Realcore, the Digital Porn Revolution: A Retrospective (1997/2017)

Presentation text for the master lecture I gave at the Congreso de Ciencias, Artes y Humanidades El cuerpo descifrado in Queretaro, Mexico, on oct. 20th 2017.

Between 1997 and 2012 I undertook a vast research in the universe of Internet Amateur Pornography. I explored the early Usenet newsgroups, I joined a number of Yahoo! groups, interviewed a few of the partecipants, and chronicled the rise of Amateur Porn, still one of the driving forces in Internet Porn today. I even invented a term to describe this phenomenon: Realcore. If Softcore is simulated sex, and Hardcore depicts actual, documented intercourses between paid actors, Realcore based its unique appeal on the reality, spontaneity and enthusiasm of the people involved. And today we know that Reality has become a very hot item in popular culture.

Not being an academic but an artist and performer, I have presented my research in a few different ways. It was first shown at the Ars Electronica Symposium in 2000, with the title Brave New Porn. That presentation later became Realcore: the Digital Porno Revolution, a lecture/show (with 100 pornographic images) that I performed some 150 times since 2001 in a number of countries in very different contexts, from Universities to Music Clubs, Symposia, Pubs, Theater festivals, etc. In 2009 I was invited by the late Barbara Degenevieve to teach a class on this subject at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago Photography department. For three years (2007/2009) I’ve had a page, titled Alt Sex, on the Italian Rolling Stone magazine. These articles were later collected in a book, Real Sex: il Porno Alternativo è il nuovo Rock’n’roll, published by Tunue in 2010 (in Italian). Since 2012, when my research ended, much has changed in the landscape of Amateur Pornography, and some very problematic issues have arisen. Some examples are Revenge Porn, live broadcasting (sometimes of non consensual sex) and social shaming, or the sexual exploitation of poverty in developing countries, through webcam services or specialized film productions, aimed at rich western customers. But on the other hand, now we have smartphones, that put the tools of the Porn trade – video shooting, editing and distributing – in our pockets. We have much more bandwidth, useful if we want to perform live on the Internet. Which meanwhile has become ubiquitous: no one is ever offline anymore, and our digital lives are blurring into reality, augmenting it. And if in the early days you had to make an effort to show yourself naked online, today you just need to click “broadcast” and you’re live (and if you’re good, you can have thousands of spectators). Borders blur more and more, the concept of media is exploding, and the notion of porn itself is losing meaning every day, probably because of its instant, endless availability. Funny, if you consider that it all really started with a few shaky selfies.

In my lecture for El Cuerpo Descifrado, I go back to the beginning, and tell the story of the rise of Amateur pornography on the Internet; how porn categories were born; how the “Housewife” became the Milf; how old and new sexual interests found new technologies to be expressed; how Amateurs subverted the rules of photography and film, and created a new grammar that found its way in mainstream porn – and in mainstream media; how regular folks, without any artistic intent, blurred the line between porn, digital lifestyle, performance art and media experimentation. I will go through the history of Realcore, aided by a number of photos from my archive, showing the onset of a new way to look at sex, technology, porn and bodies that is alive, and still very relevant (for good and bad), today.