“A double outing” – Trojana infiltrates webcam industry

Cali debut for documentary in which performance artists infiltrate the industry by working as webcam models. We have talked to one of them.

Trojana is a brave “live art” documentary that seeks to stimulate discussion around the webcam industry
Credit: Leonardo Linares

Trojana is a brave “live art” documentary that seeks to stimulate discussion around the webcam industry – understanding the very guts of it and making it visible. 

Producers and performance artists Andrés Montes Zuluaga and Maud Madlyn infiltrated the industry by working as webcam models – which they are still doing. Their aim is to draw attention not only to the industry and the models, but also to the serious problem of gender violence that porn both inspires and is in turn inspired by.

It’s hardly surprising to hear from Madlyn that she was nervous at the start. “Before the broadcasts started, I had a lot of questions and worries: Would I be comfortable showing my breasts? My genitalia?” she said. “But as the broadcasts carried on, I’ve found it surprisingly easy to take on the role of ‘the object.’”

One issue the show highlights is the economic pressures that push people into the cybersex industry. “It is a fallacy to believe that we are in ‘webcam modeling’ only by self-determination, the reasons in general are monetary,” say the producers of the live theatre performance which will include video footage.

” As the broadcasts carried on, I’ve found it surprisingly easy to take on the role of ‘the object.’”

Maud Madlyn, artist and producer

Webcam modelling is serious business here in Colombia. The country has the second-largest market in the world, and according to Semana, there are about 40,000 Colombian models online. 

In addition to the experiences of these trojan horse artists posing as webcammers, the documentary includes philosophical essays, statistics on gender violence, interviews with experts in psychiatry, criminology, law and gender violence.

Zuluaga and Madlyn have not shied away from the explicit nature of this theme. “Trojana presents images and language as we’ve encountered it so it will be shown without sugar coating”, the French artist and producer explains. Neither do they take a stance on the industry. “But we do ask a lot of questions and we hope the audience will join us in the debate and the conversation,” she concludes.

Trojana will debut in Cali on November 15, with showings in Mexico, the UK and Bogotá to follow in 2020.

Read the intire interview with Maud Madlyn about Trojana in the following:

Related: Top stories on Colombian art

The Bogotá Post: What was your personal motivation for creating Trojana?

Maud Madlyn: Our daily encounter with gender related violence and how invisible this violence continues to be. The figures are there for anyone who wants to look them up so on an intellectual level, we can all be made aware that gender violence non only exists but that it thrives on a worldwide scale. 

However, in our social interactions, it has permeated our daily lives. From catcalling to women ‘needing to be punished’ for their supposedly ‘bad’ behavior to feminicide, the scope of this violence is shockingly wide. 

And we want to contribute from our area of expertise, art, to bring this conversation out of the closet. Not only that, we want to approach it from an angle that is also kept in the closet: sex work & pornography. It’s a double outing if you will.

As artists and activists, Trojana makes all the sense in the world on a personal level. A capitalist patriarchy, violence against me as a woman and against Andrés as a gender queer person, constant exposure to a pornographic repertoire, whether that’s explicit pornography, social media, cinema or advertisement. It’s something we’ve been subjected to our entire lives. And we know we’re not the only ones!

TBP: How did it feel to be ‘on camera’ as a webcam model?

MM: You mean, how does it feel to be a webcam model. We started the broadcasts a couple of months ago and are still going!

The advantage of being the duo that we are is that we represent different “archetypes”. So we’ve compared ourselves in the context of what is sought after in the cybersex industry.

I’m Maud, with a body that is socially defined as a woman’s body, European born, pale skin, skinny and speaks English and French.

And Andrés has a body that is socially defined as a man’s body, Latin American born, tan skin, muscles with a little bit of extra weight, and mainly speaks Spanish.

We mention the languages because they are not to be taken for granted as most of the users who pay are from countries still referred to as ‘first world’.

In comparison and contrast, it’s been a very different experience for each of us.

TBP: And what was that experience like?

MM: Before the broadcasts started, I had a lot of questions and worries: Would I be comfortable showing my breasts? My genitalia? Would I be comfortable doing explicit sexual acts like masturbating or giving a sextoy a blowjob? Would I show all of me, just my face, just my body? 

A lot of the girls we spoke to during the investigation said that you could do whatever was comfortable for you. And they were right! I want to clarify that we’re not working with a studio, we are working as independent webcam models broadcasting from our home. One of the advantages of this is that, like the girls were saying, you can do whatever you want to without pressure. 

Working from a studio is different as you have people within the studio monitoring your interactions with the clients and there is a tendency to encourage the models to go all the way whether they want to or not.

When the broadcasts started, I was obviously nervous. Getting used to the platform and how it works, working out how to sell yourself, what to accept and what not to. As the broadcasts have carried on, I’ve found it surprisingly easy to take on the role of ‘the object’. And I think it links back to that social behavior I was talking about in the previous question.

For all the independence, entrepreneurship, rebellion and questioning I’ve developed, the role of the ‘pretty female looking object’ is something I’ve been trained and taught to do my entire life. So sitting there, looking interested when people talk to me, cracking some jokes, showing my body, moving in a seductive way…it’s a repertoire I had interiorised. And it took working as a webcam model for me to fully realize that!

TBP: How is webcam-modelling depicted in the documentary? Is it possible to cover a sexual topic without sexualising it?

MM: The show has explicit content and we’re not using this term as a moralistic euphemism. Trojana presents images and language as we’ve encountered it so it will be shown without sugar coating. Apart from the pornographic content, we also looked at the work of artists who use their bodies and sexualities as their prime inspiration for creating so showing examples of their work also classifies as ‘explicit content’.

This explicit content is put in dialogue with other aspects of the investigation which include philosophical essays, pospornography, statistics on gender violence, interviews with people expert in psychiatry, criminology, law and gender violence and our experience of living this entire process. 

We are not taking position against or in favor of sex work in general and webcam modelling in particular. But we do ask a lot of questions and we hope the audience will join us in the debate and the conversation!

Details on Cali-shows: Teatro La Máscara, Carrera 10 #3-40
Showing: November 15, 7.30pm and November 16, 4.30pm and 7.30pm

Confirmed international showings:
Pachuca (México): January 5 – 20 at Residencia artística
London (UK): May 18 – 21 at Cockpit Theatre

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