On presence

Rereading yesterday’s blog, I’m noticing that in discussing semantics, I‘m slyly avoiding talking about myself… It’s so much easier to remain on the level of concepts then to really open up. Ugh. Let’s try this again.

I’ve been struggling with staying present with myself. I’ve been using all my usual drugs to stay high and away. I feel like the details are irrelevant but I guess that’s where the story is. I started working again. The new job has been bringing up a lot of my triggers. My aversion to expectations. My savior complex. My fears of exposure. My desire to please. My playing small. My paranoia about not fitting in. I’ve gained weight from trying to keep the pain away. That in itself is a trigger. I haven’t kept up with my project. Yet another trigger.

It’s been exhausting, and confusing. On one hand I go out there and behave my most mature ever, rising up to the challenge. But then I come home and it’s like a hurricane inside. The first three decades of my life, raging about, being thrown around, getting all mixed up. And I have no idea what I’m supposed to do with all this shit. I’m not sure if it means I’m doing well or if I’m losing it. Most days I just check myself out. I’m too tired to work on it all the time. Then it blows up in my face in unplanned and ugly ways, and I end up crawling on the floor, a few threads away from blacking out. The other day I felt like I was drowning in rage, wanting to break something to get it out, and I ended up screaming in a pillow, for the first time in my life actually being able to, so much so that my voice was hoarse for a few days.

I don’t really know what I’m trying to say because I don’t really know what’s going on. The one thing I am noticing and holding on to is that I haven’t been wanting to die. It’s surprising because it’s really high level pain. I want to believe that it’s not taking me there because it’s original pain resurfacing, stuff that was repressed way back when. So it’s blindingly painful when it comes up but it’s different from the pain of feeling dead inside, which is what makes me wish I was dead. This is more like a cat and mouse game between me and old pain, like an obligatory passage to gain access to more of me.

Anyway, so that’s what’s really been going on, what’s been eating all my energy. If I’m finally writing about it maybe it means I’m entering a new phase, maybe one that doesn’t demand so many exorcisms. Yesterday it dawned upon me, maybe it’s time for me to take responsibility for where I am, what I am, and what I want. Which, come to think of it, is making me feel like I’d rather do a whole other round of exorcisms…

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On being born

Last month was my birthday. What a reminder. So and so many years ago, you were born. Meaning you exist, now. I’m still uneasy about celebrating my birthday. Probably because I‘m usually too distracted asking myself, so, how’s existing going for you these days? You know, who needs balloons or cake when you’re assured an existential crisis?

I haven’t been writing. The impulse to apologize is there but I won’t indulge it. I just haven’t felt like it. I mean, everyday I wonder if this will be the day, but all these days have passed without it happening. And it’s not like I didn’t need it. I’m sure I could have used the solace that externalizing my inner monologue brings me. But I guess I didn’t want to, not really, not enough to be doing it.

This is at the heart of something I’ve been obsessing with lately. Doing versus being. I’ve been having a lot of conversations about the purpose and definition of art, and the closest I’ve found that I can actually hear myself saying is: art is the expression of the self outside of itself. So it’s the doing of the being. It’s the product of the soul. The materialization of the spirit. Meaning there’s no doing worth doing if the being isn’t being.

Just as importantly, I’m also embracing art as not restricted to the “traditional” art categories, and not dependent on the “traditional” idea of an artist. I’ve said before that I don’t consider myself an “ist” of any kind, I just choose to embrace or reject ideas or actions associated by “ist” words (feminist, capitalist, humanist, activist, etc, etc). I’ve also said before that I don’t believe there are murderers, only people who commit murder. Well, maybe same goes with artist. There are no artists, only people who make art. And that could be, how they write or how they see life, or how they sing or talk or cook or dance or love…

Isn’t it funny, I’ve spent the last two years defending myself as an artist, and what I do as art, as if my life depended on it and now, I’m basically trying to explode the concept altogether. Maybe freedom seeking is never a done thing.

