‘There is nothing simpler and more human than to desire’. (‘Desiring’ in Profanations, Giorgio Agamben)
There are lots of places where one can adopt various personae and make them public: a space and place where an individual can both project her/his image/persona and protect it from being ‘touched’ or harassed. Websites like You-tube and Facebook allow and encourage users to create profiles, to upload videos, to make friends, and to interact in a social setting where dialogue can thrive. In this project, however, artist and architect, Alkis Hadjiandreou experiments with the possibilities flourishing in an interactive sex site called ‘X-Tube’. It is a site where the boundaries of ‘reality’ and ‘representation’ are deliberately blurred. X-Tube affirms the ‘reality of this website’. The users create a persona through their videos, photos and public profiles. They do so through choosing their own usernames. By doing this they interact with others in a way that the ‘real’, ‘material’ and ‘virtual’ come closer, creating a new post-cyber reality. Here, the ‘real’ is, at once, material and virtual. And the persona of each user is at once material and image. It must be mentioned that all the images captured from X-Tube have been borrowed from the Users with their permission. By the use of either stills or videos, on You-Tube and Facebook, one can merely make some form of documentation or (un)intentional commentary on a ‘reality’. By ‘reality’ I mean the space which is activated by a physical and material presence attached to an identity, which is constructed and, by extension, deconstructed by our social environment. Interestingly, unlike the above mentioned connectors, X-Tube, precisely because of the boldness of its content, breaks through the screen which protects the ‘user’ from the ‘viewer’. The ‘user’ is, however, both performer and viewer, in so far as they articulate and initiate their desires. These naked desires are deliberately made visible, and the ‘user’ fearlessly performs her/his vulnerabilities. They reach out to the voyeurist ‘viewer’ to show him/her how unprotected and threatened s/he is by not having broken through the screen. The ‘user’ bravely contests the ‘viewer’ to transgress the shield which disguises ‘unreal’ desires and the appearance of them. Alkis Hadjiandreou’s concept took off from several poetic and potent observations Giorgio Agamben makes in a four-paragraph essay on ‘Desiring’. He writes, 'to communicate one’s desires to someone without images is brutal. To communicate one’s images without one’s desires is tedious (like recounting one’s dreams or one’s travels). But both of these are easy to do. To communicate the imagined desires and the desired images, on the other hand, is a more difficult task’ (53).
This project takes on the challenge to show how Users on X-Tube pass on their story bound desires and desired images by daring the viewer to allow their own imagined desires to be articulated. “Viewer, what would your desire look like, if you let it see?” As a ‘viewer’, Alkis Hadjiandreou’s interested in showing how it is possible to communicate dreamt desires by releasing craved images. Bodies, in these images, are manipulated as much as they are manipulators. In this project, Alkis Hadjiandreou's photographs instant shots from the Users’ videos. He uses the material provided by the Users’ images and videos to create ‘portraits’. He photographs personae and not ‘bodies’. Dreamy bodies, in this project, are saturated with awkward fantasies, tender tension and films of interruptions. The actual body, here, is the skin of this site, which offers Users the space to be real and imagined; at once, desired performer and controlling object. The body in any given image is doubly manipulated. Bodies are controlled by unleashed desires. At another level, the images of these bodies are employed in different ways. Settings are altered; periods seem to be changing; forms are warped; figures are misrepresented; screens are unsaved. Each still shot is manipulated by superimposition, keeping in the forefront, however, the colour and texture of each User’s aura in the video. Although zooming close to the Users’ videos, the frame around the image is inevitably captured: the cursor, the symbols of play and download, the streaming window, the screen itself, the titles of the videos, etc. And just as the excess of desires and their images cannot be contained, the videos here cannot keep the ‘instructions’ on how to play, outside the frame. No image is above suspicion. Desire oozes both within and without the frame. Images of expressed desires resist confinement, and this is meant to be seen.