Ela Darling-Helmed Art Show Brings VR Porn to Mainstream
LOS ANGELES — "This breaks the box. It takes you there.”
CAM4VR’s VR content manager Ela Darling is talking about virtual reality porn, which was the main attraction at L.A. Space Camp Gallery in downtown Los Angeles last night.
A predominantly mainstream crowd waited in line for hours to experience virtual reality porn firsthand — and one night only — at “Sex in the 21st Century,” a sex-positive, futuristic art show.
After a long wait, made tolerable by ample free wine and erotic art adorning the walls, attendees were able to spend two minutes alone with a performer in the intimate confines of VR.
By donning a head-mounted device (HMD) and popping in ear buds, you found yourself in front of Darling, Sovereign Syre, Nenetl Avril, Layla Savage, or whoever was camming at the moment. They stripped, teased and rode a Sybian for the viewer’s pleasure.
Look left and you could peer into the performer’s bathroom, turn further and you could see the computer she was performing in front of. Look right and you could see other viewers’ real-time comments broadcast in 3D. The box Darling referred to — square viewing confines dictated by the limits of phone, TV and movie screens — was obliterated.
“It allows you a certain amount of proximity and connection that other camming just doesn’t,” said Avril, who gave her first VR camming show that night. Once a skeptic — she felt that VR camming required too much effort for the user — she said she is now a believer in the power and erotic allure of VR.
“The appeal of old school camming is that you get to see a performer in their space and in their environment,” Avril said. “With VR, you’re in there.”
“There’s a much deeper sense of connection and empathy,” Darling agreed. “There’s a deeper communication of personhood regarding the people that you’re watching, within porn in particular. You tend to see them more as a person that you relate to rather than flesh on the screen.”
Attendees frequently came out of the VR booth looking sweaty and disoriented. As Darling put it, “Even if you think you know what you’re getting into, the first time you try VR, you realize you’re wrong.”
The technology is far from perfect — there are inevitably glitches and lagging images — but it’s unlike any other media experience around. Once you put on the HMD, the rest of the world seems to fall away.
Space Camp founder and event co-organizer Flynn Helper originally planned on launching a VR-only show with five different immersive experiences. However, the other VR artists and content creators refused to participate alongside an adult demo. His assistant curator even quit over the show.
“After all that pushback, I was like fuck all these people,” he said, “I’m going to do a sex-positive show because, after this, that’s what needs to happen.”
Helper handpicked the fine artists who participated in the show, including Eric Potts, Angie del Rosario, Vanessa Bieler, Ammon Rost, Scott Slagerman, Alberto Bevacqua and Charles Lowrie.
The pieces on display ranged from gorgeous handmade glass dildos to bondage-focused photography to artsy, nude snapshots. A large glass purple clitoris sculpture held court in the middle of the room.
Bevacqua, who creates custom metal bondage pieces for each model he shoots, said he left fashion and product photography to pursue non-commercial photography. He mounted some of the constraints on the photos to be sold together.
Although the VR demo was a one-night-only experience, the show will run for another two weeks.
L.A. Space Camp is located at 603 E. 4th St., Los Angeles, Calif., 90013.