INTERNET ART: networks, performative programming, and web as context


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Final 

So for my final project, I decided to create two Grindr profiles – one with a black picture, One with a white picture, and then document the responses. 

I wanted to document the tone of how people talk to me.
Here’s a slew of Facebook posts that document how people talked to me during the project.

View it as a diary, of sorts.
1 / 4

Kevin Williams 

Internet Art 3001 

Fall 2016 

Queer and black are two marginalized identities that when they coexist, can be incredibly taxing. 

I often get tired on feeling devalued and upset at how people treat me. Although I love myself and my body, a lot of times it is so tiring being treated in oh so many ways as “second class”. 

In order to test a theory, I decided to set up two Grindr profiles – one white and one black. And see how the amount and quality of the responses vary. 

Here are some “stream of consciousness” Facebook posts I made concerning the ordeal. Treat it as a diary, of sorts. 
11/15/16 
I wish I could have as much sex as the people who sexualize me think I do  
11/15/16 
I think I’m going to reprise my “Grindr” project for my “Internet Art” final. 

For those of you who don’t know, last year around this time, drunk, angry, and horny, I decided to troll Grindr by changing my profile picture from myself, to a “stock white teen”. To add insult to injury, I didn’t even even remove the watermark from the photo – just to fuck with people. 

Aside from the sheer amount that my responses jumped, what was most striking, was the tone of the responses. People talked to me differently; far more cordial. Less aggressive. Granted, Grindr is basically a hookup app, we’re all looking for one thing really – but whilst white (digitally) I could see that people were ‘finessing’ their attempts to get with me. 

With that said, I feel like a lot of people misinterpret my posts as if I’m angry or bitter – I’d be lying if I said that really coming to terms with these things didn’t hurt somewhat, but moreover I’m fascinated by this. 

I think my face now is too recognizable. So I’m going to start two new profiles, one black, one white (I don’t want to try and speak out of term for the Asian or Latinx communities so I’m not including them in this project, our struggles are similar but it’s not my place to speak for theirs) 

What will I do with these responses? I’m not sure yet. I want people to recognize that racism in the gay community is a bit different than someone calling you the N word, it’s even in how people talk to you. 

* Kevin W ❤️ 

11/19/16 
2 / 4

I’m doing the Grindr project right now, and I’m posing as a white person. He seems pretty average – not to slam the guy that I got the photo from, but he’s pretty average. 

The sheer amount of responses this guy is getting is depressing. Not just the amount, but the responsiveness of the others talking to him (me) is remarkable. 

It’s like seeing inside a world I don’t have access to. 

11/19/16 
Grindr experiment day one: 

In the 12 hours I’ve been online (only six ish of those hours had my profile pic – it just was blank until Grindr approved my profile picture) I’ve gotten 35 responses. Commonality of users between this account and my own? Just two. Only two guys who messaged fake me, have also messaged real me at some point in time. 

I also forgot to get online a few times a night, so I probably kept disappearing from the lineup. 

Once again, as I noticed last time I did this – the quality of responses changed. The responsiveness of the responses changed. 

Suddenly, people were interested in my day. 

“You’re really pretty ;)” 

“You’re cute” 

“How’s your day going?” 

“Wow that’s sounds exciting!” 

Banter and camaraderie I’m not used to getting as a black person. 

Suddenly, as a white person I’m relatable and interesting when I’ve changed literally nothing about how I communicate on these apps. 

However, this is an art project, not a statistics or science project, so I need to focus on the qualitative aspects of the responses rather than the quantitive ones. 

Let’s see how day two goes by comparison when I create a new profile and go on as a black person 

11/19/16 
I signed onto Grindr as myself, just to get a break 

No messages. 

When I finally got one it was “cum squirt that nut” (I roared laughing) of a guy inviting me to a gloryhole. 

Note: I am not shaming people for their sexual activities or what they choose to do – more power to them. But there’s a definite difference in how people talk to people of color. 

Since I need to have some semblance of objectivity, I’m going to start a new profile tonight with another black person’s picture that isn’t me. 

I’m excited to see where this goes. 

