Interview with Artist – Lindsay Dye

DJ Cobalt 60: Why do you love creating art and considering the role it plays in your work what does the female form mean to you?

Lindsay Dye: I don’t love creating art. I’ve made it my full-time job so it demands all my time and energy. I’ve also always seen it as something people do, everyone makes art; some just do it with more intent or more intensely than others. The female form is the only thing I can truly know since it is the only body in which I navigate the world. I make work centered around myself and other women. The environment in which I’m working— as a Camgirl in a male dominated chatroom, an artist in a male dominated art market, and a woman in a patriarchal society— prioritizes a man’s opinion of a woman rather than a woman’s opinion of herself. Unfortunately, the female form means to me that we will be having this conversation about what a man thinks of her rather than…I don’t know what, what’s more important than what a man thinks of a woman?

DJ Cobalt 60: You are an artist whose works in multiple mediums, each one influencing or bleeding into the other one somehow, all of which are highly informed by your own life and personal experiences, no more so than in your recent work documenting your career as a cam model. Let’s rewind a bit if you don’t mind and somewhat trace the steps that lead to you finding a unique creative resonance through cam modeling. Graduating high school you attended Florida International University and received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography before interning for Aperture Magazine and attending Pratt University where you received a Master of Fine Arts in Photography, what first got you interested in photography? (I also studied Sculpture at Pratt, which ended up being my thesis work, “Soft Ghetto: Image Management” by Whootyslut sponsored by the men of myfreecams.com)

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Lindsay Dye: I was 19ish photographing in Miami nightclubs. I wanted the commercial, over-produced David LaChapelle/Mario Testino look but I didn’t care about the technical aspects of photography. I wanted to narrate and have a dialogue. Disposable cameras were the most poetic thing to shoot with in 2010 and mimicked the over saturated, flashy trashy Miami vibe. I was documenting my personal life and eventually my professors at F.I.U. turned me on to Nan Goldin. It was a backwards learning experience going from LaChapelle to Goldin; complete plastic to reality. After discovering her, I photographed all my girlfriends in and around nightclubs downtown. This turned into my undergrad thesis, “Grainy, Shitty, Acidy”.

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DJ Cobalt 60: Who were the photographers/artist you gravitated towards in school?

Lindsay Dye: I gravitate towards popular culture figures and symbols from my childhood. I always say that I have 4 core influences: R. Kelly, the Spice Girls, Dr. Laura Schlesinger, and O.J. Simpson. They’re all artists in their own right.

DJ Cobalt 60: You cite the video you made titled “I Don’t See Nothing Wrong” as being a catalyst for you as you started to move away from photography, was this progression something you rebelled against or quickly embraced?

Lindsay Dye: I was trying to have complex, racial conversations with a still image and it wasn’t happening with photography.

DJ Cobalt 60: It was during your last year of graduate school due to financial pressures that you started web cam modeling, what did you originally see yourself doing after getting your Masters?

Lindsay Dye: I wanted to work in academia and be a professor. Something about that seemed really bleak after 7 years in school. By the time I graduated I had built an audience of regulars where I could solely make art and cam as much as I needed to.

DJ Cobalt 60: I find it difficult to categorize your art, so much of it is dictated by the way others react to it, it almost seems to be a study in anthropology. The artist who I would compare you most to is film director Abbas Kiarostami, your art can be simple and yet have several different layers of complexity, you put so much of yourself in it that reality and fiction became so intertwined it’s hard to tell where you end and the other begins.

Lindsay Dye: Anthropology is a good word, I like to think I’m studying subaltern communities. “The Soft Ghetto: Image Management” work is a study of a particular person (myself) attempting to change her race while the Camgirl work is about a niche community that exists online. I insert myself into these communities and working from within, I dissect and deform the culture’s language and behavior. More recently I have described my artistic process as code switching.

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I think you’re saying that I have multiple audiences on a multitude of platforms with layered perceptions. I agree that there are layers, and I purposely don’t over explain my work to the point where nothing is left to the imagination; for example, I don’t ever publicize my ‘cam name.’ I know people have found me, but I’m not supplying anyone with a live stream besides clientele that are within the cam world. The same way I don’t publicize my real name in a chatroom to promote my artwork. For now, the separate worlds add to the various levels of understanding and awareness spanning floating groups of spectators that may or may not merge.

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10Fiction also leans on superficial elements like nightclub lighting on my cam set or hiring a bouncer to pat you down at a show; when the work involves actors and elaborate set-ups, the messages can get lost but audiences are generally pleased with the novelty of the interaction. I question also if fiction is the right word. I think the general public is used to being lied to by white men on mainstream media, so sincerity and candidness coming from a half-naked woman is absurd.

