Although not new, the production of scenographies meant to allow the broadcasting of domestic space is recently assuming new forms, thanks to the evolution of digital media and the transformation of live streaming into an everyday practice. In this short text, writer and photographer Kurt Hollander takes us into the world of erotic videochats, which is one of the fields where new relationships between material and digital space are being established. DTF
Since 2013 I have been taking photographs of the places in Cali, Colombia where people have the most sex, whether as amorous encounters with their lovers, spouses or with sex workers, in order to document the ways in which (usually non-professional) designers have created spaces to enhance such sexual activity. Of all the massage parlours, men’s clubs, spas, porn cinemas, swingers clubs and brothels that I photographed, the most consistently surreal environments were those of erotic videochat studios.
In erotic videochat, a relatively new industry within the world of commercial sex, Colombian models (mostly women but also men and transvestites) service the sexual needs of clients (mostly but not exclusively men) in other countries (mostly the USA and Great Britain) by performing in front of a streaming camera. After Romania, Colombia is the world’s second largest provider of videochat models, and Cali is where the first studio began and it employs the greatest number of models in the country, and the erotic videochat industry makes more money than the porn video and porn magazine industries together.
Inside of large, nondescript buildings in residential and commercial neighbourhoods, erotic videochat studios have dozens of rooms equipped with a computer and camera that transmit streaming videos of models twenty-four hours a day. Each room, or at least one wall of each room, the one which the camera is directed at, is designed differently, though always as inexpensively as possible, with the fewest number of elements, and without the slightest indication of where they are located.
The rooms range from that of a middle-class teenage girl’s bedroom, the waiting room of a dentist’s office all the way to a swank hotel room, though always with a sweet, innocent, colorful esthetic. The distance between the interior decoration and the sexual activity that goes on within these spaces produces a conceptual disconnect. The tacky innocence of the pillows, the wallpaper, the posters and the mirrors, makes it nearly impossible to imagine webcam models performing every kind of fetish and penetrating every one of their bodily cavities with every kind of sex toy on the market.
The same style of rooms exist in Colombia, Romania, Canada or Argentina, and thus geography, nationality, culture and even race have no place in these spaces. As these rooms are designed to international standards, and as they respond to no human or biological needs but are just artificial backdrops to sexual activity, they in no way reflect any local realities, and are thus truly utopic.
Kurt Hollander is a writer and fine art/documentary photographer. Originally from New York City, Kurt lived for over 20 years in Mexico City and has been living in Cali, Colombia for the past five years. He is the author of Several Ways to Die in Mexico City (Feral House, 2012) and of the photobooks El Super (RM, 2006) and Sonora: The Magic Market (RM, 2008).