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The PG Lives of X-Rated Stars

A documentary challenging stereotypes about lesbian porn by portraying the everyday lives of the women involved.

I Love Your Work (PG) from Jonathan Harris on Vimeo.

It’s been a peripatetic few years for the artist Jonathan Harris. Much of it was spent in Siglufjorour, Iceland, where Harris lived in a church, before swapping his sanctified surroundings for a rustic cabin in Oregon. Other stops included New Mexico, Vermont and coastal Pacifica, Calif., where he stayed for 16 months before settling down in Brooklyn this January. Travel is integral to Harris’s anthropological art, which seeks to highlight the human, poetic side of our increasingly data-driven, machine-dominated lives. Relying on computer science (his major at Princeton) and statistics, Harris uses the Internet as his primary storytelling platform, and often chooses outsiders as subjects. His work has been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. In 2006, he and the M.I.T. computer scientist Sep Kamvar released “We Feel Fine,” a project that highlighted the human emotions found on blogs. A year later, Harris was off to Barrow, Alaska, where he documented Inupiat Eskimos on a whale hunt.

For his latest project, Harris, 33, spent 10 days in May 2010 hanging out with another marginalized group: women who make lesbian porn. The result, “I Love Your Work,” is a documentary that aims to break down stereotypes and misconceptions around lesbian-identified porn by turning the camera away from these actresses sex-fueled day jobs, and toward the quotidian lives of these women. “If you take that approach to any human being, the moments would be stretches of boring, and then brief moments of beauty, and surprise, and vulgarity. But the overwhelming feeling is a very mundane existence, and that’s the point: to be a portrait of a community of people seen through stereotypes, and not generally seen as ordinary human beings,” Harris said. “When you see a fantasy from within, you realize none of it is true.” Indeed, while the film includes nudity and frank discussions on sex and sexuality, much of “I Love Your Work” — like the scenes featuring the lawyer-turned-porn producer Jincey Lumpkin texting on her cellphone, or taking her and her wife’s sick dog to the veterinarian — is decidedly PG-rated.

In addition to documenting fringe cultures, Harris is also interested in how people share and view information. That’s why he’s limited the number of viewers to 10 a day, charging each $10 for a 24-hour pass to the site. There, they’ll find an interactive film comprising 2,202 10-second video clips that viewers can select from a sea of visual images. The 10-second format was inspired from the early days of Web porn, where free teaser clips would run 10 seconds long. “In the history of the Internet, porn has historically been the place where new technologies are tested before they make it into the mainstream, so the first sites to use digital photos, e-commerce, 3-D worlds and so on were all porn sites, meaning porn has traditionally been an Area 51-like secret staging ground,” Harris said. “With the 10 viewers, I wanted to create an artificial scarcity around something that’s not at all scarce. And this is also the first time I’ve charged for something, because generally people expect Web content and ‘porn’ to be free, and I think it’d be a great thing to develop a culture where people pay for good digital content. And this project is a push in that direction.”

Originally published by The New York Times on May 16, 2013

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