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Antonia Hernández, PhD

Assistant Professor, Communication Studies

Antonia Hernández, PhD
A middle-aged person with short hair and a colorful poncho smiling at the camera
Scott Collins
Office: L-CJ 4.329  
Communication Studies and Journalism Building,
7141 Sherbrooke W.
Phone: (514) 848-2424 ext. 2542
Website(s): Personal website
Availability: By appointment.
ORCID: 0000-0003-3026-7614


Antonia Hernández is an artist and researcher. Her work explores the poetics of governance and the infrastructural dimension of intimacy, combining theoretical research with art-based practices to understand the fleshy, living and domestic aspects of media. She has presented her work and her research and creation methodologies extensively at conferences, exhibitions and art talks, and is preparing a book on the poetics of sexual webcam platforms. Her current research and creation project, Hydrofictions, investigates imaginaries about water, including financial and speculative ones.

Still image from "Maintenance Pornography." 2020
Photo credit: Antonia Hernández

Teaching activities

Fall 2023

Coms 274 - Intermedia I

Winter 2024

COMS 274 - Intermedia I
COMS 411 - Sexuality & Public Discourse

Research activities

Research statement

As a scholar with a creative practice, my research explores the poetics of governance: the forms that governance assumes, and the types of engagements incited by those forms. The awareness of this poetic dimension has a subtle yet subversive power, able to denaturalize normative structures and to suggest new connections between abstract principles and everyday activities. For this reason, I investigate media and technologies that are experienced on an intimate level (webcam sex platforms, pornography, online domesticity, water governance), which present opportunities to observe and experience affective engagements,innovative uses, and resistances. Given the complex environment in which these arrangements unfold, a poetic engagement both attests to the impact of prescriptive discourses and makes room for alternatives.

I cultivate a practice where concepts have a potential for action. A disposition toward movement allows for the encounter between ideas and methods, which I apply to theoretical inquiries, artistic research, and academic settings. Formally, I engage with abstract matters through practices that disrupt habitual meanings, using humor, play, poetry, or performative interventions as methods, resignifying the seemingly stable through unexpected uses or contexts. Through an original combination of critical inquiry and creative practice, I have contributed to media studies and artistic research by investigating technologies of intimacy,the poetics of governance, and research-creation methods. These contributions have been expressed through publications, artwork and media outcomes, presentations, the establishment of international research net-works, and community engagement.

Contributions to date

Technologies of Intimacy.

  • Materiality and genres of online pornography. I first addressed the technologies of intimacythrough a project, Corazón de Látex (2000). With this project, I participated in The Art andPolitics of Netporn (Amsterdam, 2005), the first academic conference on netporn criticism. Between2005 and 2009, this art project evolved into a popular media blog and a radio show in Chile.

  • Domestic Pornography. I investigated the overlaps of pornography and domesticity using videoperformance. This exploration was the subject of my MA research-creation project, in which Iexamined the online video roulette site ChatRoulette and proposed an alternative engagement tonetwork sexuality using fungi as its model of reference. I furthered this line of investigation duringmy doctoral degree, analyzing domesticity on sex webcam platforms.

  • Genealogy of the webcam. I traced the lineage of early personal webcams to contemporary sexwebcam platforms, identifying the genealogy of camming conventions. As most of these conventions pertain to perceptions of authenticity and closeness, I recognized the array of automated technologies that convey these impressions on a larger platform scale.

Poetics of Governance.

  • Erotic labor on sex webcam platforms through a social reproduction lens. To recognize informaleconomic practices in the field of platform studies, I considered the idea of reproduction in threedifferent ways: 1) as maintenance, highlighting the relational aspect of infrastructure; 2) as reproductive labor, emphasizing the importance of work that it is not recognized as such; and 3) as partof the cycle of capitalist production that relies on cheap labor.

  • Payment ecologies for erotic online exchanges. I mapped out two different sets of payment servicesavailable to audiences and performers, illustrating how discrimination is structurally enacted. I alsoidentified the use of custom currencies on sex webcam platforms as tools for exerting differentialexploitation and conveying affect on the audience’s side. This research has served as the basis forinternational presentations and an art multimedia installation (Rotterdam, 2020).
  • Digital gentrification in sexual platforms. Through my investigation of OnlyFans, a subscription-based platform for erotic content, I identified digital gentrification as one of the consequencesof financial discrimination toward online sex workers. I made this claim based on the recursive nature of popularity on OnlyFans, which perpetuates pre-existing biases and advantages those actorswith greater possibilities for outreach—such as social media influencers.

