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Webcam tears
via Webcam tears

This artist crowdsources videos of people crying on webcam

Dora Moutot believes that emotions are more shocking than porn these days

Life can be shit. Life can be sooo shit for a number of – often highly subjective – reasons. Some reasons might make you want to cry. Hell, you might actually cry! You might cry for no reason whatsoever – I cry, you cry, but apparently it helps if we all cry together.

Personally, I don't have time to wait around for an IRL collective sadness to burst around me, but that's what Paris-based artist and journalist Dora Moutot and her project Webcam tears – now in its fourth year – are here for. Taking Laurel Nakadate’s 2011 project 365 days: a catalogue of tears – a performance in which the artist photographed and recorded herself before, during and after crying for a whole year – as a jump off point, Webcam tears is where people submit videos of themselves crying, for you to peruse at your convenience.

And while the crushing nature of throwing yourself headfirst into that much sadness might feel overwhelming, it seems there's a place for being sad online. Earlier this week we published an article about Sad Girl Theory – a notion brought about by artist Audrey Woollen that claims empowerment comes through being and sharing sadness online. Woollen said, “Girls’ sadness is not passive, self-involved or shallow; it is a gesture of liberation, it is articulate and informed, it is a way of reclaiming agency over our bodies, identities, and lives.”

Below, we caught up with Moutot to talk about the beauty of crying in front of your webcam and why emotions are more shocking than porn.

“Emotions are more shocking than a dick and a pussy today. People don’t know how to react in front of deep emotions” – Dora Moutot

What were your initial hopes for Webcam tears?

Dora Moutot: I didn't have any hopes, I was – and I am still – just crying a lot in front of my computer. I felt lonely and sad and I knew I wasn't the only one feeling like that. I was a Tumblr kid at that time and I noticed a lot of girls doing very girly net art about their feelings. Webcam tears was kind of my own contribution to this growing girly net art feminist scene.

I first posted a webcam video of myself crying on Tumblr and Facebook. I had no project in mind at the start, it was just to see. To see how I felt about exposing my sadness to the online world and to see how people would react to it.

It actually felt very good, it felt like saying "Look I'm sad, tears are rolling on my cheeks and I'm not ashamed. Why the fuck should I hide and try to not cry in front of you? What is it about? Not making you feel uncomfortable? Deal with it, sometimes I'm weak, people are sad and this is human and it's fine". It felt empowering cause I always felt ashamed when I knew I was going to cry in a public environment.

It's like a therapy. When you record yourself crying, it takes away the pain from you, looking at yourself crying is a really strange thing to experience. People had different reactions to it, some think it's pathetic, other think it's funny and some feel empathy.

I knew this idea would probably resonate within the Tumblr community so I asked other people online if they could record themselves when they were crying in front of their computer. A lot of people feel lonely and sad online. I then collected through the years, more than a 100 videos of mainly girls, but also a few boys crying in front of their webcam.

Could you tell us about the inspiration you've taken from Laurel Nakadate?

Dora Moutot: I love the work of Laurel Nakadate. I went to an exhibition at the MOMA PS1 in NY five years ago where she was exhibiting photos of herself crying. I felt very touched by her art, and somehow in this exhibition, I felt part of a "worldwide family of crying girls". So I got inspired and felt like creating a network of cryers.

What's the saddest video you've received? Or is there any video in particular that has affected you?

Dora Moutot: It affects me a lot when I receive a video with a few words about why this person is crying. When you know the reason of the tears, it's even sadder. 

Do you ever feel desensitised to sadness?

Dora Moutot: No, I always feel a lot of empathy. I'm always very fascinated by the face of people crying. It's so interesting, the way they move, the noise they make, everyone has their own crying style. They are all so different! Maybe it sounds like I'm a weirdo but I think it's hypnotising.

On Webcam tears’ ‘about’ page, you refer to the site as an 'emotional porn channel', could you explain that a bit more?

Dora Moutot: I noticed that tears makes people more uncomfortable than porn these days. I guess I wanted to start a conversation about "emotional porn". Emotions are more shocking than a dick and a pussy today. People don't know how to react in front of deep emotions. Society teaches us that we should hide while crying, it should not be a public act.

I guess i have a fantasy about a emotional porn TV channel, where people would expose their real feelings non stop. Unfortunately only Tumblr teens and cheesy Twitter accounts do talk about feelings these days. Although poems are becoming a thing again on Instagram, which is great. It (crying) is not part of the "adult" world, because you have to be "strong", and tears are not part of "strong". But to me, facing someone and crying in front of them without shame, is actually stronger than running to the toilet and hiding!

Also, there is a fetish called dacryphilia, where people are sexually aroused by tears. Some BDSM and dacryphilia blogs like to reblog the webcam tears videos, which i find funny and interesting! I didn't know that I had "sexy tears" until then.

“When you record yourself crying, it takes away the pain from you” – Dora Moutot

Why do you think people enjoy watching people cry on camera?

Dora Moutot: Because you don't have the opportunity very often to see someone crying from a close perspective! It's fascinating and people enjoy being uncomfortable if there is a screen in between! It's like horror movies, people like to watch it, but they don't want to be there when the real murders happens. People like to watch people cry but they don't want to be the one consolation to the sad person when it happens.

What do you hope people get from crying in front of their webcams?

Dora Moutot: I hope that the people who have easy tears will be less ashamed to be emotional in front of others!

How do you feel about theories like Sad Girl Theory – where artist Audrey Woollen proposes that being sad online is actually empowering?

Dora Moutot: I totally relate to the sad girl movement, I feel part of it. I actually think it's empowering. We don't have to be ‘super women’, who are super strong and pretend to never feel like shit. A lot of girls are very emotional beings and we should be proud of it, and celebrate it!

What's the future for Webcam Tears?

Dora Moutot: In 2014, I did a little installation with all these videos in a small gallery called Le Salon in Paris. But I'd love this installation to travel in other galleries around the world. It's a powerful experience to enter a room full of internet sadness. I like the idea of taking this content IRL!