April 23 2019

This week we look back at Recursion, shot in a Barcelona spring that felt like summer, with 4 performers we'd only just met after I'd finished 3 days of shooting a performer on another person's porn set. We were, as ever: rushing, slightly unprepared and chaotic and add to this my terrible Catalan it all could have gone so wrong but it was so right:

"Recursion" occurs when a thing is defined in terms of itself or of its type

Technology has augmented sex, like technology has augmented everything.

>> watch recursion in full 

We record, broadcast and replicate our images on an unprecedented scale. Observing and seeing. If anyone did any kind of art education you’ll have probably read John Berger’s ways of seeing at some point. In one chapter he talks about the male gaze in art and advertising. I myself at 16 wrote a cringingly bad essay on it which I hope will never see the light of day. His argument comes down to “men watch, women are watched” and although our more modern cultural understanding of these roles is obviously much more complex - it’s interesting to see how they play out and are either subverted or preserved in a modern, digital world.

"One might simplify this by saying: men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at. This determines not only most relations between men and women but also the relation of women to themselves. The surveyor of woman in herself is male: the surveyed female. Thus she turns herself into an object -- and most particularly an object of vision: a sight.”

A usual criticism of sex on film is that it’s always for the male gaze, and that even when women shoot sex their societal conditioning in “objectification” is so ingrained that their framing replicates what they subconsciously imagine will please the observer. I’m not interested in necessarily dismissing or agreeing with this, just exploring it.

But WOS was written in 1972 and in 2016 we aren’t always just filmed or curated, we film and curate ourselves everyday. We have access to media in ways that were unimaginable then. We're active participants in our "objectification".

For this shoot we had 4 cameras - our usual dslr, a film camera, the webcam on my laptop and a phone camera - and filmed 4 (amazing) performers, Alex Maria Selina and Sylvan from these 4 different perspectives while giving them the option to film themselves.

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The way they reacted to being performer and pornographer (or the person seeing and the thing that’s seen) was really different. Maria was the only performer who really filmed herself and while some were pretty focused on filming faces, others concentrated getting the "action" shot (and it wasn't necessarily who you would think) - It’s impossible to tell if it’s their interpretation of what they thought we would want them to film or what was actually interesting to them. I think sometimes it’s impossible to ever create anything without considering your viewer.

There’s a really interesting ongoing conversation about authenticity in porn. (I actually wrote a thing for a journal called Porn Studies about the complexity of authenticity if you’re interested) I love love love really amateur stuff. There's something about the voyeuristic intensity of amateur POV that's not reproducible. I actually always say that what we make with the project and what I watch are sometimes really different and I think that’s ok, they serve different purposes. In making this I can see why I like them both techniques for different reasons and that they actually work perfectly together, in conversation.

recursion 1.jpg 6.43 MB

This was our first time meeting and working with everyone here including the amazing Maria, who comes back for Recursion II next year.
Things not pictured here are: a really very cute attempt to do a dp (as requested by Selina Alex and Sylvan, I was like... sure go ahead!) complete with complex negotiation in Catalan - apparently the logistics and positioning are pretty tricky)

It was such good fun to make and watch unfold that we developed the idea into a series, you can also watch RECURSION II now.

- Vex

maria vex.jpg 8.74 MB

IMG_3592.JPG 7.45 MB
Elixir - Sorrow

Ways of Seeing, John Berger (1976)
The Detective, Sophie Calle (1981)

slapping, double penetration, ambiguous anal sex