[Yasmin_discussions] Orality, Communication, and the affective impact of Virtuality

Lichty, Patrick plichty at colum.edu
Sun Nov 8 19:11:26 EET 2009

Hello, everyone...

I was asked to contribute on behalf of Wafa Bourkhis in response to her workshop in Tunisia having to do with "noise ratio", or the effect of marine noise on wildlife, especially cetaceans.

I've been asked several questions by Wafa for inclusion here:

1: Give a brief intro to Second Front.
2: Let us know what your participation in the Noise Ratio event was.
3: Does Second Life represent a new Oral culture
4: What do we call art made in virtual worlds?  Is it new?
5: What is the beauty in Second Life?  How does it relate to the transmission of experience in traditional, or oral sense?

1: Second Front
We are (most likely) the oldest and largest ongoing performance art collective in Second Life.  We have had 7-9 members, and we range from San Francisco to Milan, Italy. SF has a great cadre of established & emerging artists, and whiel we began in a form of Dada theatre, we have embraced the Cage/Kaprow/Hansen "Happening" model, while incorporating references to contemporary performance artists like Gomez-Pena, Abramovic, Anderson, and others.

So far, we have doen over 40 performances, 35 of which are unique, and we have released our third DVD.

2: Noise Ratio
Wafa Asked us to collaborate in the symposium, where we decided to do a piece we called "noise Ratio"

We arrived with numerous dophins in tow, Second Front gamboling and frolicking with them in the seas of the Mediterranean.
At one point, the subterranean noise caused the dolphins to go mad, hemorrhage and die.
After the carnage, we were left to reflect on our feelings as a group.  Gazira Babeli, rampaged through the site with a wooden mallet, punishing all that were complicit with the act; most of us merely took places to mourn the dead.
Because the site was no carpeted in dead dolphins, we were forceably ejected from the site.

We felt that the performance was highly successful in that in the beginning it evoked the joy of the lives of our partners in the sea, but then the severe affective reaction to the dead, eliciting out ejection.

3: In wondering about orality in Second Life,  I refutrn to my thoughts on the Internet as an oral culture.  While much of the Net is relatively stable, and the current net culture is merely a recapitulation of the preexisting cultural pyramid (except in terms or power, which print on demand circumvents), only a small amount of material is committed to the "atomic" record of books and print.  therefore Second Life, as a proprietary platform in an ephemeral medium, is only preserved persistently by culture in terms of writing, video, and less so in blogs.  The average site in SL (anecdotally) lasts perhaps 3=6 months. And because of the user-created aspect of it, there is little static content, making it less stabel than the larger Internet by far.

Therefore, I classify Second Life as a largely oral culture.

4: To call Second Life art anything specific is to conflate the container with the content.  there is virtual sculpture, interactive installation, performance, spatial composition - all of which can be called "Virtual Worlds Art" within the larger Genre of New Media and Emergent Practices.  In that I realize that curators, scholars and critics need mnemonics to quickly work with genres, I woudl call is virtual worlds art that engages with a given subject matter.

The importance of this classification is that it allows us to step aside from the New Media classification and allow us to link art happening in virtual worlds to contemporary art with the same criteria of rigor, craft, criticality and affect of the physical work.

5: Beauty is a problem for me, being raised in Conceptualism and Postmodernism.  Beauty has been dealt severe blows by Duchamp by detaching art from the retina, by Warhol in making beauty banal, and by Serrano and Murakami in the ambivalence of horror and beauty.  but perhaps this is an artifact of our times.

Beauty, nevertheless, still resonates in the peeling away of paint in Richter and Murakami's work, the affect of Tiravanija and July, and so on.  This can also translate to she screen, but environments like Second Life can seem beautiful if we just allow ourselves to be seduced by the idealized forms and the candy-colored light from the screen.  My thought is that perhaps if there is beauty, or I would prefer to call transcendentally affective, I think that it comes from the relational nature of it and the ability to realize forms with a theatricality unattainable in the physical world.  And we can congregate from across the world at the same time and share it.

I realize there are access issues around the world, but neither do I feel that this should disallow us from exploring these forms.

Thanks for your time, and I hope this is helpful.

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