what separates them from the pornographic fantasy that the found image contained.