Tuesday, 11 November 2008

More SL Art in RL

My friend Ariel Brearly was asked to submit Little Red one of her pictures for "Synthetic Masquerade" a RL Art exhibit taking place at SomeArts gallery in San Francisco's Bay Area opening on November 6th and running till November 26th. She also pointed me to a youtube video about the exposition.

I have to say I liked what I saw. It seems to be a nice mix of pure SL Art, and virtual wold derived or inspired art with a focus on the avatar as a representation of ourselves. The RL exhibit is mirrored inworld giving you a chance to visit it too and that's a very nice touch.

At the inworld exhibit I found a notecard with this statement from Capn Kurka, the curator for this exhibit:

As technology becomes more prevalent in our everyday lives, much of its impact on how it affects us psychologically goes mostly unnoticed. One of the few ways technology allows us to mold how we perceive ourselves (and how we want to be perceived) is expressed through the creation of an avatar for either a game, virtual world or website chat.

Current studies show that by the year 2010, seven out of ten people worldwide will have control of an avatar.

The works included in this exhibit will show the public many different ways artists perceive an avatar and no doubt many of the works will be a creative reflection of deep personal desires and fears along with concepts of beauty and ugliness.
The word “Avatar” originally came to mean "an embodiment, a bodily manifestation of the Divine. Since 1985, it has come to mean “a computer representation of a user.” Since the 1992 novel SnowCrash, the term Avatar was used to describe the virtual simulation of the human form in the Metaverse, a virtual-reality version of the Internet.

Some avatars are animated, consisting of a sequence of multiple images played repeatedly. Other avatar systems exist where a pixelized representation of a person or creature is used, which can then be customized to the user's wishes. Flat GIF based avatars are readily found in most chat room based websites.

Do visit whether it be in SL or RL, it is sure worth a look!

Slurl: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Jamville/170/119/23 (and teleport to the main gallery)

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Firenze, the aftermath

Earlier this week Frank Koolhaas, curator of the Rinascimento Virtuale exhibit in Firenze, organized an in-world meeting to talk about the catalogue, answer some questions and catch some impressions. I will not detail all that was said since it ended up a fairly long meeting but let me try to summerize what was said.

Frank explaining

First Frank briefly introduced the whole project (quotes are edited for clarity):

Frank Koolhaas: this is a project to read on different levels. The first level is the exhibit at the museum. The natural history museum of Florence is one of the most important in Europe, and the building where the exhibit is hosted is the section of anthropology. The reason why we chose this location is the following: first of all giving a strong legitimization to SL art, hosting it in a great museum and then creating a relation between anthropology and this new kind of art. it's not just the art of a social network but an art conceived as a social network and that's completely new. It was made in Florence, the cradle of the first Renaissance. This way, we could suggest that these people, these artists, are the interpreters of a new Renaissance.

Then we have another level: the catalogue. It's glamorous, filled with art, conceived like a work of art by Cristian Contini (Grocon Emoto) It's also a document about SL art, a way to show all these great artworks to the ones who don't come in RL.
There are images but also texts. The texts...a crucial point because there is something to say. I firmly believe that here in SL there are many talented people, some very creative people. And doesn't matter if they began to be artists yesterday.

About 25 avs turned up for the meeting

He then gave the word to Asian Lednev who actually did the design of the exhibit. He put firm emphasis on what a unique chance it was to use the antropology section of the museum of natural history because of the juxtaposition of the old culture and this new digital one. The crowd didn't dispute this but critical questions were raised as to how the SL work was actually displayed in the museum. Some were very adamant it was even degrading how some pieces had been treated.

The discussion went on with Bettina Tizzy making a few points and asking a few very pertinent questions.

Bettina Tizzy: I want to preface by saying that I appreciate all your hard work, Frank, and the work of all the others who were involved in creating all manifestations of this exhibit. My concerns are as follows:

1) For the opening night, many SLers traveled hundred if not many thousands of miles to be there. They were
a) Not informed that there would be a catalog nor that it was not ready
b) Not informed of peripheral events such as the booth that appears in your flickr stream
c) In fact, they weren't informed of anything other than a very very cordial greeting by Frank, and that was nice

What they did find, is the larger blown up pics on the floor ... leaning against the installations. There were some thumbnails, but no explanation that these thumbnails were identifiers for the images portrayed in the videos.

I appreciate the concept of SL art being exhibited in an anthropology museum. That is a good concept. However, the implementation was was [so] poor, that it shamed me. I do understand that later, over the course of a few days, the larger images were raised and placed above the showcases. I have worked with many museums in my life and I realize how VERY VERY hard it is to work with them. However, I think that the association of anthropology and SL art could have been realized by working with the museum in another space, but under the "auspices" of the museum. Since you were obligated to work within the confines of what was already there. As I was saying to you in conversation earlier, Frank... I think that part of the problem here is that you did not convey some of these important things to those who had spent a small fortune to be there and placed their trust in you. Communication is a good thing.

Bettina, Cienega, Kynne & myself

Bettina went on to state that her main fear is that SL Art would become trivialised and that was the reason for her concern with the images she saw from Firenze.

The meeting went on for a good while longer but I think the main points had been made by that time. One thing noteworthy is that Bettina revealed they are working with some of the top publications in the world, even though she couldn't reveal details yet. She sure got me curious :-)

Personally I think the concept of a recognised cultural institute especially an ethnographic museum hosting digital art is a great one. It looked to me however the practical limitation of the place made it really difficult to truly integrate the SL artworks resulting in work standing on the ground or on top of high display cabinets. The SL works were added instead of integrated and that is a nice opportunity lost in my view. I think this was also the reason why so few works were actually shown in printed form. Asian argued it was a matter of poor resolution of the pics but I'm afraid to say that doesn't hold water knowing the kinds of sizes most people sent their pics in.

A pic by Mecca at the exhibit

I think another reason why people felt let down was the fact so many pics were invited for the exhibit. Asian mentioned about 150 different artists. Seeing I was asked to send in a selection of 22 pics (and from what I heard from others some had a lot more). That would make at least individual 3300 pictures and most likely a whole lot more. How can you expect to show such an amount of work ? Maybe a more discriminating approach would have been favorable or at least would have left fewer people somewhat frustrated.

As Bettina pointed out the communication wasn't really clear either. I assume some of that has to do with the language barrier. I've seen a lot of blogs and online articles in Italian leading up to the event but very little in English. Because of that I think the perception of the whole event may have been a fair bit different in the Italian community as compared to the rest of the world.

One last thing: I still feel proud to be part of it even if in a very small way. Unlike some others at last week's meeting I am not going to scream blue murder over the way my work was treated. I still don't consider what I do Art with a capital A. Time and the RL art critics will tell what future SL Art has. In that respect this exhibit was a first and something has been set in motion even if it wasn't perfect or what we had dreamed of. I certainly don't regret travelling there if only for the wonderful people I met. Thank you Frank / Mario for inviting me.

About the exhibit:

- it is still open until January 7th, 2009
- it consists of (according to Asian Lednev)* :
  • 150 artists
  • 46 printed works
  • 13 plasma screens
  • 30 electronic picture frames
  • 46 printed curtains
About the catalogue:

- It's been said that the catalog will be available to all participanting artists at shipping cost
- Regular sale price will be around 30 €.
- it is not sure when it will be available as it is still being printed.
- thumbing through the whole in-world version of the catalogue at the meeting place I was a little disappointed to find just a single one of the pics I submitted.

* I can't say these numbers correspond to what I remember seeing while I was there for the opening evening