I don’t know who still reads this, or what it might still mean, but to any other soul out there, I say a very artful heartfelt hello, from my existence to yours.

On that side of me

There is a side of me I do not know how to let out, do not know how to get to exist outside myself. I can feel it in there, present just inaccessible.

Well, actually, that’s not exactly true. It does come out, sometimes, surprise surprise, firecracker fizzing by, as soon gone as it was irrepressible.

I wish I could but I cannot summon it on cue. Definitely cannot fake it into reality. It doesn’t respond to commands. It doesn’t respond to anything. It only ever shows up when it wants, as it wants.

It’s the side of me you don’t want to piss off. The one that gets turned on by heavy metal. The one that loves hard liquor and loud footsteps. The one that can hold a lustful gaze for longer than most. The one that isn’t afraid of being called an intellectual. The one that truly madly deeply doesn’t give a shit what other people think.

I want to call it dark but that’s not quite right. It’s assertion. It’s self possession. It’s raw, unadulterated confidence. Not the kind that’s earned, the kind that’s just evidence.

Almost doesn’t sound like me at all. Except there is no me without it. Still, on those rare occasions it does make an appearance, it’s as pleasing to me as it is shocking to anyone else who thinks they know me.

God I adore this side of me. I would give it an altar if that wouldn’t make it laugh in my face. Irreverent. Radical. Unapologetic.

Yeah…. No, this side does not stay out of sight for no reason. Oh the sneer I feel curling up inside. Our true powerful nature. Ain’t that the first thing that gets beaten, ridiculed, coerced out of us? And yet, it can only be gone for good if we’re dead. To still be alive means we still have it, however deep it has to be buried, however elusive to will it may become.

I am still here. And so that side of me is still here. Well then, let’s keep lighting up as many fuses as can be found, and wait for the fire to get cracking.

On Magic Carpet

All of me laid bare on the carpet. The beauty. The flaws. The motion. The stillness. The searching. The finding.

I shot this piece last summer. In the dawn after my many months dark night of the soul. Digging deep within, letting something emerge from the silence I surrounded myself with.

Then I couldn’t watch it, couldn’t release it. Leaving it to sleep on a hard drive. I guess the waiting serves an important purpose. Sometimes it needs to marinate. Sometimes I need to let myself become ready.

Last week I finally watched it, in its half hour entirety. I can’t say that I really know what I’m looking at, beyond the first degree of seeing myself masturbating.

Skimming over the images it’s easy for me to be repulsed by it. I have to breathe very deliberately to actually watch it. But when I do, I find myself strangely mesmerized.

I see myself and I hear a plea, a prayer. For independence, for attention, for pleasure, for solidarity, for vindication.

There is so much unknown inside my own body and mind and soul. Unspoken. Uncharted. Unrealized. Part black hole, part virgin sky…

Magic Carpet (explicit sexuality NSFW 18+)

On my work

Speaking of making things happen, today I did my coming out. I am now irrevocably Rain Robert.

Here’s what I wanna say about my work as I’m thinking of it from the perspective of my friends and family:

My work challenges the notion that my sexuality needs to be private and that making it public is shameful or perverse or pornographic.

It questions the assumption that a woman’s arousal is something that must exist for profit, that the expression of her eroticism cannot simply be for her own pleasure and discovery.

It explores freedom of expression and freedom of consumption, freedom to show or to watch, to share or to judge.

My videos can look deceptively simple, there’s no artistry, no storyline, no real editing, no makeup job to hide behind. No specific talent, just real felt explicitness. Emotional, physical, sexual.

What do I see when I look at myself? What do you see when you look at me? When I look at my camera, am I seeing myself or am I looking at you watching me?

What does exposure mean? Where does the power lie? Is it the truth? What is beauty? What isn’t beauty? What is art? What isn’t art?

Is there such a thing as being overexplicit? An overindulgence? An imposition? Am I crossing a line? Why? What does it say about me? What does it say about you? What does it say about us?

May we feel free to ask the questions. May we feel free to not know the answers.

