In her 2011 webcam video, Sickhands, Cortright poses before her in-computer camera, as her hands, hair, and body begin waving and rippling vertically across the screen, distorted by software effects. Capitalizing and commenting on the ubiquity of homemade video, the short film replicates with banal proximity the amateur special effects that thrive on the web. This rather cliched visual trick recalls a funhouse mirror, or, perhaps more aligned with Cortright’s frame of reference, a dream-sequence cue from after-school 90s television. As with several of her other webcam works, Sickhands is characterised by its playful and honest approach to self-portraiture in a ‘post-internet’ context.
Whether for a gallery or online audience, Petra Cortright uses the Internet as a medium, source, context and place where her work unravels. She is best known for her self-portrait videos created with a domestic webcam and then uploaded onto YouTube. The various effects that she applies to the clips are sourced from a variety of webcam softwares she has collected over the years. In her work, Cortright is the director, the actor, the editor all at once—allowing her to playfully explore ideas of the self and the body as it is represented in the digital realm, as well as the formal qualities of low-fi, homemade video. In more recent works, Cortright combines photos, gifs, memes, games, animation and even pornography sourced from the internet, mixing various forms of expression as means to meditate on the social ramifications of the medium. Cortright also creates 2D works—primarily Photoshop-based paintings transferred onto aluminum, linen, paper, or acrylic—where she overlays hundreds of digital layers composed by found samplings to simulate brush strokes.