June 22 2023

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

We made the RECURSION series to experiment with the act of filming and being filmed. Contrasting a camera filming the action and a camera operated by the subjects themselves, filming each other. The same shot from two viewpoints playing together.

Just for supporters there's a special VHS only version, no music, no second camera for that authentic home movie experience.

watch teaser / watch in full / watch just VHS

(some of the original write up for the RECURSION project)

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:

"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 common 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 male observer. I’m not interested in necessarily dismissing or agreeing with this, just exploring it.

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 so called “objectification”.”

When people talk about the idea of "the gaze" - male or otherwise - I think it’s interesting but often a bit like the 'art or porn' debate, essentially useless. I’m more interested in what the work is doing, what it's saying for itself, what you get from it as an experience.

All I know is something really interesting happens when you put cameras in the hands of performers. Since we made the first Recursion in 2016 more and more porn is self shot than ever, the decentralisation of porn from studios to creators has meant the performers are often the directors, working collaboratively rather than being booked and given a brief. Often content is shot on phone cameras and a performer POV with shaky camera work right in the action is more common than ever. In the meantime, a lot of the studio produced porn has increasingly highly polished and slick with sweeping drone shots, island locations, extensive scripts, yachts, cinema grade cameras. 

The contrast between these, the very amateur and the very polished is interesting. For me, in porn, too much polish can become impenetrable, all surface and slickness, nothing to hold on to, nothing to grab you in the guts and pull you in.

How does the way you shoot sex change how it feels to watch as the viewer?

So for this new part we decided to look back, for this shoot we gave the performers an old 80s VHS camera to film each other:

(there it is going through the scanner at airport where I had to carry it like a baby the whole 8 hour flight)

There's something so special about the the look of old adult films pre internet digitisation, something extra private and taboo about the idea of a VHS. It was the first format to make home movies without having to take your film for outsider processing accessible which meant it was the perfect format for your sexual exploits (see also: polaroid). Pre internet, you made porn on VHS tapes, copied and circulated them in your community, porn mailing lists and screening parties and brown paper bags were the distribution model. There’s something so intimate about a time capsule contained in a black plastic film cartridge, hidden in the back of a drawer, labelled as something inconspicuous so as not to arouse suspicion - hidden treasure. Like you’ve stumbled across something you shouldn’t have.

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You only have to look at how found footage has already taken hold in horror, the intensity and intimacy created by “bad” footage - the lighting is dark, the camera work is shaky, the shots capture less detail, less of the action - but you feel the hand of the creator, your eyes look through the lens of the camera to embody it's operator, the viewer is an active participant in the action. It’s less about what you can see but mostly about what you can’t, activating your imagination, your curiosity, your desire for more. It’s a tease.

There’s a recent resurgence of the VHS as a format, maybe as some kind of push back to the Marvel industrial blockbuster complex and the hyper sharp reality of the box office, films like Skinamarink really play up and into the soft, fuzzy obscurity of darkness on VHS. It taps into a part of us that’s more primal. Less is more for our brains obsessed with instant gratification and impact and we start to work over time to see monsters in the dark or hear noises in the feedback. The sound of the tape whirring, the silence transferred into a soft fuzz and hum, looking for meaning, form and information in the blur. A heightened state of alert. 

In porn, that heightened state gives us something that feels just so inherently dirty in a way that's almost indescribable. Very hot, very fun.

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For this film we got to reunite with, and I don’t say this lightly, the hottest person in the world, Arabelle Raphael, who is such a sweetheart and truly such a dream to have on your camera and the absolute heartthrob Chad Alva who both very kindly agreed to come fuck what was a very chilly, empty strip club in the middle of the day. We had such a fun shoot with the best energy and we all where we quickly realised we’re all into fucking the same way.

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Shooting each other was pretty fascinating with us all taking turns to be the creepy 80s porn director, I can see the appeal.

This is maybe one of the "porniest" porns we have made in a long time, I hope you enjoy the sleaze.

spit, cum eating

The Pleasure Majenta - Osc

Skinamarink (2022), Kyle Edward Ball
Retro/VHS porn playlist