On inspiration

I’m also starting an inspiration series. I guess I’m into making things happen these days.

I’m keeping this space strictly words only, so this new curated series will be happening on my Instagram and Pornhub (NSFW 18+ Please be careful of harmful advertisement)

Yup, Pornhub. My thinking is, if I decorate my space, I will show up more as who I am. And there’s nothing quite like not following the rules of convention, so classical and feminist art feels just right for these walls.

Forgot to add: suggestions are welcome. Let’s make counterculture happen on Pornhub!

Update: Last night I took down my first post after remembering that I don’t own the rights to the painting. Then this morning I put it back after remembering that a 1887 painting is public domain. Oh copyright. Oh intellectual and artistic property. I forget about these things because my views are pretty out there when it comes to ownership. It’s why I use Creative Commons licensing on Vimeo. It’s why I don’t really care that Pornhub co-owns the rights of my work as long as I host it on their platform. It’s why I still can’t figure out how to earn money from my work.

Copyright will definitely limit the amount of newer feminist art I wanted to share. But I did see a photo of Frida Kahlo on Lena Dunham’s Instagram the other day. So either that photo is also public domain or nobody cares. I guess it all depends on why and how you share someone else’s work? That’s my personal philosophy anyway.

 

On opening 

My interaction with Resistimpulse made me realize something: not accepting friend requests on Pornhub means I never activated the lines of communication that were open on their own on Vimeo. It’s another symptom of my conflicted use of Pornhub. But this letter is exactly the kind of letter I used to get on Vimeo. It acknowledges the sexuality of my work but speaks of freedom and love. It’s personal and felt and respectful. It’s why I choose to keep my work online, for this kind of reverberation.

The thing is, I’m not using Pornhub to display a fantasy character or a public persona or to make money, I’m trying to use it to be a real person, more real than I would be if I kept my art private. I know how paradoxal this sounds, and I am aware that it might not work, or that it might backfire. And yet I can’t help that this is what I want, what I feel called to do.

So far my Pornhub experience has been mainly positive. I got my most critical comment this weekend (“shut yo hippy ass up you damn well know this aint erotic art”), and despite the shut up, which is most likely an expletive emphasis and not an actual request, it ain’t the worse thing you could say if you disagree with what I do. Of course I‘m concerned about what else might come if I interact more openly but at this point, all the fears are in my head. I don’t actually know that it would happen this way, or only this way. It seems to me that, again, by protecting myself I may not be empowering myself. And I may well be missing out because of it.

There’s only one way to find out. This morning I am accepting all friend requests on Pornhub. I’m opening the lines of communication. I will invest in my profile and see what happens. If I regret it, I can always change my mind. If I have a bad interaction, I need to create better boundaries. If I’m being offered something I don’t want, I will say no. And I will do it my way, following integrity as my north star.

On interactions: love

This letter was sent to me through the contact form of my website and is reproduced here with the permission of its author.

***

I stumbled onto your work on pornhub and was moved by your project Bloom. 

I sent you a message via friend request but noticed you had zero friends on that platform so I wanted to send you these thanks and love through here as well.

“Bloom was an amazing work. It felt like you were being born from the cultural expectation to be clothed and non-sexual, to be covered, and through blooming you were taking yourself out of cultural expectations and into a world where you choose to be you, naked as the day you were born. It was powerful. I read your introduction on your website. Thank you for spreading love. When I was a young teen being brought up christian the biggest revelation I felt while reading the bible was also the one that made me later question the organized religion I was part of. It was that god is love. It was so simple, and I felt any focus away from that felt like cheating, because love can be such a strong powerful positive force, if we were to concentrate on being better ambassadors and practitioners of love, would we not help heal the world? Thank you Rain Robert. “

grow and love,

simply me
ResistImpulse

***

Thank you so much for sending me your message through this platform! I indeed haven’t been accepting any friend requests on Pornhub, but your words are making me realize that’s a mistake, one I will correct asap.