3 / 4

11/20/16 
As a white person on Grindr 

“I’m just here to chat” 

“Aww, I’ll chat with you, cutie” 

As a black person on Grindr 

“I’m just here to chat” 

“Really? This late at night?” 
11/20/16 
OK, Grindr experiment, day two. Been online about the same amount of time.. 

Yesterday, when I posed as a white person, I got around ~45+ (and counting) new conversations, in about 12 hours. 

Out of those 45+ guys, only three had commonality with the real me – meaning these guys who messaged fake white me, had also messaged my real profile as well. 

After 12 hours, I have 21 messages. At first I was concerned, since for a very long time, I got stuck at a measly four messages. 

Out of those 21 messages, TWELVE of them have messaged my real own personal profile.

Also, I got about two people who blocked me – something that didn’t happen to me on the white profile. They’d go around asking “what I was here for” and when I said “just chat” I had more than one person get annoyed and either block me or assume that I couldn’t possibly be on for “Just Chat” 

Although the white profile got unsolicited dick or other sexual pics without asking – it was only from two profiles. So, around 2/45. 

About 4%. 

The black profile got unsolicited photos from 5/21. So not quite 1/4 or 25% of the time, he’d get an unsolicited dick or ass pic. 

Once again, I noticed the tone of the conversations – on the white profile I felt like people were more interested in me as a person – or more interested in me as a sexual being. 

On the black profile, I got a lot more of an “I want it right now” type of conversation – no chitchat, no finesse, no chat about what turns them on, even. Just a sort of “I am looking for a penis, and you have that penis and would you come over? here’s my address” 

As I said, I’m not shaming the above people for doing so ^^ , sometimes you really do just want to ‘get it in’, however, on the white profile I felt like people wanted something more authentic and natural, where as on the black profile I felt more like a sex object, if not a fetish. 

So not only did the Black Grindr profile get less than half the messages as the white one, but the proportion of lewd photos received versus the amount of messages is far higher. 

So what I’m going to do, is make a video for my final project in Internet Art, reading you the responses, so you can really understand and see what I mean by ‘difference in tone’ between responses as a gay black person, versus a gay white person 

– Peace. 

4 / 4

<3 Kevin W 

11/27/16 
I feel like every gay black male (specifically gay black men, this may be true for other people of color them but I’m not going to speak for their experience) goes through periods where they are on and then off the “apps” 

To be honest, I have been in a crap mood since doing the Grindr project, and since vacationing to another part of the country. Legitimately, I have felt off my game, and very aware since early November. 

I think I have more perspective and knowledge in this iteration of the Grindr Project – less was a curiosity of someone directly compared to myself; I think when I used two profiles that were identical, aside from profile pic, it sort of separated self from the process – showing that no matter what you look like – this is a thing for gay black men. 

I’m not asking for your sympathy – or even for your understanding, but there’s a certain resignation that goes with learning that you will never be on equal footing as your white counterpart; I consistently feel less clever, less smart, less attractive, less desirable, less beautiful when I exist here in these spaces. 

I know that not everyone has to like me – by god, I could write you a literal novel on how much I know and am ok with that. 

And yet, when I travel to other places, San Francisco, New York, anywhere that’s not here, people engage me more. I feel validated *less in the sense for my body, but more in the sense that I feel valued as as a person, not in the “I feel loved” but in the “your thoughts and feelings are worth being heard”* 

I thought it was just me, but I started talking to other black gay men, and they felt the same way. 

It’s really easy to wonder “why am I so caught up in wanting adoration for something that only loves me when it’s convenient for them?”

This is just my experience, and I am aware this is fairly disjointed, could use a lot more fleshing out, and I don’t want to come across as sad or upset; I just want to let you in on a little bit of how I, and I would not be surprised if other gay black men or anyone who feels they can identify with these sentiments. 

Here’s the final video 


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Final ish

so basically I don’t have that strong of an idea

 

but adter my first “dancing” performance I left with my head buzzing. Although I felt sexy and empowered and I made money, I also learned who is and is not here for black bodies.

I also have been called a slut, for dancing.

two people told me I’ll never find a boyfriend now since I started dancing.

 

i was talking to another black gay person and he said “black people aren’t allowed to be sexual in the same way as white ones.”

