We can still remember the erotic tension of Virgin Suicides, Sofia Coppola’s first iconic film. Those teenage boys gazing feverishly at the Lisbon sisters shut up in their bedroom. Released in 1999, the feature film marked the end of an era. At the dawn of the 21st century and the advent of the World Wide Web, this gaze was a million miles from what it is today. Once restricted to a window in the building across the street, voyeurism now peers directly into the rooms of those known as camgirls.
On until May 31st, the Museum of Sex in New York shines a spotlight on webcam culture. The giant screens that welcome visitors move between the decor of a bedroom in Ohio (United States) and surveillance cameras in Shibuya, the teeming district of Tokyo (Japan). "They don’t know that they're currently being shown in an exhibition" says Serge Becker, artistic director at the museum of the Tokyoites, "and that is the point". Somewhere between an interview and video installations ... the Cam Life: An Introduction to Webcam Culture exhibition presents a portrait of these camgirls in an online world where the frontier between public and private is blurred, if not non-existent. But what about these 2.0 performers?
If camgirls are so readily pitted against the porn industry, it’s for a good reason. Alone in their bedrooms, facing their computer screens, these women are the true mistresses of their bodies unlike certain porn stars – as Lissa Rivera, museum curator, reminds us: “We are witnessing a democratisation of webcam culture. While the porno industry is often exploitative, here it’s you who has all the power.” Remember the documentary that rocked the 2015 Sundance Festival, Hot Girls Wanted, which followed the fate of young women recruited by the amateur porn scene? Camgirls are the opposite, they are the ultimate self-employed...