Bloom is one of my favorite videos, it was a huge turning point in my work. What you saw in it is just perfect, it is indeed about growth, transformation and liberation. I can’t say that I knew that specifically when I made it but my images come from a non verbal place within me, and it’s always fascinating to look at it afterwards and spell out what I expressed.

I totally share your philosophy about love. It’s the most powerful force on earth. The lack of it matches it almost as strongly, but not quite, because even that can be healed if one can find their way back to love. I know that what I do is sort of controversial but getting emails like yours reminds me why I do it. So thank you.

Wishing you all the best,
Rain

On interactions: amazing

This letter was sent to me through the contact form of my website and is reproduced here with the permission of its author.

***

Dear Rain,

I don’t know how to convey this without sounding like a random creep from somewhere across the world. But I’ll just out and say it anyway:

You are amazing. I tend to be incredibly dismissive about Modern/Conceptual art – especially performance art in general. But after discovering your videos, I find you both as a person, and an artist so brilliantly captivating. See I’ve realised after many years of experimentation, that I really do not like porn at all. I find it so tasteless, vulgar and unenjoyable. I find that the people appearing in porn often act out unconvincingly, desecrating their bodies with tattoos, bling and basically ceasing to be human. There is no emotion or humanity at all – it’s scripted, or even worse, it’s so badly improvised it’s almost painful to watch. Most of the time, it’s saturated with too much of everything, too limited and too formulaic at the same time. More than anything though – it’s patently inauthentic. I always feel like I’m watching animals mate on a wildlife documentary. 

But in your videos, I see something different. I bear witness to a candid, vivid catharsis of human emotion. I don’t quite know how to articulate this – but I feel like I’m experiencing the paradox of watching a beautiful young woman exposing her naked body; exhibiting a confessional display of fear and vulnerability on the one hand, while cultivating this personality of shame as a uniform of bravery and power on the other. It is through your display of weakness and fear that you appear strongest.

What strikes me is how bold you are – how unafraid you are to reveal yourself literally and metaphorically. I feel like it’s more than a performance. You have a perfect body, and you play with it skillfully and elegantly, like an instrument. Reading your online journal does pose interesting questions that I have about sexuality – and the woman in popular imagination. I find your word posts to be rather cryptic and esoteric in nature- but I get the sense that you’ve endured some kind of personal trauma and a range of experiences in your life that numbed you to the threat of being exposed and naked to thousands of voyeurs. I feel like I’ll never really understand that. But watching your videos, I guess, makes me feel mildly threatened. In an exciting way. As if, my darkest, voyeuristic fantasies about female vulnerability and sheer indignity are actualised, becoming real, and are being used against me like some kind of weapon. It’s like you’ve discovered a harmful secret to the nature of mankind that nobody really likes to publicly acknowledge.

Rambling aside – there are things I’m interested to know – like do people you know personally (say your family, friends or people on the street) know about this artistic project of yours? If so, what do they think about it? I also noticed you have what looks like a wedding ring on your finger. What does your husband think about it too?

I’ll end by saying that I think you have the body of a goddess, you put it to amazingly good use, and that I, a young man with no taste for Modern art or society in general, can state unironically that I genuinely respect and appreciate your work. And no – I don’t consider you to be a “porn” artist either. If anything, I’d say you’re more of a niche visual artist, or even entertainer. But keep on doing what you’re doing right now. 

Lots of love from the UK,

X

***

Dear X,

I don’t know if I can sufficiently say how thankful I am that you wrote to me. I wish I could have answered earlier and I’m sorry if the delay made you feel like I didn’t appreciate what you said. The truth is quite the opposite. Your letter arrived at a time where a lot of intense things are happening in my life and I didn’t want to rush a generic response to what you’ve so sincerely expressed.

