ABOUT

WATCHTAPES

// multimedia art via XXX VHS

WATCHTAPES uses XXX VHS tapes as the starting point for a diversity of multimedia projects, including work in video, photography, print, and interactive media. A highly collaborative arts group, WATCHTAPES has partnered with individual musicians, visual artists, filmmakers, and designers, as well as with record labels, galleries, and other arts and culture organizations.

Recent highlights include 変態「HENTAI」 1987 – 1998, a zine available at independent bookstores across the US (including Skylight Books in LA, Mast Books in NYC, and Quimby's in Chicago); a music video for Corbo's track 15addivan (with Chewing Foil in LA); and Adult Viewing Materials 001, a combination VHS and audiocassette release (with Condina Records).
Why tapes? Do you collect in any other formats?

What got us started collecting tapes was basically a matter of chance... while out on a shoot in rural Michigan, we stumbled on a massive, forgotten collection of VHS porn tapes, abandoned in an attic, and immediately realized that we had something special on our hands. VHS tapes occupy an important space in media history — they represent this transitional moment between analog and digital, theater and home video, local and global distribution. And of course, porn is also a deeply liminal medium, riding the line between public and private, high and low culture... we've always been collectors, especially media collectors, but porn tapes are something different.

— Interview with Disposable Magazine, June 2019
What jumped out at you about the tapes at first?

They occupy a really specific aesthetic space, in that they're both 'obscene' and mainstream at the same time... most people watch porn, most people consume it, but it's just totally undiscussed, underground. It was immediately apparent that these tapes were a unique archive, capturing an authentic cultural expression that was everywhere, across every strata of society—despite being 'weird,' forbidden, and so on. Seeing the tapes in a new context (that is, not only as erotic objects, but as objects of history) unlocks all those layers. There's a lot to dig in to.

— Interview on KUCI, March 2018
I have to ask — with the material I've seen on your website and on social media, how do you pass the barrier of censorship? What's your workaround?

We've always been conscious from the beginning that this is an art project, in the sense that we’re trying to be critical and conversational, rather than commercial or pornographic. The whole point is to look at the tapes through a new lens, to help reveal and explore those additional layers, and to see what they can teach us about culture and history, and people, and the subconscious. Our work is always thesis-driven, and that shapes how it's read. And often, we're specifically trying to explore that line of censorship, and think about what makes these things 'obscene' or not, or makes them 'art' or not... we're interrogating that question of, how does something become obscene? And by extension, what is obscenity?

Part of that now, especially in terms of Instagram and Tumblr, comes down to algorithmic decisions. Whether something is 'obscene' to the human eye is less significant than whether, for example, there are any pixels that appear to represent a "female presenting nipple" (to quote one of Tumblr's guidelines). But part of what we find really interesting about porn, as a medium, is the way in which it responds very directly to the limits of the legal system, both in terms of how it's promoted and advertised, and what can actually be shown within the porn itself. There's always going to be rules, and it's interesting to see where those rules are coming from, and why, and how they end up shaping how sexuality is represented and understood in the broader culture. You can't extricate the economic factors, the political factors, the social factors from something being “just porn,” you know? “Just porn” is just not really a thing.

— Interview on KUCI, March 2018

Selected Events (Live Visuals & Installations)

Hack the Simulation // Vertexx + Chewing Foil + Lucid Interval @ Club Vertexx (LA) 11.09.19
    Music by Baja Ajax, Corbo, Dirty Merlin, Spiderwrap, Crushmeharder, Anaesthetik, Julien Andreas
    Visuals by Paul Plastic, Lucid Interval, WATCHTAPES

100% Electronicon 2 // After party @ Chewing Foil (LA) 10.19.19
    Music by Skeleton Lipstick Death, Vaperror, Corbo
    Visuals by Paul Plastic, WATCHTAPES, Derek Holguin, DJ Sexy Angel

Chewing Foil Monthly // Corbo Quatro Treses album release @ Chewing Foil (LA) 09.26.19
    Music by Corbo, Pink Siifu, Demonslayer, Flat Stanley, Bapari
    Visuals by Paul Plastic, WATCHTAPES, Derek Holguin, DJ Sexy Angel

Family Jams 007 // OBEY Records + Rap Vacation + ROTU @ Tender Zones warehouse (OC) 08.11.19
    Music by Eyedress, B. Cool Aid, Cakedog, Former Boy, Natia, Sleepyeyes, Tomato Jones
    Visuals and interactive descrambler by WATCHTAPES

Red Light Red Lantern // APAHM Phase - Confluence @ Chewing Foil (LA) 06.06.2019
    Music by Onu, Kiriko, Kelleia, Zhao, Harriet Brown, Sacha K
    Visuals by WATCHTAPES, Moogil, Cindy Lin, Ethan Woo, Kian Khiaban
    Interactive event guide by WATCHTAPES

Valentine's Day Vol. 2 / Zine Release // WATCHTAPES + Condina Records @ Chewing Foil (LA) 02.16.2019
    Music by Corbo, Marcus Antonius, Jillesque, Sokro, Flyjay, The Alaia, Rawkollage
    Visuals by WATCHTAPES

Chamber of Love // Chamber of Cyphers @ private location (Riverside) 02.09.2019
    Music by Evan Geesman, Jillesque, Connor Swan, Ayce, Bazzy, Kandy
    Visuals by WATCHTAPES

Valentine's Day Vol. 1 // WATCHTAPES + ROTU + Condina Records @ Silver Lake Lounge (LA) 02.14.2018
    Music by Jillesque (Insieme), Lastnamedavid, Pie2k, Hash, Flat Stanley, A-Frame, Craneuhm, Awruh
    Visuals by WATCHTAPES

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