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Pain in the arse, 2006

Composed of hundreds of individually hand placed photographs that have been harvested from the pornographic websites, this piece is not only a self portrait, it is autobiographical as well. It refers to a period of Hodway’s lifee where he had become disillusioned with the contemporary art world and its hype. He had taken a sabbatical from fine art to explore the potential of commercial art and the emerging new media formats.

He quickly found employment as a graphic designer, working in web development. At the time, the Internet was in its relatively primordial state of evolution. Although the firm he was working for had no formal associations with the adult entertainment industry, when between projects Hodway and his team of developers were encouraged to scrutinise pornographic websites – or more specifically, the technologies that they were employing. Why? As it strove to distribute, monetise and protect, its content, it was the pornography industry that was instigating the development of the majority of new digital technology at the time. Online payment systems, image and video compression, as well as site security – all technologies that underpin the internet of today, are just some of the areas that are heavily indebted to the pioneering investment and development of the adult entertainment industry as it embraced and shaped the new electronic media.

Pornography triggers similar reactions in the brain to chemical narcotics, and can be equally addictive and desensitising with regular exposure. The internet made consumption of this content even easier than buying cigarettes or alcohol at the local convenience shop.

From a distance the portrait appears oddly pixilated. As the viewer approaches to investigate the nature of the pixels, it becomes clear that each one is in fact a picture of its own. Natural curiosity encourages the viewer even closer to discern what they are. Once they have realised, it is too late. They become award of their situation. The viewer is overtly and publicly consuming culturally taboo content, and therefore becomes subject to the judgement of their peers. Once they realise their predicament a new challenge emerges. Do they disengage, to signal their disapproval, and therefore their allegiance to socially acceptable behaviour, or, do they maintain their scrutiny to legitimately study the technique by which the portrait has been constructed. Perhaps they wish to stay engaged to feed a freshly ignited state of sexual arousal.

The psychological principles employed reflect ones used in marketing and advertising, as well as coercion and manipulation. Sex sells. A seemingly innocent lure is presented, the victim is drawn in and incited to perform definative or incriminating act. Our carnal desires can be engaged to overpower logic and social conditioning. Once over the threshold of what is culturally unacceptable, it is much easier to stay there. The appearance of righteousness that has been lost cannot so easily be recovered.

The responses to this piece vary, largely by age and gender. Some viewers make a show of walking away as if they have been duped, others stay to inspect the pictures more closely. Others walk backward and forwards to identify at want point the larger picture becomes clearest. Almost all however look around the gallery to see who has observed [and judged] them once they realise the piece’s secret. It exposes the gulf between what we actually want to do, and what we are happy to be seen doing, as well as our fundamantal need to belong.