Monday, 16 May 2011

The Reality of Virtual Art.

I've been stewing and brewing on the topic of Art in VW's.

It started a while back after Man Michinaga posted a long but insightful comment on my piece about Sponsorship and Exploitation.

It would be worthwhile reading the whole comment, but, amongst other things he says...

"The issue is that artists who wish that Linden Labs would act as an advocate for them are looking in the wrong direction, not only because of LL’s mindset that the Residents are assets for free marketing, but that Linden Labs itself has lost a great deal of its ability to leverage credible PR for its content in the past years. "

"It’s not that we’re against Linden Labs; far from it. It’s that we understand that they don’t understand the art and festival world because they’re a software company, and high artists are a) not amateur assets, and b) don’t really care if they’re famous in Second Life."

Now, I hope I'm not taking this out of context, but it very closely resembled a conversation I had the day before with White Lebed where she said, as does Man, that to really promote the SL Arts there would have to be a concerted effort to connect to RL arts groups (Man's point) or do some seriously good PR (both Man and White pointed to this).

Now, add to this the obvious but necessary point that SL is a software company, (maybe not even that, they rent server space) not an arts organisation and it is rather obvious that it just isn't going to happen..... and so.... is the LEA as insignificant as passing wind in a thunderstorm?

But there is something that holds me back from fully endorsing the idea that the Arts in VWs need to align themselves to RL Arts (organisations), apart from the fact that there aren't mature or functioning groups that back Digital Art.

For, while everything that both White and Man pointed out is 100% true, I feel that there is another dimension.

Alpha Auer wrote a post back in 2009 (in NPIRL's great blog) about Art ... The Work of Art in the Age of Computational (re) Production, which I consider to be a very important piece.
In it she points to the way that RL Art has lost it's way and how Virtual Art has, to a far greater degree than RL Art, the ability to transform through play. Art in VW's has the possibility of instigating Behavioural Change, she relates how artist friends of her bemoan the fact that wearable art doesn't get worn ..... unlike Nekko tails in Virtual Worlds....

[is our fascination with Lady Gaga, Aladdin Sane, Mick Jagger etc. a desire to see this transformation around us?...(Johnny Depp as pirate could stay at my place permanently) ... of course, unlike these part-time transformations, avatars don't have to 'dress down' ... ever.]

In her piece Alpha mentions Brian Sutton-Smith, a man who believes that evolution itself is dependent on play.... not just a thing we should grow out of....but the instigator of change.

Now, I consider myself to be fairly bright, and I have been trying for two years now to envisage how someone in RL can walk in a soror Nishi forest. I have not found a solution that is possible with todays technology. Assuming therefor that I am not stoopid ... the following logical conclusions are that we are technologically pushing the limits of what is possible and this is New Art

So, if my experience of the Art World (business) in RL and Alpha's theory of the loss of meaning/direction (usefulness) of Art is a partial or complete analysis of RL Art ..... would I want to ally myself to Art (organisations) lost in this mess?? Does New Art need to align itself with the Old Fine Arts in order to promote it's own credibility? ... or is it just a question of time...

Are we just being impatient? This is a new medium.... and a body of work takes a long while to develop.

It may be Alpha. or some other commentator, who pointed out that it will be years before Digital Art is accepted into the RL Art community in the same way as, for example, photography has recently been accepted. I say recently ... photography was invented and used for decades before it became seen as an artform.

Then, today, I read this post by Botgirl and I also had a sort of waking up experience.

My waking up was to realise that, as music fills the air, not a segment of it... so does Art in VWs. There is nothing that isn't art. Very similar to my objection to the use of the word "Immersive" to describe a sim (i.e. show me one part of SL/VWs that isn't immersive) .... show me one prim of SL/VW that isn't Art.

As I wrote last year "Art in SL is different. There is no difference between Artist and Artisan in SL.
That means.... there is no difference between a great pair of shoes and some twirly rotating anim smooth sculpture...both are High Art."

So...the semantically inclined might say..."well, that depends on your classification of art..." Mine has, hitherto, been the "long, immense and deliberate derangement of the senses" [Rimbaud]...I haven't found a better one yet... and every prim fills that definition.

So, the question still remains, can we get some better PR? Do we need it?.... hmmm ... well, I know someone said that if you make a better mousetrap the world will beat a path to your door ..... and while I'm not planning a JFK "ask not what LL can do for you..." solution, I do wonder if we need to organise ourselves better, content creators and artists alike...

.... and do that thing we do so well....i.e. international, multi disciplined, collaboration.... on PR, not another piece of art.



  1. My frustration is that I have seen virtuality begin to explore itself two times. It is the equivalent of Lewis & Clark stopping mapping at the Ohio River.

    I think we DO need better PR. We also need it from the people who inhabit and explore this medium, who are grappling with understanding, who have a vision. Not from someone who wishes to shape that PR into something profitable...

    As things go nowadays, it would be like badgering Einstein about every scribble or calculation he made, every addition or algebraic equasion, constantly, sniffing for profit; or grabbing every test tube Madam Curie used and attempting to "commodify" the peripherals without seeing the big research picture.

  2. Excellent thought provoking post.
    I think the answer lies in attitude. Whenever we partition ourselves into a comfortable slot (like ‘virtual world artist’) or one place (virtual worlds) we limit ourselves. We put a box around our practice, limit our audience, and blunt our perception of where we stand in relation to other possibilities and wider contexts.
    The art scene in virtual worlds is often insular and self-congratulatory. There is little rigorous debate or criticism (I do think though that this is slowly changing). Much of the audience is made up of fellow virtual world artists. That is not to say there are not exceptional artworks produced and very talented individual artists working in SL. I merely remark that it is mostly a closed circle with few artists taking their practice outside the box (as Man pointed out they are often barely known on the inside).
    If the world is the medium then should we as artists being doing more to introduce it to audiences outside the box? Are virtual world artists like a bunch of oil painters living in an oil paint factory, revelling in and congratulating ourselves on what they can do with their oil paints?
    I don’t think it’s a question of using arts organisations or doing PR, I think it’s up to individual artists and perhaps curators to broaden their own practices.

  3. The term art ranging from Michelangelo to a playing card, which turns into a rabbit

  4. I wonder whether blended/augmented reality may be one bridge. Technologies already here that would allow you to place your trees, say in London, and have people view them in situ with AR software on their mobile devices.

    On the credibility issue, I think Banksy's "Exit Through The Gift Shop" points to how surreally fucked up that whole concept is. One challenge is that as far as I know, no one has figured out a way to inject virtual works into the mainstream collector ecosystem. Maybe one of a kind trees embedded in a holographic projector? :)