The Museum of Sex’s New Exhibit Flips the Camera

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Upon entering the Museum of Sex’s newest exhibit, Cam Life: An Introduction to Webcam Culture, one is immediately bombarded with a larger-than-life screen featuring a grid-like amalgamation of webcam streams and surveillance cameras happening in real time, from Tokyo’s Shibuya to a bedroom in Ohio. “They don’t know they’re currently being broadcast in an exhibit,” Serge Becker, the Museum of Sex’s artistic director, tells CR. “That’s the whole point.”

Voyeurism is the central theme of the exhibition—and the webcam industry in general, which has evolved in tandem with technology, curator Lissa Rivera tells CR. “Jennifer Ringley was the first ‘lifecaster,’ broadcasting the day-to-day activities of her life—including intimate moments—to the world in 1996.” That was a pivotal year for the internet: it’s when Amazon, Yahoo, eBay, and Internet Explorer all launched, forever changing the landscape of communication, accessibility, the consumption of information, and virtual intimacy.

The exhibit, created in partnership with live streaming website CAM4, is a multimedia experience, and includes relics of the past—a Windows 95 CD-ROM and footage of some of the very first webcam streams, for example—as well as a loop of the Sean Dunne-directed documentary Cam Girlz and individual installations from artists like Vex Ashley and Lindsay Dye.

“There’s a democratization of webcam culture,” Rivera says. “Unlike the porn industry, which has the potential to be exploitative, you’re in control.”

“In curating this, I was surprised to learn that as we strive to become more connected, the more distant we become,” Rivera continued. “There is a real loneliness there in the virtual sphere.”

Much like the theme of CR’s latest issue, webcam culture blurs the line between the public and private, becoming all the more fascinating as we march toward a more technologically advanced future.

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