 

however, I’m not sure how to get a challenge of this concept to real life.

 

– Kevin


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“Catch 22” – Performance Art (sort of)

My “performative art” revolves entirely around my body.

In the gay scene in Columbus, I have quite a few friends who I am Facebook friends with, but don’t really speak with in person.

A great deal of my Facebook and online presence is more of a “stream of consciousness” – a lot of my posts are satirical. Often time, I have a political joke, or some sort of religious joke, or something that isn’t always serious.

Sometimes, my Facebook is sad – I cross post my satirical posts with sadder ones that have to do with my Ex Jehovah’s Witness activism.

My Instagram goes in hand with this as well – my Instagram is full of semi-carefully manicured selfies, some sweet and charming; others sexy and alluring – also cross pollinated with my shots from my travels or what ever else I find interesting at that moment in time.

Because of this, I have a lot of people who follow me on Facebook solely because of my funny, or sad, or satirical posts. I have Instagram followers who have followed me because I have hookup apps (Tinder, Grindr, Scruff, et al) linked to my Instagram (and it’s not hard to find Facebook profiles from Instagram). I have people who have literally come up to me at gay bars and said “I’ve seen your Instagram profile!”

or

“I follow you on Instagram, it’s so nice to actually meet you in person!”

“I know you on Facebook! I love your posts!”

With that, I realized that not only is my Facebook a medium to express myself and sort of catalog my thoughts and emotions, or let people know how I’m doing; I have an audience.

What If I was a bit more deliberate in what I want to show to other people?

In its current state, I post whatever I want.

Enter another development in my personal life – exotic dancing.

My old (straight) roommate wanted to pursue his acting career, and in order to build up more candor and people skills as well as the money, he decided to get in the world of Columbus stripping.

He enjoyed it greatly.

I started to be attracted to the idea as well – I was into the idea that people are only allowed to desire me with my permission only. In the realm of Grindr and other hookup apps, “gay racism” can be so horrible – the fact is – on these apps I am not seen so much as a person, but more of a product.

“Man, I want your Big Black Cock”

“Mmm, I LOVE Chocolate”

“Once u go black, u never go back ;)”

ttt

In Columbus, OH, I often times feel like a product. I don’t feel like a person or sexual being, but I feel like a product, something to be bought and sold. Lately, I feel that if I am going to be bought and sold – I should at least be getting paid for it.

With that, I started to get interested in stripping, go-go dancing, and other entertainment in gay spaces. One of my very close friends is a drag queen, and my old roommate (straight) was a stripper for awhile for gay spaces as well. He had so much fun doing it, so I figured – why don’t I give it a try.

It took about a year before I felt comfortable with my body, working out, and really exploring my sexuality. I still am, to be honest.
I got in touch with some stripper friends, who encouraged me to do it.

From watching them, I learned that their “stripping” profile is sort of a persona semi-carefully crafted from their own personally. I looked at the way they market themselves, how they dress, and what they wear.

I started to craft my own persona, and I chose the name “Catch 22”.

Columbus is actually a very white town, and it’s not as progressive as I initially thought from when I moved here, I quickly learned. Black people (as I talked about in sexual racism) don’t have the mobility in the gay scene as much as whites do – this is the case in many places, but in Columbus it feels so much more pronounced.

There are no black strippers in Columbus. There is one from Dayton, another who is mixed-race and fair skinned, and the last one actually retired after a 15 year stint of performing around the East Coast.

Most black strippers who are strippers, are the “black fantasy” – tall and fair skinned, kind of light and feminine features – or dark, hyper masculine, very ‘jacked’ and muscular.

black-dancer

lite-skinned

I am neither of those.

There’s a lot more body diversity within white dancers, but not black ones.

gogo-1

Anyways, in order to craft my identity – I figured I needed to sexualize myself a little more than the half-joking, or even the “pretty” pictures I post on my Instagram and Facebook.

With that, I started to buy more interesting undergarments, thongs, singlets, etc.

I started out slow – posting pictures of me shirtless, or more risque but still tame.

My responses changed – people whom I didn’t really speak with….started noticing me.

“ooh! Hot!”

“Man, that’s pretty sexy”

It felt nice, but remember, my end goal here is to craft a persona so that when I “surprise” people with my performer profile and persona, they won’t be so shocked.