Ironically, I was in a museum when I received your email (I never go to museums so it’s a particularly funny coincidence). I had just spent the afternoon questioning my place in the world and wondering what my art meant. I sat in the lobby to read your words and they brought tears to my eyes, as well as a wave of pride that I am genuinely unashamed to admit. I still don’t totally understand why I do what I do and where the hell it’s supposed to take me, but what you wrote reminds me that it’s most definitely worth it. My project is not “successful” right now in terms of income or recognition, but these things could never mean more to me than the kind of reaction you’re sharing here. That makes me feel truly successful, like truly successful at life.

It’s a tall order to address everything you bring up. Let me start with your direct questions. The people close to me all know about my project. Most of them, like my family, don’t interact with it at all but just accept that it’s a part of my journey, which I am grateful for. As for more extended circles, I have just started the process of “coming out” and bridging all of my worlds. It’s been challenging. I am trying to overcome the feeling that I am imposing myself in a potentially abusive way. At the same time, I am learning to own how differently some people see me now. So far it’s mainly a positive difference. I am lucky to live in a pretty artistic and alternative community. Still, there are questions I still haven’t figured out about how to keep myself safe. So far I’ve managed to keep my location private but if that was to change, then I hope it won’t have negative consequences. What’s interesting though is that the risks I’ve already taken have resulted in so much more confidence and empowerment, that I think I have what it takes to handle it. As for my husband (well observed, yes I am married), he and I both aren’t conventional people and our relationship reflects that. Still, it took him a while to understand where I was coming from but now he’s one of my project’s biggest champions.

I doubt that I could ever fully explain all the reasons that drive my art but you are definitely right that my past has led me to it. I have very different views and expectations of life (if you’re interested and if you haven’t already seen it, I wrote a post about my story: https://rainrobert.wordpress.com/2017/07/24/on-my-story/). The only distinction I would make from your statement is that I am not numb to the threat of exposing myself, I am actually very aware, but I believe that the threat of not revealing my true self is even greater. Granted, revealing as much as I do may seem exaggerated to most people, but it’s just proportional to how much hiding and self denying I’ve done before. I also really mean what I do, and if it gets me into trouble, then it’s the kind of trouble I am willing to face.

You bring up such interesting questions about the nature and interplay of my strength and vulnerability. I have never heard anyone articulate their perspective the way you do here. I’m really in awe of the depth of your honesty. I’m glad you feel like it’s more than a performance. I don’t even consider it to be a performance at all. Before I started sharing them, my videos acted a mirror for me to learn to see myself, but now that they are out there and generate reactions, the whole thing has become something much more complicated and much more interesting. Anything I make now is a dialogue based on how I am being received. What I do comes from the inside out but how the outside reacts influences me inside. It’s fascinating really, and mostly it makes me feel very alive.

I will leave it at that for now. If you’re interested in continuing this conversation, I would be honored to hear more of your thoughts. Also, and this is only if you would consent to it, I would love to post your letter on my blog (anonymously if it’s better for you) and my response to it. I’ve been wanting to write about my interactions for a while now as I believe they are one of the most important components of my project. Your observations are so striking, I really think they are worth sharing. You are of course welcome to say no to this, I would completely respect it.

Again, thank you so so much. I think you are amazing too.

Wishing you the very best,

Rain

On interactions redux

This is something I’ve been writing about since the very beginning. I regret not having pursued it more. It feels like a treasure that shouldn’t go to waste. Every interaction I have with people who find my work means so much to me. They break the silence I try to hide in. They frame my work in ways I could never see on my own. They teach me about myself and the world we all inhabit together.

To be perfectly honest, I think this is the real art of what I do. Sure, my videos are beautiful and they allow me to see myself. And sure, my writing helps me feel heard and like I’m not drowning in my own head. But it’s the back and forth with others, the interplay of perspective from my eyes to theirs, the conversations that get sparked, that is truly remarquable. It’s not just what I do, it’s how people react to what I do, that is interesting.

I realize this might sound like a contradiction of my non pornographic stance. The whole I aim to portray my own arousal, not create it in others. But really it’s not a contradiction. I believe that the reason people are touched by my art (however much of a euphemism that might be) is exactly because I make it for myself and from myself. It’s the authenticity that creates the reciprocity.