  • Visibility as governance. Through artistic research, I explored the ways in which visibility is man-aged on sex webcam platforms. In collaboration with Dutch artist Lotte de Jong, I created CurrentlyOff-Sight, a desktop narrative video foregrounding the testimonies of webcam performers. Thiswork was exhibited at the UN Internet Governance Forum (Katowice, 2021).

  • Poetics of Commodification. I investigated the genealogy and impact of water privatization in thecurrent crisis affecting Chile’s central valley. I linked this crisis to the neoliberal ideas developed atthe Chicago School of Economics that directly influenced Chilean water policies. I presented thisinvestigation as an art installation composed of short poems, a video performative intervention,and sound design at the transmediale festival (Berlin, 2023).

Research-creation methods

  • Maintenance practices as platform research. Drawing on my doctoral investigation, I have emphasized how maintenance practices can inform a relational approach to the study of infrastructuresand the recognition of reproductive labor in the platform economy. This approach has been sharedthrough public presentations, articles, and book chapters.

  • Constructing research devices for creative work. In my doctoral research I used a dollhouse asboth as a figure and a research device for feminist and queer creative praxis. I theorized the researchdevice as a conceptual and practical instrument for the development of creative projects. It has theadvantage of being self-contained, allowing projects to grow and evolve within a structured environment that facilitates their completion. At the same time, it is flexible, and invites the exercise ofcuriosity and worldmaking imagination. I have systematized this idea and shared a set of principlesin workshops aimed at researchers and artists.

Current and future research

My investigation into the poetics of governance and the technologies of intimacy continues under thefollowing three lines of research. Cutting across them is my inquiry into research-creation methods.

1. Critical fabulation for damaged environments

This research direction applies creative methods to the study of damaged environments, takinginto account that new environmental conditions produce new contexts and disrupt sense-makinghabits. Following queer and decolonial authors, I plan to develop choral and multilayered storytelling—capable of holding and transmitting the complexity, intensities, and convergent temporalitiesof such environments—and collaborate with activist organizations to develop creative tools for public engagement

The first project in this direction is Dry Water. Building on my research on the Chilean water crisis,I will create a multilayered account in the form of a poetic libretto, addressing the impact andgenealogy of water privatization in the region. More than a denunciation, this project will zoominto a mottled landscape where desertification coexists with unexpected blooming, dispossessionwith wealth, and where avocado toast requires a seasonal migrant workforce and massive watersupplies. Subsequent stages of this project include developing it into a multimedia performance.

2. Water Cybernetics

This line of research investigates the poetics of governance by imagining a cybernetics of water.While cybernetics abounds in human metaphors, Water Cybernetics interrogates the possibilities of water as a non-anthropomorphic model of reference for a more-than-human problem. In aspeculative environmental justice framework, water is both the subject of inquiry and its prism: a‘hyperobject’ that challenges notions of nature, infrastructure, nations, and fundamental rights. Assuch, this project asks: what would a liquid ethical governance be?

Conceived as an iterative and modular endeavor, this project will generate context-specific hydrofictions through collaborations with artists and researchers, each centered on a particular hydrosocialcycle. Anticipated hydrofictions include: the politics of snow dumping in Montréal; the emergenceand disappearance of quicksand in the collective imaginary; and the confluence of marble miningand anarchism in the Italian town of Carrara. These hydrofictions will be compiled on a continual-ly evolving repository.

3. Intimate infrastructural encounters

This line of inquiry employs domestic and sexual representations to investigate the acquisition ofplatform habits, the structural enactment of discrimination, the shape of networked intimacy, andthe affective dimension of new technologies.

These projects focus on everyday practices in platforms that offer sexual services. In collaborationwith Lotte de Jong, I will develop A Libidinal Housing Crisis, a project that mixes VR representationand poetry to analyze the affective dimension of the ongoing housing crisis through the rise of realestate role-playing in mainstream porn. Additionally, we are preparing At a Short Distance, a largeexhibition showcasing our combined projects addressing payment systems, maintenance practic-es, and the politics of visibility on sex webcam platforms. My book project, Cam Poetics, examinesthe private yet public spaces of webcamming, interrogating work and domesticity within onlineplatforms while drawing attention to the everyday practices that reinforce, modify, or subvert theirsignificance.

Still image from 'Dry Water,' 2023
Photo credit: Antonia Hernández
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