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Pixelporn: The First Annual Pixelvison Pornography Film Festival

The relentless transfer of the means of production and distribution of pornography to the proletariat continues; I guess Marx would be proud. A few years ago Fisher-Price came out with the Pixelvision camera, a cheap camera for kids that filmed in grainy black and white, and recorded onto ordinary cassette tapes. Fisher-Price discontued them a while ago (probably out of fear of something just like this), so their supply is limited; but many have filtered into the hands of avant-garde filmmakers, who like them for their minimal cost and the 'edgy' look of the films they make (sort of like super8 filmed in natural twilight). Serious explorations in incorporating Pixelvision into serious film include "Barbie's Audition", "Strange Weather", "Frisk", and the David Lynch produced "Nadja".

Somehow, an underground diy culture of amateur pornography has sprung up around this technology; dozens of young auters who can send their films to each other for the cost of a cassette tape. Controversial art critic Deborah Teac (of "Art is Dead" fame) is attempting to document this sub-culture with Pixelporn: the first annual Pixelvision pornographic film festival, held on the web. Entries were sent to her in cassette form and converted to jpeg and put up on the Art is Dead website. There's a jury (John Waters! Camille Paglia! Porn starts I've never herad of!), but feedback is solicited from all viewers.

The medium seems inevitably adaptable to porn. The sound is crude, and the entries were limited to eight minutes: it's just not worth the effort to waste time on plot or useless dialogue. The films just jump right in. I can hear the folks who've strained so hard to come up with lines like "I'm here to fix your pool, ma'am" and "My son never told me his friends had such big muscles" breathe a collective sigh of relief.

The entries were pretty varied; with 187 films virtually every sexual act known to man (well, known to my boryfriend) is represented. Given the nature of the community, things tended to be heavy on the experimental side, including the obligatory dog-woman combo. But there were some more innovative entries. "You Tramp" used the lack of sound to hark back to silent movies, complete with dialogue cards; a Chaplin dress-alike and a younger man campily get themselves out of tramphood and into bed on a rolling box car in a grainy comedy. "Music Box" is an elegant S&M piece about a woman forced to be a living version of ballerina in a popup music box. "Union" is a slow, moody piece featuring a couple having straightforward sex, but the real star is the continuous, smooth camera motion that rolls around and around them, diving in and pulling out like a dive bomber, making the sex feel like slow ocean waves. And my boyfriend has a place in his heart for "Honey, I'm Home", one that looks ripped right out of the Donna Reed show, circle-stitch bra and all. "Crawling", the most disgusting entry (and there was plenty of competition), featured a man shooting up on heroin, basting his genetalia with pureed leaves, and then dumping a bucket of caterpillars (I think; it's hard to tell for sure) all over his crotch, followed by closeups of them crawling all over his errection. To top it off, a woman comes over and mounts him, with the caterpillars still there. Ugh. It feels like Clive Barker's version of a douche commercial.

Although there is sound in Pixelvision, it wasn't included in the files online. Instead, entries were required to suggest music. The most popular suggestion was "porn music", although various Parliament selections were also popular. "Crawling" suggested Spiritualized's "Shine a Light", and "Union" asked for the Cocteau Twins' "Oil of Angels". Unfortunately, none of the suggested music was on-line; it would have improved the experience tremendously.

I won't begin to get into the issues of whether porn is harmful, the difference between porn and erotica, etc. Minds are already made up on the subjects and nothing I say would matter. It is interesting, though, that Teac deliberately requested "pornography" and not "erotica". However, the films here are much more experiments in visual look and feel than explorations of subtext.

What I liked about the films is that most of the time you couldn't tell exactly what was going on, due to the poor resoution and framerate of the medium. Everything looks shadowy, and fast motion left trails; forgive the hackneyed metaphor, but most of the films really do look like watching your friends have sex in a dimly lit room on acid. Penii shimmer into snake-like limbs; women's genetalia appear even more convoluted and mysterious than normal. Flesh melts into flesh which melts into the background; oftentimes it's impossible the sex of the actors. If the suggestion of what underneath really is sexier than exposing it all, Pixelvision has a bright future in pornography.

Check it out at before the communications decency act gets ahold of it. Oh, and Pixelvision is undoubtedly a trademark of Fisher-Price, all rights reserved.

-- Monica Arnzen


Copyright 1997
James D Thomas