Christopher Clary is an artist and curator queering tech culture through new media. His art has been part of numerous exhibitions, festivals, and conferences around the world from the Palais de Tokyo in Paris to China Art Book Fair in Beijing. His Rhizome commission, a porn-novella-zip-file was Hyperallergic’s best individual work of Internet art in 2016 and acquired by the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art, and exhibited at Graphische Sammlung ETH Zurich in 2019. His photography was nominated for the Discovery Award at the international fair Les Rencontres d’Arles in France. His books including a trilogy for the poetry collective Troll Thread can be found in such public libraries as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Walker Art Center, and International Center of Photography. Curatorially, he co-produced with publishers GenderFail and Larker a year of programming for the ICP Museum and Library in 2018 that included the work of Allison Parrish, American Artist, Morehshin Allahyari, Nora Khan, Porpentine Charity Heartscape, and Shiv Kotecha. Other curatorial projects include an online exhibition about safe space for The Wrong digital art biennale. Most recently Clary is hosting a talk show about webcam culture live-streamed on Chaturbate.
What do you plan to do during Phase 1 of Rapid Response?
Phase 1 at The Chrisy Show is all about researching topics, building a team, creating a trailer, raising funds, live-streaming in beta, finding an audience, and teching the room. On this last action, Chaturbate is the only sex platform with an open-source library of bots and apps that allows performers to personalize how their room looks and functions. The default setting for the chat feed is to color code usernames by tokens, the online currency that allows viewers to tip performers. Purple for high tippers. Blue for those that tipped recently. And grey for the token-less. Sadly, more than a few bots exist that automatically ban “greys” and several memes are available in the library to publicly humiliate them like “grey lives don’t matter”. How could a Chrisy app address Chaturbate’s class and race problems?
How does your work relate to the theme of the open call?
The Chrisy Show is a talk show streamed live on Chaturbate, an adult website for cammers. Through a series of solo shows, guest interviews, and audience participation, host Christopher Clary provides a platform for the people who are revolutionizing sex and sex work, while providing an opportunity to interrogate the technology with which sex work is often entangled. With an eye towards the future, The Chrisy Show is on Chaturbate to exit it. The ultimate goal is to transition the show into an IRL tour and communal platform, asking what would camming look like queered? As a nonprofit? In the midst of a COVID-19 global shutdown sex is in the news lately because we’re having more (or less) of it. And some of the 40 million recently unemployed in the U.S. are doing it online for cash. Mileena for The New York Times said, “On my first night I actually cried on camera accidentally. I didn’t mean to but we were talking about the quarantine and it was right after it had happened. A couple of people were like ‘hey, you’re helping me get through this right now, thank you’. So it’s like, there’s genuine human connection. We’re not just ruthless sex machines. We’re people.” Christopher Clary started camming this past month because he’s underemployed and did not want to wait for institutional or corporate support for the show. He’s selling DIY Chrisy to pay himself and his future guests. The Chrisy Show brings together sex workers, lifestyle cammers, and viewers (usually naked, sometimes masturbating) to chat about piercings, pizza, music, affenpinschers, and Chrisy’s husband as well as gender, race, politics, social/sexual scripts, manufactured identities, even post-Internet, apocalyptic pessimism. Like camming in general, it’s smart, perverse, drawn-out, and dull at the same time. A comforting mix of intimacy that makes change possible. Darius for Future of Sex Podcast said, “I can’t lie. I’ve watched lesbian cams lately. It makes me feel so weird. OMG, does this mean I’m straight? I’m really confused (laughter).” The show is partly inspired by people like Darius. And all the cammers who troll their bios by checking every box (men, women, trans, couples, married, single) and refusing to be data (located in “hell”, body type “easy-bake oven”, language “Klingon”). But can we truly resist Chaturbate — a literal expression of surveillance capitalism? Will those of us who continue to cam after COVID-19 become “ruthless sex machines”? Staging a coup takes time and in the short month that Chrisy has been broadcasting his new “camily” has helped him to radically imagine what The Chrisy Show could be: A show. A tour. A platform.
What does the future look like to you?
A better digital future … is a room on Chaturbate — where a gay man is chatting about watching lesbian cams thinking he’s straight and a Chrisy bot restyles the blatant discrimination in the CSS. Even better … is The Chrisy Show on tour — a coming together of digital and IRL audiences that exists between art and what is indistinguishable from it, allowing us to ponder “the mess” between our lived experience and the world (wide web). Bestest … is Chrisy as the first nonprofit adult platform serving the queercam community — whatever queers, sex, and tech is in five-to-ten years.
What is your grounding ethos?
Wow … let’s quote some of my favorite theory and “reality”: “We must strive, in the face of the here and now’s totalizing rendering of reality, to think and feel a then and there … we must dream and enact new and better pleasures, other ways of being in the world, and ultimately new worlds.” — José Esteban Muñoz, Cruising Utopia, 2009. “I want you to lie back, get comfortable, and snuggle up next to your loved one. And if you don’t have a loved one, remember you always have me.” — Robin Byrd, The Robin Byrd Show, 1977.