Venus Webcam was a stand-out new media piece at the F.A.T. Gold 5-Year Retrospective at Eyebeam Art+Technology Center. It also got ANIMAL kicked off Facebook for two days, after we posted the project documentation — “art boobs,” sort of. Today, Eyebeam’s booth for Internet Week New York (#IWNY) at the Metropolitan Pavilion got censored. In physical space. With a curtain. Yes, really.
For Venus Webcam, artists Addie Wagenknecht and Pablo Garcia instructed amateur xxx webcam performers to pose as hommages to classic works by Egon Schiele, Modigliani, and Botticelli. The artists questioned the line between art and pornography. It was a relevant, solid project.
It was also pre-approved by #IWNY.
Last night, Wagenknecht was setting up the four 55″ screens with Webcam Venus and “portraits” of specific performers getting into and out of the poses, near the Google camp.
Someone complained. Wagenknecht is convinced — “almost, no doubt” — that it was Google, since they have a history with F.A.T. The artist says that an #IWNY rep hinted at it and specifically told Wagenknecht that “Google was having a lemonade day Tuesday; children will be there.” Wagenknecht suggested to keep the monitors off on Tuesday. A meeting was scheduled for the next morning to discuss.
Then, it was “Children will be there all the time.” When Wagenknecht arrived this morning, there was no meeting. There was a curtain covering up the installation completely and an explicit content warning sign.
“I’ve been here since 7am,” Wagenknecht tells ANIMAL. “Unless you count the frat boys, there were no kids anywhere. It’s specifically for corporations and at $150 a pop, I don’t see why there’d be kids.”
A pre-made SFW version was available, with the nude performers’ blurred and the classical art uncensored — art from collections of the world’s most respected museums. “We never got that far,” Garcia ads. “They went to the obliteration option with a curtain.”
“With porn being such a part of the internet, it’s really strange to me that this happened,” Wagenknecht says. She’s already made her thoughts on internet censorship clear during the Facebook fiasco. The fact that Venus Webscam got censored — again, this time in physical space — gives the project an unanticipated element of meta-criticism.
“We had ideas of cutting the curtain to make a peepshow,” Garcia tells us,”but I think we are more interested in making parallels between the segregation of internet space and perceived impropriety of some sites as designated by the internet powers.”
(Photos: Addie Wagenknecht)