kjacobs@altern.org on Sat, 27 Oct 2001 22:41:45 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Censoring Porn: An Experiment in Waste

I would like to add the following to Ned Rossiter's post:

The last weeks here in East Coast USA have been peculiarly tense and 
awkward since the American model of making media and concocting 
proposals for immigration legislation (e.g. the new 'patriot act') 
announces a real shift in my potential to think through and act upon 
romantic-nomadic models of new media art and scholarship.


Last night I dreamed that I received a message from Experimenta, 
based in Melbourne, through a wireless electronic device.  I clicked 
on the message and received four officially stamped copies of 
Experimenta's final decision to keep the installation 'Libidot 2001: 
Sexy Flowers' down.  In reality, there has been hardly any 
correspondence from Experimenta, but I am still waiting for a final 
answer about the potential continuation of the piece through an 
older and less explicit version (Porn Gallery @ 
http://www.libidot.org). I hope that the Board of Directors who are 
now judging this version of the piece, will find some joy and value 
in it and decide to put it back in the show.


'Libidot 2001: Sexy Flowers' consists of explicit porn images stolen 
from commercial porn sites.  The CD-Rom further contains a collection 
of techno sounds and flower images, which add a layer of information 
onto the porn images, once clicked upon.  The flowers generate 
ornamental and scientific looking visuals such as origami patterns, 
quantitative statistics of erections, and other measures of bodily 
organs. The CD-Rom also displays the Libidot Manifesto, and gives 
viewers instructions on how to turn images into flowers.


The first piles of sexy flowers (thousands) were made by myself and a 
fluctuating team of friends and colleagues in May-June 2001 in 
Boston, and were shipped to Western Australia for the Loop exhibit in 
July 2001. During the opening night of Loop, more flowers were made 
by gallery visitors who browsed through porn sites online, printed 
out pages, sculpted flowers and pinned them on a message board. Most 
of these flowers were made by parents and children who happened to be 
there that night, gathered around a small table and making a family 
fest out of cutting up print-outs, folding origami papers and 
squeezing paper messes into flowers.


These flowers were to be displayed in Melbourne next to an empty 
message board that would hold the new Melbourne flowers. My intention 
was to collect the sexy flowers made in Melbourne and display them in 
the next place to host the installation. The Libidot project relies 
on audiences globally to look at porn images, generate flowers and 
turn the culture of Internet porn into piles of paper waste.


The CD-Rom contains an excerpt of an interview with Ned Rossiter:
'Enculturating Netporn: Interview with Libidot' (Posted on Nettime 
and Fibreculture August 1, 2001)

Libidot: Of course it is not really porn itself that is endangering 
citizens, except for children in developing countries whose services 
are massively traded through the Internet, but the libidinal energy 
that has infested the Internet since its foundation.  That energy 
that still zips through big brother mainframe and is used and/or 
purchased by hackers, geeks, webgirrls and academics to commit 
excessive (and sexually explicit) acts of communication. 

When I moved to Perth in 1997, I discovered some reactionary piece of 
legislation (i.e. WA Censorship Act of 1996) that tried to argue that 
citizens ought to be very careful with this new influx of 'obscene' 
energy through the Internet.  This attitude stems from the idea that 
pornographic online correspondences or transactions, just like the 
glow of excessive advertising, may have a strong affect on 
individuals and their fantasies, turning the local or national 
unconscious of everyday educated citizens into a transnational 

Meanwhile similar types of neo-conservative 'small place' legislation 
have arisen from state and federal governments in the UK, USA, 
Australia, and France.  What gets officially scrutinised by the new 
pieces of legislation is the up/down loading by individuals and ISP's 
of sexually explicit materials depicting taboo areas of sexuality - 
child pornography, bestiality, sadomasochism.  Right now we are 
entering a second phase of Internet censorship where the 
communicative energy itself is more successfully attacked and 
obliterated.  For example, commercial portals such as Yahoo are in 
the process of trying to destroy messageboards and chatrooms 
constructed on their 'free' servers, where illegal pornographers may 
indeed arrange their transactions.  The problem is that many mundane, 
often young web-users and activists are equally hit by this 
destruction, especially since so many of them are now using the 
commercial portals for non-commercial activities. 

In Massachusetts, for instance, it has become illegal to distribute 
any depictions of nude minors and children (including babies). 
Several months before this law came out, a couple of online gay 
communities, more particularly urination and buttock fetishists, were 
hit really hard by this decision as their sites were aggressively 
removed by commercial host portals. The sites included messageboards 
where the new censorship legislation was actively being discussed.


Lisa Logan explained to me last August that Waste would try to open 
up its exhibit to youth audiences. We talked about this issue a 
couple of times and decided to use a sign to warn the visitors about 
the sexually explicit nature of the installation. Then, after the 
installation was shut down last Thursday one hour before Waste 
opened, the dialogue was shut down too --the installation had to be 
removed because it was unsuitable for children and youth. I have 
received very little explanation about this decision.

This development is, in my opinion, a direct outcome of the tide of 
paranoia accompanying new censorhip legislation for the Internet. 
Censorship legislation revises existing policies in order to respond 
to new technologies that are perceived to be damaging to children. 
For example, South Australia's Internet censorship bill of 2001 
enables the police to evaluate and arrest individuals who post 
information deemed offensive to children anywhere on the Internet. In 
other words, children are automatically included in the category of 
potential data receivers, be it pornographic or other types of 


Should we now start making all our materials, including Internet 
based porn/art and scholarship, suitable to youth and children?  I am 
an academic and make my ideas available to young adults (18-22 yrs 
old) on a daily basis. Even though this is a struggle at times, I do 
not think that youth or young adults, such as the students of Emerson 
College would be easily offended or damaged by 'Libidot 2001: Sexy 
Flowers.' More likely, youth might be told by old-school parents or 
teachers, who tend to be ideologically opposed to the public display 
of sex or pornographic materials, not to visit an exhibit of this 
kind. But they will go to the net anyway and find plenty of 
corporation porn. If anything, wouldn't it be nice if the net could 
be curated and critiqued by friendly, encouraging and sex-positive 
producers, writers, artists and educators, young and old?


To the young and old people of Melbourne, if you have uptight 
parents/children/partners or teachers/students, please ask them to 
stay at home when you visit Waste. To the Board of Directors of 
Experimenta and curators of Waste, I would hope that you give the 
people of Melbourne a chance to experience & accept or reject this 
piece --a unique way of staring at pornography, recycling and 
transforming pornography into waste for your Waste.


Katrien Jacobs


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