The Digital Porno Revolution

This page gathers my work in amateur porn, which I named Realcore. Below you can find the original concept. Some additional links:

Naked Lunch: Talking Realcore with Sergio Messina, interview by Mark Dery, from C'lick Me, A Netporn Studies Reader, published by the Institute of Network Cultures (pdf). This turned out to be the main reference text on Realcore.

• My book Real Sex, il porno alternativo č il nuovo Rock'n'roll (2010, Tunuč, in italian) is a collection of articles about Alt Porn written for Rolling Stone Italia between jan. 2007 and dec. 2009.

• From jan. 2010, for fifteen numbers, I had a "porn pictures" page on Rolling Stone Italia, called Alt Sex 2.0.

• My now discontinued porn blog, The RealBlog (2006/2011) in pdf.

• The exhibition La Rivoluzione Siamo Noi (2007/2012) featured large prints of some images I found online.

The word Realcore comes from the two general expressions used to classify pornography. Softcore is fully simulated sex; in Hardcore porno, actors perform sex for a photoshoot or a movie, using all the props of movie productions: lights, backdrops, make up, editing, special effects, etc. Internet amateur pornography instead seems to be much more concerned with reality: pictures of real people with real desires, having real sex in real places. This is why I call it Realcore. Realcore is deeply connected to the web; it began to happen in the late 90s, when two tools became available: digital cameras, that enabled people to take pictures without developing and printing, and free web spaces (such as the Usenet Newsgroups and later Yahoo! and MSN groups) that, at the time, allowed to publish them and to create free special interest sex groups. Then, apparently, porno accounted for the majority of all web traffic and it was mostly made of scans of magazines from the BBS era. But this material was very boring and repetitive (as is most Hardcore), and it covered only a small spectrum of human sexuality: the so called norm. Realcore filled the gap(s).


The very first sexual interest group that came together online were the BDSM and fetish communities. Since the 80s they had been independently producing their own photo and video material. Also, given the radical nature of some of their practices, they needed to share informations and tips, to meet, to find partners, etc. Their images were among the first examples of Realcore, and layed some rules that still apply to Realcore shooting style today: wide angle (to catch a whole situation and not just detail), long unedited segments, non-fiction quality of the narrative. The camera is often inside the action, and talked to; it films real people people, not actors. There's no make up or extra light: a low-fi style that makes the medium much warmer, forcing viewers to integrate what they see with their imagination. In Fetish Realcore (an immense galaxy of sub-genres) the people portrayed are often fully dressed, and sometimes they aren't visible at all, challenging the definition of pornography itself; very often here, porn is in the eye of the beholder. These images are radically different from industrial smut, to a degree that is unsurpassed by any other form, like music or art. What's more, contemporary industrial porn often employs a similar aesthetic, clearly copying Realcore.

Realcore is mostly for free: this is the ultimate evidence of the desire to be seen. An essential ingredient, because in Realcore, wether hetero or gay, kinky or vanilla, what matters most to users is the reality of what they see. In this respect it is often very similar to the News or Reality Tv (of the disaster kind). Who cares if images caught by a CCTV camera are blurry and the angle wrong? Something else is going on, and it's so much more compelling that quality doesn't matter (more: in HD it would look fake). And, oddly enough in the age of surgical perfection, neither does beauty: this is the revolution of the normal - most of Us, including me and perhaps you too. There are, obviously, many controversial aspects about amateur digital sex photography: privacy, minors, non-consensual violence or animals. But these are separate worlds: most of the people and communities I've come across are actively involved in both filtering access to their material from minors, and preventing the spread of what they consider objectionable images in their groups, forums and photoblogs. The rule is clear: only consenting adults.


Later developments, such as the creation of millions of sub-niches (for example there are many different newsgroups for breast lovers: big, extra-big, small, non-existent, saggy, with or without surgical enhancement, with puffy nipples or large areolas, etc.) and the complex interactive digital practices (such as tributes, homage photoshopping or real time updating or streaming via 3G cell phones), put Realcorers on the very edge of digital humanity. Many of them lead very sophisticated technological lifestyles in a very casual, unaware manner, and although Realcore has deeply changed the face of commercial porno, they managed to remain mostly free. True gift economy (with mutual satisfaction), special interest groups (as in the vision of web founders), advanced interactivity, digital lifestyle, challenging of beauty standards, bold exhibition of joy and satisfaction: if there's a message here, is one of positive change.

realcore 4



"Messina is the Margaret Mead of on the Net."

Mark Dery


Interview by Louise Bak with SM on Realcore for Toro Magazine.
The Realcore show will be in NYC on March 7th, 2009, Bridge Art Fair at The Waterfront, 222 12th Avenue, 2 pm.
The Realcore show will be in Chicago on Feb. 19th, 2009, as part of the Parlor Room Lectures series, SAIC auditorium, 280 S. Columbus ave., 6 pm.
The Realcore show will be at the SubFest in Brussels, on dec. 19th. 2008 Infos here.
SM will be visiting artist at SAIC in Chicago (jan/may 2009). His topics class will be on Realcore. More details here.
SM will be at the 3rd Berlin Porn Film festival. The presentation, called There First, deals with 80s BDSM german movies (10/24/08).
The excellent book Netporn: DIY Web Culture and Sexual Politics, by Katrien Jacobs is out. It features some pages on Realcore.
C'lick Me, A Netporn Studies Reader, published by the Institute of Network Cultures, is available in PDF. It features the Mark Dery interview with SM on Realcore.
Interview with SM on Realcore by Sexyshock and Carniscelte (in italian)
SM has a column called Alt Sex on the italian Rolling Stone (in italian).
The italian web magazine DigiMag features an interview with SM on Realcore, by Tiziana Gemin (in italian).
Fleshbot wrote of RC again, this time about the Realblog.
The Amsterdam Weekly published a nice interview with SM by Dara Colwell (pdf).
Rolling Stone Italia published an article on Realcore by SM in the september issue (in italian).
It's finally available on the Waag Society website the 4 parts video of the RC live show of aug. 23rd at the waag (stream and download). Special thanks to Sam Nemeth.
There is an in depth review of the august Amsterdam show on the web mag, with comments (in dutch).
A small essay, written for the AEF presentation in 2000
An overview of the Realcore Amsterdam talk (from the Netporn mailing list)
Sergio Messina's english website
Fleshbots' note about Realcore
Metamute review of the Amsterdam conference Netporn
The original Realcore research was presented at the Ars Electronica Festival in 2000, both as a lecture and as an installation. It was then called Brave New Porn. Wired online and reviewed that show.
Thanks to: Gerfried Stocker, curator of the AEC, for the first inspiration in this venture, the Institute of Network Cultures in Amsterdam (Sabine Niederer, Geert Lovink, Matteo Pasquinelli and all Netporn conference partecipants), Marije Janssen, Katrien Jacobs, Mark Dery, Barbara Degenevieve, Thomas Heijmans, Rolling Stone Italia, Waag Society, Rossella Moratto, Alessia Trama, Dax Parisini, Enrico Maria Milic, Melkweg, SAIC - and all the bars, clubs, festivals, cultural centers and institutions that hosted Realcore live.