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DJ Cobalt 60: For example when you began cam modeling you noticed that there was poetry to be found in the live streams of other cam models and decided to compile images from these streams into what eventually become your book “Camgirls” then all of sudden you had people trying to blackmail you with photos of your own cam model sessions and in a move of pure genius and one I strongly admire, you turned the tables on them by selling the images as limited edition prints known as the “Buy Me” series. In your opinion what makes something art?

Lindsay Dye: The images of the Camgirls first became the dress, “Camgirls Copyright Infringement Dress (CANNOT BE WORN IN PUBLIC)”. Putting on a garment that cannot legally be worn outside was a roadblock that informed and fed itself. The Camgirl screenshots hearkened back to my Miami girls work; the diversity of the women and the eye contact with the camera. From there I made the book and had an exhibition with photos on the wall a la Ryan McGinley. The title of this piece is, “CoWorkers”. I praise these women, it seemed self-indulgent to make Camgirl work about myself; acting as a singular Camgirl when it’s an entire collective of people. I also wanted to highlight copyright infringement, but looking back using other people’s images wasn’t the best choice (a la Richard Prince). Using my own stolen images from my own stream and the circularity of that, was a more pleasing feat.

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I won’t define art. But whatever it is, it feeds back into itself; I really think that’s what “Buy Me Offline” is doing. And the organic nature of me using the cam world and the cam world using me has been the best reciprocal play an art process has given me.

DJ Cobalt 60: There is an image of yours from the “Buy Me” series titled “Cake on Cake (+Rainbow Cake)” that I fucking love, apologies for the language but, the best adjective I could use to sum up the image is fucking because when I initially saw the image the first thing that popped into my head was I fucking love this photo. I knew I loved it from the first moment I saw it, though do I need to explain why I loved it to love it, on aesthetics alone I’m not going to lie you have a nice butt, to a degree I’m sure that plays into why I enjoy the image as well as the shock value of seeing you smash a cake with your butt. However I would say there is a rawness present in the photo that can’t be faked, the image was taken at such an angle you can almost see inside your butt, no commercial fashion photographer would ever photograph a model in a thong at that angle because it reveals too much, which is crazy because when you think about it a thong is all about showing your butt off. The thong becomes real as opposed to an image of pure enticement. Another layer of richness is added to the photo when I take into account the context it was taken under and examine why someone would choose that photo specifically to use as blackmail. Again though should I need to intellectualize the art I gravitate towards this much, there was a point in my life where I believed proper art photography had to be Ansel Adams than I discovered William Eggleston and it completely shook up my world. It told me that yeah grimmer less polished photos of taboo subject matter could be art and there was nothing wrong with enjoying them. Do you feel art needs to be explained?

Lindsay Dye: The rawness (I think) is because I’m actually a Camgirl. I’m not a person performing as a Camgirl.

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The viewer has the option to listen or read the explanation if there is one. In the case of “Buy Me Offline”, I partially included an explanation for utilitarian reasons but you can totally use the shop and not read the explanation.

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DJ Cobalt 60: To set the record straight once and for all do you consider web cam modeling an art unto itself or is it art only after viewed through a larger cultural spectrum? By what I mean is, is the act itself art, similar to how in street photography the act of a bum pissing on the side of a street isn’t art yet, a photo of a bum pissing on the side of the street can be art.

Lindsay Dye: Whether a Camgirl is an artist or not is dependent on how she sees herself. Camgirls that see themselves as entertainers are entertainers, cam models that see themselves as comedians are comedians.

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For myself, I categorize camming as performance art. I think there’s a negative connotation to this type of performance because it’s incorrectly seen as less rigorous, therefore less serious and that the monetary exchange of tokens for nudity is scandalous. Performance art is defined by the inclusion of time, space, a body medium and an audience to engage with. I think I have all of those covered and then some.

DJ Cobalt 60: What is your interaction with the people who watch your live cam shows like? All of the webcam models I’ve interviewed have expressed a strong enthusiasm for cam modeling. One model went so far as to say that a lot of her fans don’t even care about the sex as much as they care about talking to her on a daily basis, she compared it to sort of like being their online girlfriend which rings true to how another model described what it is that she does to me “It’s like watching porn except after words you get to ask me questions about my favorite video games and hobbies or how my day went”. Web Cam modeling to an extent reminds me of what happens at hostess bars in Japan or the type of relationship a dominatrix might have with one her clients. Yeah people seek out this services to get off but, it’s also about them wanting a safe environment to talk to someone or express a hidden side of themselves without being judged.

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Lindsay Dye: I don’t cam enough to be an online girlfriend type, but I cam enough to be a presence in the community and share pure feelings of enjoyment and engagement when I’m streaming. The work is demanding, it takes time and energy. But this job gives you choices and autonomy. Everyone is generally respectful, because it’s mutual participation. I like describing it as ‘otherworldly.’ People IRL are definitely worse.

