VISUAL ARTS | Ana Voog and the anacam: “At the core of all of us, we really just want to be seen”


Friday, March 11, at Smitten Kitten, Minneapolis musician, visual artist, and writer Ana Voog will be presenting a photography installation featuring images cultivated from her anacam archive. Over the past 14 years, Voog has portrayed activities in her life—ranging from the mundane to the surreal, and including sexual experiences such as the conception and birth of her first child, over the Internet via images uploaded continually onto her website.

Voog started her webcam in 1997 on her dial-up modem, as one of the first 24/7 webcams to gain popularity on the Internet. Back in those days it took about a minute just to download a picture that was 320 by 240 pixels wide, so she had a video camera that captured a photo every two minutes and uploaded it to the Web. Later, as technology got faster and it was possible to stream video, she opted to continue uploading photos for her webcam, because she preferred the aesthetic: “Like a silent movie in slow motion.”

Her art installations have been shown at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, the Weisman Art Museum, and the Walker Art Center. In addition to her music and art careers, she also currently spends much of her time looking after her two young children, aged two and three. Voog answered questions via e-mail.

What was your reason for starting anacam?
I was signed to Radioactive/MCA records at the time, and they were sitting on my record and not releasing it because I confused them by getting a boob job and therefore ruining their idea that my first single should be “mother anorexia” and I should be marketed as some sort of female Marilyn Manson. When I got boobs, Gary Kurfirst (who died recently; [he] was manager of Blondie, Ramones, Talking Heads) said, “Now you’re just another blonde. So he didn’t know how to market me, as if boobs are the least marketable thing on earth. It was unreal. So I started my cam as a way to reach out to my audience and express myself directly and make some money to feed myself and pay my rent. Then my cam took off with seven million hits a day, and they released my record. Good grief, what an ordeal. But really it was just me trying to find an avenue to express myself and make money while still under contract with Radioactive.

What is your favorite moment from your life that you were able to capture?
I did almost capture it. It was the birth of my first born, Lili. She was conceived on cam. And also I had a homebirth with a licensed nurse midwife. So since we already had everything rolling 24/7 you got to witness my entire pregnancy and birth. The cam was not right up in it. But it did capture her birth that day. It was one of the most painful, beautiful, extraordinary moments of my life. No cam could possibly convey the feeling of that, but I’m glad I have some pix to reminisce and I’m glad I got to show the world that a woman can have birth without all the medical intervention. We need to trust in the process of our bodies more.

Is there anything you regret about the experience?
No, not really. I think it basically taught me a lot about energy and boundaries and it really separated the wheat from the chaff, so they say, in my life. I found out who my true friends were, even within my family. And I feel proud that was able to be courageous enough to be vulnerable in front of the world. I think too much remains hidden and we should willingly share more. People feel isolated and alone. All the “mistakes” I made on cam I think helped to show everyone that we are all human and vulnerable and make mistakes and then we learn from them and pick ourselves up and become better people for it. I’m still processing it, especially in regards to feminism. And I haven’t quite come a complete conclusion on that. I don’t know if I ever will. We try our best. Life is confusing for a woman these days. We are fed so many conflicting things. I think the cam was, in part, me wrestling with that. Where my place was in the world as a woman. Especially since I had been sexually assaulted and was needing to reclaim my space and power. I know that sounds so hippy trippy but this is the most accurate language I can come up for it at the moment. I feel still live in the dark ages in terms of how we, as a world, view femininity. I hope I was part of the solution and not the problem.

Could you talk about how the experience has changed your perspective about yourself?
It has changed the perspective of how I view the world. It’s too much to get into it would take several pages so I will sum it up with this one story. I had a chat room and at the time people from at least 12 countries would be in it. Say like, America, France, England, Brazil, Spain, Germany, Australia, Japan, Italy, Russia, Canada, Belgium, Norway…and I thought, oh my God, this is finally what I have been waiting for. This is what a “global” community it is. We can finally start achieving peace on the planet by learning about each other and not becoming strangers. I wanted to talk to each and every one about their culture and world views and what we could all do together as a global community to help stop hate and wars. But all everyone wanted to say no matter what country they were from, unilaterally, was, “Is this really Ana i see on my cam? Are you really live? If you are, wave to me. Do you see me? Wave to me, wave to me.” At the core of all of us, we really just want to be seen. To know that people know we are here and we want someone to acknowledge that and remember that. That was an irritating but powerful lesson. We have a long way to go for humanity. We are in first grade. But to wave, at least, is a start.

Were there any instances where you felt violated?
Yes, very, but not any more so than before I had a cam or before I was anyone “famous” or “on a stage.” Years before I had already been sexually assaulted several times by complete strangers in good areas of town and the most violating was in my own mother’s house, minding my own business, wearing baggy clothes. A man busted through my door like in The Shining and tried to rape me. I knew then anything could happen anytime and that rape is not about what you wear or who you are or where you are. It is a virus. And it is about hate, not sex. But yes, I had this same type of energy try to “shut me down” on the Internet. I received death threats. Nothing is more threatening than a woman in charge of her own sexuality, it seems. I’m still trying to figure out why that is.

Have you made friends from people who you met through your blog?
Oh yes, very many wonderful people from around the planet. I still keep in touch with many of them. There are many treasures out there. I am fortunate to be privy to some.

The reception for Selections from Ana Voog’s anacam takes place on Friday, March 11 from 6-9 p.m. at Smitten Kitten, 3010 South Lyndale Avenue.