I started referencing to the type of underwear I was buying – still in my joking way, but still showing people that I mean business.

Then I posted a series of pictures, fairly risque, but tame enough for Facebook. One of them is also actually my promotional picture that I’ll be using at bars/clubs handbills.

risk

Lots of comments. A couple “thirst followers” commented, and reached out, and followed me on Instagram. People who I didn’t really speak with, but sort of friend-ed because I thought they were attractive – started to notice me.

Not all was positive, though. I started to get real backlash from people I cared about saying that I was “selling my body”. Or that “I would regret this later in life”

I ended up changing my profile so that she can’t see when I post things like this. That bothered me a little – I pride myself on being “One speed for everyone” and me having to censure myself for someone hurt.

With that said, this “artwork” is still a work in progress. My first “show” is coming soon, and I’m excited to see how well my persona is working with my performing aspirations, and whether or not I’ll continue dancing, or tweaking this persona to work.


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Lionel RIchie Game Code

import ddf.minim.*;
Minim minim;
AudioPlayer player;
AudioPlayer player2;
int gameScreen = 0;
int ballX, ballY;
int ballSize = 50;
int ballColor = color(0);
float gravity = 5;
float ballSpeedVert = 0;
int hits = 0;
PImage img;

void setup() {
size(500, 500);
ballX=width/4;
ballY=height/5;
minim = new Minim(this);
player = minim.loadFile (“fiesta.mp3”);
player2 = minim.loadFile (“party.mp3”);
img = loadImage(“Lionel2.jpg”);

}
void draw() {
if (gameScreen == 0) {
initScreen();
} else if (gameScreen == 1) {
gameScreen();
} else if (gameScreen == 2){
hits = 2;
gameOverScreen();
}
WriteScoreAndTime();
}
public void keyPressed() {

if (gameScreen==0) {
startGame();
}
}
void mouseClicked(){
if (ballY == height/2){
hits = hits+1;
}
if (hits == 6){
gameScreen =2;
}
}
void startGame(){
gameScreen=1;
}
void initScreen() {
background(0);
textAlign(CENTER);
text(“press any key”, height/2, width/2);
player.loop();
}

void gameScreen() {
background(img);
drawBall();
applyGravity();
keepInScreen();
virtue();
WriteScoreAndTime();
player2.loop();
}
void drawBall() {
fill(ballColor);
ellipse(ballX, ballY, ballSize, ballSize);
}
void virtue(){
rect(height/2, width/2, 500, 10);

}
void applyGravity(){
ballSpeedVert += gravity;
ballY += ballSpeedVert;
}
void makeBounceBottom(int surface) {
ballY = surface-(ballSize/2);
ballSpeedVert*=-1;
}

void makeBounceTop(int surface) {
ballY = surface+(ballSize/2);
ballSpeedVert*=-1;
}

void keepInScreen() {

if (ballY+(ballSize/2) > height) {
makeBounceBottom(height);
}

if (ballY-(ballSize/2) < 0) {
makeBounceTop(0);
}
}

void gameOverScreen() {
background(0);
textAlign(CENTER);
fill(255);
text(“GME OVR”, height/2, width/2);
player2.loop();

}
void WriteScoreAndTime(){
textSize(32);
text(hits, width/9, height/6);
fill(255);
}


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Nude Repariations 

I have a clever idea – in today’s culture it seems like we’re always asking people to “send nudes” – myself included. It’s partially a joke, but to be honest what’s not tantalizing about seeing someone naked? 

The politicking and relationship between a casual “sext” turns really complicated when something casual gets leaked to the public, and something so very personal turns into this huge thing.

I had an idea – let’s hold people accountable for their actions. In the same way people like to shame others for “taking nudes in the first place”, I am calling people to task for viewing them (even if consentually) basically saying that if they viewed it, they should have compensated the person in the photo just like you’d pay a sex worker or porn star. 
I started a gofundme and shared it on my Facebook just to gague people’s reactions. I got s lot of interesting responses. 


By the next two days, I had gotten 57 shares, according to GoFundme. No money donated, but a lot of interesting discourse.

– Kevin.