DJ Cobalt 60: What has the experience been like performing a live cam show for another artist’s opening show? How does the dynamic change when you can see some of your audience like in your IRL Cam shows? Is it a tough balancing act to play to two different audiences at the same time?

Lindsay Dye: I’ve been thinking about the live cam shows as a negotiation between audiences. In the cam world, I’m compromising my audience. As an artist, I’m gaining an audience more than likely not associated with camming, but fine art. They’re not really feeding each other at the moment so I’m still working it out.

The two shows I participated in were complete opposites.

For the first show, I was live streaming from my apartment into the gallery via FaceTime, on an iPad, for 4 hours on opening night. Gallery patrons were able to put on headphones, talk to me, and had the option to tip me using a ‘tip jar’ credit card swipe. I provided them with options of things I was willing to do.

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While I am a legitimate Camgirl, for this show, I was actually Lindsay Dye ‘the artist’ performing as a Camgirl — I wasn’t actually camming online. This show had very little to do with my own personal chat room but emphasized the similarity of the audience interaction; the fact that I was there to entertain. I’m basically a clown at a birthday party. I know that. I make that comparison after a really good cam show online. Not in a negative way, but in the sense that I entertain in an excitable, buffoonish manner. The art materials and props I use on cam, while sexually suggestive, are childlike: a lot of pool toys, cakes, and balloons.

Similar to a chat room, I was fully visible to the audience but unable to see them unless they opted in. People were present in the room, but only a few chose to interact with me. And of those few even a smaller amount tipped. Those who tip, I interacted with for a prolonged period of time and have maintained relationships with. The difference? The gallery felt impersonal and more of a novelty, as opposed to the chat room where I have a rapport with the members and trust has been built. But this wasn’t a time-based performance where people could come back and see me the next day or a week later; again I know I was there to entertain.

The second show I was invited to perform at was actually “live” live. I was on stage with my computer camming in front of an audience for an hour using my personal account.

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From the Camgirl perspective, this interaction felt salty. It’s not that public shows are looked down upon in the cam world, it’s more that I don’t advertise myself as a ‘public show’ persona. In the cam world public shows are normally in someone’s backyard or a library; not a gallery space or a bar. With my chatroom audience, there was confusion because I wouldn’t explain to them the parameters of the performance (or that it even was a performance); I just signed on as usual and did not emphasize the fact that I was at a live venue.

I didn’t interact with the real-life audience. They were watching me perform a cam show as normally as I was able to. There’s rules on cam sites that make it limiting for audience participation: for example, with the specific site I use men are not allowed on a Camgirl’s feed; only women who have a registered account with the site can appear on my feed; my stream would be shut down if I broke these rules.

I had limited creative control and was featured in these shows as a model not an artist. I learned that the two are very different things. I can’t even critique this performance, it got away from me. I’ll call it an experiment. 

I did a live performance the night of January 11, 2016 with a new performance collective in the East Village. 

It had layers of my camming experience (“token” tipping sounds I recorded from the website + physical tokens I had produced) while absent of a camera, chatroom, livestream, money. I felt like it had more integrity than the others because I had complete creative control and was able to layer ideas I’ve been thinking about that don’t have to do with camming but  able to link to camming. 

It was titled, “And this bag just danced with me (Camgirl Karaoke)”. I danced with an unstable stripper pole to the American Beauty plastic bag score by Thomas Newman and then (attempted) to rap Drake’s ‘Plastic Bag’ to the visual of the American Beauty plastic bag with an overlay of karaoke lyrics. 

The physical tokens and sounds, along with my chatroom playlist (Drake was my Spotify #1 of the year along with everyone else) and stripping and dancing and singing— are all integral elements to chatroom performances. No matter how mediocre I may be at all three. 

DJ Cobalt 60: I’ve seen other cam girls do live performances at sex expos, had you ever entertained the thought of performing live long before you actually did it?

Lindsay Dye: Well it’s funny because we’re talking about two perspectives that exist as this one performance. A ‘live show’ (for the IRL audience) and a ‘public show’ (for the chatroom audience).

I thought about doing a live show for my thesis in grad school (like in a Tracey Emin style bed in a gallery) but ultimately decided against it for a variety of reasons.

Participating as a performer in other artists shows made it different enough where the IRL shows were nothing like a camshow in my apartment. Even though the IRL shows are conceptually juicy with all the layered audience perspectives, I felt I was portrayed as ornamental. The accessibility to me in my natural cam habitat is much more empathetic and honest, as it should be.

DJ Cobalt 60: The artists whose shows you been a part of have thus far been males, would you say most of your fans are male? Are many of your fans female?

Lindsay Dye: I reject the word “fan” whether we’re talking about my camming or my art. I have friends, supporters, and people who identify with me.

