You Need to Know This

You Need to Know This, 1:47, 2016

He needs to know what he clearly does not know. The sex is bad and the parties dull. The man peers in vain. The women tell him to shove it and laugh. The historical becomes distorted and reconfigured through the lens of the contemporary.

You Need to Know This is comprised of appropriated mutoscope* erotica footage from c. 1900 of a peeping tom watching women, combined with text sourced from a personal collection of spam email subject-headers for male sexual enhancement supplements. The appropriation and reconfiguration of this erotic footage, which originally presents the moving images from the vantage point of the peeping man, disrupts the viewing expectation and reclaims a voice in representation by subverting the expected relationship, censoring viewer access, and controlling individual privacy.



The re-composition of these spam statements into guiding directives is superficially humorous, but the underlying premise reveals repeated implications of inadequacy in terms of sexual prowess and relationship capability. The statements consistently imply individual failure and a lack of fulfillment for the receiving partner.

The email subject headers are composed in such a way so as to avoid the filters implemented by the email program – the email headers themselves almost never contain overt sexual references, but rather very much occupy the realm of sexual innuendo. These statements reveal the gymnastic zeal of the market to circumnavigate email filter systems, as well as the immensity of the online sex industry.

 This conflation of these competing yet simultaneously troubling perspectives merely scrapes the surface, but gestures towards the shifting ground of new relational configurations.


* A mutoscope was a motion picture machine from the turn of the 20th century, designed for viewing moving photographs, similar in principle to a flip-book. The content varied, but often contained erotica, individually viewable through the machine eyepieces for a small fee. The coinciding of payment and viewing of women in states of public indecency positioned these machines as morally corrupt.

Images: Mutoscope Footage compiled from What the Butler Saw (c.1900) & Mutoscope, Untitled
Text: Yahoo Spam Email Headers
Music: Fletcher Henderson & His Orchestra, Shanghai Shuffle, New York, 1924 (youtube)
Additional Audio: Sagetyrtle (

Nicole Rayburn 2016