A story of porn, piracy, and digital art

Domenico Barra
7 min readJun 28, 2017

(This text was written before the Tumblr ban on pornographic content).

Allow me to introduce myself, I am Domenico Barra, an Italian artist and a prominent exponent of the artistic movement known as Dirty New Media. My work entails the use of various digital media, approached with a critical and tactical spirit, to explore the different cultures conditioned by the use of computers and devices connected online. The speed of the internet has been a driving force behind my production, as I seek to unpack and subvert various online cultures through my works.

“…people could also enjoy this digital art physically…”

My website features numerous pieces, including gifs, videos, and still images that touch on a range of subjects such as online culture, content accessibility, words and poetry, autism, beauty, surveillance, spam, malware, emotions, and pornography. My interest in the latter can be traced back to my adolescence, where I dabbled in producing and distributing pirated porn material among my schoolmates. I leveraged various tools at my disposal, including scanners, printers, VHS recorders, floppy disks, and eventually, the internet and CD-ROMs, to achieve my goals.

“…the use of the body online that is totally influenced by The Media…”

Basically what I do is… [appropriation] via “save as”+ screen-capturing / [remixxxing] via databending >>> [producing] && [problemizing] distribution and consumption {of porn} via dirty new media DIY practices focusing on professional and amateur players in the realm of cybersex && pornography, the various (sub)-realities canalized&connected&&defined by communication toolz & peculiar languages influenced by the ever-growing and dynamic and shapeshifting inter(net)worked social/political//economical///technological scenarios.

If you want to know why and what I do please read this . . .

Dirty_New_Media_Art highly addictive

When I was in school at the age of 12/13, I started producing and distributing pirate porn material for my school friends. It was a little hobby and a small business too, as I charged for the costs and efforts. I took advantage of various technologies like scanner and printer, VHS recorder, floppy disks, the internet, CD-ROMs, and CD burners. Later, I came across glitch art while exploring the vast landscape for data bending digital formats. I was fascinated by how much the web and social media were influencing our relationship with our bodies, with others’ bodies, and with sex.

There was a massive focus on online production and distribution of porn material, especially amateur, and I wanted to work on this topic. I collaborated with jonCates and Shawné Holloway for a project called Dirty New Media and wanted to hack and remix the visual presence of porn online, experimenting with the web and digital formats for DIY production and distribution of Pirate_Porno_Material. My idea was to create with digital files what Brakhage did with 8MM films. Databending digital format for me was like bleaching, burning, and piercing film.

I wanted to use social media to make my works reachable and spread the projects on different channels, from Tumblr and Instagram to Facebook and Reddit. I used hashtags to make it easier for people to find my work, even though some might have been disappointed when searching for “real porn” and found “glitch porn” instead. I chose to publish my works on Tumblr because it allowed a lot of porn, and people went looking for porn more on Tumblr than on Youporn, as porn on Tumblr maybe gets perceived as more social and, therefore, real.

Screenshot of http://piratepornomaterial.tumblr.com [censored by Tumblr Porn Ban]

I was interested in the way that porn gets consumed online. Scrolling became the act of porn reading, and we never consumed porn this way before, infinite porn scrolling & chatting and fucking/masturbating. In this way, the computer screen and the Tumblrs were a sort of Internet-era Peep_Show where people enjoy porn at home on a computer desk screen or away on tablets and smartphone screens.

A gif from Pirate Porno Material

I combined a dirty new media / DIY approach and used databending as a creative technique using social media to make those glitched remixed works available. This was a good way to depict the reality of contemporary online porn and cybersex in the age of social media. The idea that people could also enjoy this digital art physically was intriguing. I created many different series of works on this topic.

Of course, when working with porn and appropriating online found pictures, it is unavoidable to touch more than one aspect of online porn and sex, such as the appropriation of other people’s bodies by downloading pictures and publishing or using those photos for different purposes. That’s why I made my databending very hardcore, making the original picture nearly unrecognizable. I only needed a digital image to start working with as raw material.