DJ Cobalt 60: What do you think your fans say about your art?

Lindsay Dye: Well this gets confusing because I don’t know who you’re talking about: cam people from my chatroom or people in the world who like my art? Camgirls who like my art or other women who like my art? Or are they all the same?

DJ Cobalt 60: Do you receive the same sort of comments from your male fans that you do from your female fans? Has one gender of fan been more accepting of your cam girl work than another?

Lindsay Dye: I don’t really know what people think of the work. But if you mean, are males crude and are females critical? It honestly goes both ways and I’ve received praise and hate on both ends for all different reasons.

DJ Cobalt 60: Is your gender more of an obstacle or advantage for you?

Lindsay Dye: For what? In life? Attractive, smart women are barely ever taken seriously, especially unclothed. If I was an artist seeking gallery representation, it’s harder being a woman. If I’m walking anywhere by myself in public, it’s harder being a woman.

DJ  Cobalt 60: I personally would like to note that I feel there tends to be a double standard where photographers can take pictures of cam models or sex workers and still be seen as a serious artist whereas the people who pose for them or are themselves sex workers who also make art are not.

Lindsay Dye: I agree. I’ve been on both sides. When I’m the ‘model’ or the ‘sex worker as model’ I have to fight to get my photographs or to be credited. It’s not that photographers or artists are capricious, because the chat room is the same, it’s just that people are mostly in it for themselves.  

This is one of the reasons why I turned the Camgirl project into a documentation and dissection of myself and my own experience. I do feel like I took advantage of the women by using their images in my art (even through conceptual copyright jest) and I’m working on rectifying that in some way.

DJ Cobalt 60: I mean if a cop or former convict decides he wants to write crime novels people welcome and support the decision because its assumed they have an insight on law enforcement and crime that nobody else does, based on their own personal experiences within those worlds where as sex workers normally all get stereotyped as being almost non-human the same way people marginalize groups or people they don’t agree with.

Lindsay Dye: Right, but that spans all art, not just portraiture photography. What you’re talking about goes into the depths of documentary photography and then the history of painting and now we’re talking about the entire history of art and humankind; women have always been the models, the muses, and the votive figures, but the signature in the corner is the man that made it.

DJ Cobalt 60: Interracial relationships and the reappropriation of ethnic cultures is another recurring theme in your work. I want to ask you what your opinion is on a trend I feel to be subtle black facing in the commercial fashion industry. Admittedly yes there is racial diversity in the fashion industry but, if you look at numbers and the photos themselves the majority of models you see are Caucasian, many whom model urban street wear that you would typically be seen worn by someone from another ethnicity or in an urban environment. It’s like brands are saying they are a fan of the clothes just not the people who made the clothes, don’t get us wrong we like your style just let us eroticize it for our white and wealthy consumers and sell it back to you at a higher price.

Lindsay Dye: In regards to my work about interracial relationships, the reflective process of making work after the experience is comparable to the work I make about Camgirls. I participate and then I make. The sculptural work that I made about African-American popular culture mixed with White American popular culture is a result of experiences that I had as a teenager and am able to consciously reflect on as an adult. I wanted to be a different race as an adolescent. As long as it’s the truth, there’s room for the work. I claim my work to question appropriation, not directly appropriate, but I know one feeds the other. I compare my views on copyright infringement to that of appropriation. No one owns anything anymore. The generation superseding myself is remixing everything; why do we still want to circumscribe particular words or objects to particular races? To further dissect and separate humanity? Mix everything up and confuse everyone. I want my work to signify the evolution of race relations and how people interact through popular culture. The work’s purpose is to talk about race, aesthetics and how culture is fluid and evolves.

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I don’t have much knowledge of the modeling industry. I know it’s not diverse enough. I think the words you’re using, like ‘urban’ and ‘eroticized,’ are used to describe a hybrid-being that we haven’t yet defined, but I wouldn’t use those terms.

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DJ Cobalt 60: When are you most satisfied with your work?

Lindsay Dye: When I find a loophole.

I NEVER THOUGHT MY ART would have me counting my money in tokens.

 SCARIEST MOMENT OF MY CAREER I’ll call it career in 20 years.

A BOOK EVERYONE SHOULD Candide by Voltaire & Plato’s Symposium.

IF I COULD ONLY RETAIN ONE OF MY FIVE SENSES all or none.

PEOPLE’S BIGGEST MISCONCEPTION ABOUT WHAT IT IS THAT DO I’m confused too.

DJ Cobalt 60: For People interested in learning more about you or your work or want to check out some of your merchandise where can they go?

Lindsay Dye: lindsaydye.com @dyelindsay.

DJ Cobalt 60: Is there anyone you would like to thank who has supported you throughout your career or been instrumental to your career?

Lindsay Dye: My life partner Christina Quintana.

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