“Balaklava Snacks”
And Other Bizarre Commissioned Webcam Performances

June 4, 2014 | Marina Galperina

Artists Eva and Franco Mattes have just launched a new project crowdsourcing a massive body of performance video work. There are several online services where you can pay people to do things on camera. Some of them aren’t even erotic. And now, it’s art. For project BEFNOED, the creative duo pays webcam workers to perform specific actions. The “Balaklava Snacks” series includes the guy above pouring candy on his chest.

We give instructions to anonymous workers to realize webcam performances. The performers are hired through crowdsourcing services, so we do not know who they are, where they are, or even their motivations. The resulting videos are dispersed on obscure, peripheral or forgotten social networks around the world, in Cambodia, Russia, China, Zambia…

The project lives minimally at BEFNOED.tumblr.com, where links are posted daily to several reiterations of an assigned performance. A webcam worker is generally paid about $3 per filmed task.

Other performances include twins standing in doorways, which is somewhat reminiscent of Marina Abramović’s Imponderabilia sans the interactivity and with clothes. There are also more intricate performances, like this bare-chested man doing something to a fish. Also, this man. How dark will get it? Considering their prior practice… quite.

“We like misusing a Kafka-esque instrument of work like crowdsoucring (banal, repetitive, underpaid jobs) in a creative way,” the Mattes tell ANIMAL. “At least, we believe doing these performances has some kind of creativity involved, but you may also think that’s exploitative. I guess the work exists somehow in between exploitation and liberation.” Or maybe, it’s just the next generation of instructional art.

The instructions are specific and videos are unedited. “No matter how specific you get, people will reinterpret or misunderstand what you say, and that’s when things become interesting,” the Mattes explain. “That’s why the videos are undetited: the errors, the unexpected and dead time are all there.”

The artists are spreading these videos on social media and video channels native to countries all over the world, specifically, the Russia-controlled LiveJournal and the Chinese portal YouKu.

“We want to post them daily until it becomes boring,” the artists specify. “Then, we’ll stop.” We’re interested to see how this project develops. (And, whether “befnoed” happens to go viral in Russia and get the artists in trouble with the Kremlin.)

Don’t miss Eva and Franco’s solo exhibit By Everyone, For No One, Everyday at Postmasters before it closes June 7th.