We live in times where we pay little attention to what we share online and with whom we share this content. We are little aware of the consequences of all of our online acts, especially regarding the use of the body online that is influenced by The Media. Even if sometimes a body online can lose its identity, I hope my works, approached critically, can bring up these types of questions in the viewer’s mind. People should think twice before posting nudes online, as online fame can cost a big price as revenge porn, bullying, and gratuitous public shaming.

PiratePornoMaterial 2nd 71, .gif, 2014

I also built a bridge between the offline and the online world making dirty new media pornography accessible in public spaces like streets, parks, bars, trains, and toilets thanks to the use of stickers and QR-Code coining the hashtags #DNMStreetArt and #DNMAccessPoint.

RED_LiNK_DiSTRiCT sticker access point in Chicago, Illinois, USA

In 2016 I was invited to go to Chicago where I had the chance to present my works and talk about pornography, the sex revolution, the Berlusconcene and the objectification of women on Italian TV, DIY practices for adult material production and distribution, the use of the body online and glitch art. The presentation took place at the Leroy Neiman Center of the SAIC (School of the Art Institute of Chicago) for RE: MESH.WWWERK/s: an international series curated by jonCates.

Doing that DIRTYNEWMEDIA talk at at the Leroy Neimar Center of the SAIC (School of the Art Institute of Chicago)

These are the slides that I showed during my talk…

Here below some of the works most representative of what I have described so far.

> Pirate_Porno_Material_01

> Pirate_Porno_Material_02

> Red_Link_District

> Dirty_Screen

TEXT EXTENSION + UPDATE (15 April 2023 #postchatgpt)

Online pornography has become a ubiquitous aspect of our daily lives, with the internet providing us with unlimited access to a wide range of adult material. However, the impact of pornography on our perceptions of our bodies and sexuality cannot be ignored. The way we experience online pornography has a significant influence on how we view ourselves and our sexual experiences. Pornography can distort our perceptions of what is normal and expected in sexual encounters, leading to unrealistic expectations and potentially harmful behaviors.

Furthermore, the production and consumption of adult material online raises questions about the ethics and politics of porn. While some may argue that pornography can be empowering and liberating, the reality is that much of it is produced under exploitative conditions and perpetuates harmful stereotypes and objectification of women and other marginalized groups. Additionally, the way adult material circulates online can lead to issues of consent and privacy, as well as contributing to the spread of harmful attitudes and behaviors towards sex and sexuality.

It’s essential to recognize the ways in which online pornography can impact individuals and society as a whole, and to advocate for responsible and ethical production and consumption. This includes a focus on increasing diversity and inclusion in the industry, allowing more space for minority voices and perspectives. Amateur pornography, in particular, offers a unique opportunity for individuals to take control of their own sexual narratives and challenge traditional power dynamics.

In terms of the politics of porn, it’s important to acknowledge that there is no single right or wrong approach. However, by placing pornography in unexpected contexts, such as glitch art porn on adult websites, we can challenge traditional notions of what pornography is and how it should be consumed. Additionally, by promoting a more social and community-based experience of porn, we can encourage a more nuanced and thoughtful engagement with adult material, one that recognizes the potential for harm but also the potential for pleasure and liberation.

PROMPT: Write a copy for this text adopting a more critical, academic, and artistic tone. Rewrite the text putting more focus and emphasis on the way we experience online pornography and how it impacts the perception we have of our bodies and sexuality. Also, write more about the way adult material, especially adult material, is produced, consumed, and circulates online. Write more about online amateur pornography also allowing more inclusion for minorities into the discussion of sex and gender freedom. Correct the part where I say about advocating for porn, saying that more about the politics of porn, right or wrong, I was focusing on the circulation of images, how people were copying, spreading, and reacting to porn online, and how I wished to place porn there where it was not expected to disturb the audience and also put glitch art porn on adult websites where people were having a social experience of porn and I wanted to bring porn as art in those communities.

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Domenico Barra

Digital atypical. Glitch Art + AI. Imperfectionist investigating a new sense of beauty. If you see a glitch, think of me. Firestarter at WhitePageGallery/s.