Thursday, May 29, 2008

How Big a Bang Will "Berkeley Big Bang" Be?

It's almost here: Berkeley Big Bang '08. For me, that means two solid days of immersion in New Media art, in which (as the 2.3 regular readers of this blog will remember) I believe myself to be keenly interested. This may turn out to be the ultimate test, however; I'll either come out of this energized and motivated from two full days with "my tribe," or depressed and anxious about whether or not I'm really interested in moving in this direction.

It's such a big direction, you see. "New Media" continues to be wildly loosely defined. I was initially concerned when I felt like I couldn't accurately define it (see my previous post, What the Hell is New Media Now?), but it appears that slippery slope affects the organizers of this conference as well. Just scanning the program, it seems to be video, video installation, photographic installation, Second Life, "networked embodiment," film, alternative reality games, performance, music, digital design, and art/science interaction. There is a lot of emphasis on social networks and connection, sensuality, and experience. That word, experience, seems to pop up a lot.

The connection I'm making from all this is, maybe "New Media" is about how we experience the world in a new way that is unique to this particular technological epoch. I'm already lurching off in that direction to a certain extent. I'm either on to something, or I'm a day late and a dollar short. I suppose this conference will help me figure that out.

Day 1's theme is "Embodiment: New Media and the Body" and features a lot of talking about Second Life, including a presentation by Philip Rosedale, SL's founder. On Day 2, the theme is "Remix: From Science to Art and Back in the Digital Age." If you want to know more about the conference, you can check out the web site; the charge for attending is an incredibly measly $3 per day.

Immediately following Berkeley Big Bang is "01SJ: A Global Festival of Art on the Edge" in San Jose. If I'm not festivaled out, I might roll down that way Saturday or Sunday and check it out. San Jose seems to be working hard these days to position itself as a meaningful dot on the Bay Area art map. Even so, I'm not entirely sure who this festival targets. Ticket prices suggest that there's a "fundraising" focus in place: $75 for a day pass, or $125 for a "VIP Festival Pass." And it's not entirely clear what this covers aside from admission to all the arts venues you can make yourself get to during your day. Most broke artists, like myself, will probably go for the "Museum Pass" which covers admission to SJMA, the Tech and "Future Films" at Camera 12, and is a whopping $15. That works for me.

You can learn more about "Zero1," as the marketers are trying to get us to call it, by going to the official festival web site.

How big a bang will Berkeley Big Bang be? Well, I dunno. I'm still doing what I do and trying to expand it. Big Bang may indeed be a Big Bang for me, or it may just leave me feeling banged up.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Une Avatar d'un Certain Age ... Quoi?

I've spent more time hanging out in Second Life by this point, maybe more time than I should have, and I'm learning a lot. Namely, just like in real life, some people are just plain great to know, some people are jerks or weirdos, and sometimes a weirdo can turn out to be just plain great to know. (For example, the person with the best, most formal manners we've met so far also turns out to be a member of every S&M/bondage group or club in the Metaverse. It's not something he brings up with Asimia, though, so it's all good. They have mostly talked about international politics.)

Also in parallel to real life, people are damned hard to get to sign up for art projects.

I thought for sure I'd be getting a few takers for my project, Stroll. And I was hopeful to have a few for my other project, Une Femme. Although Une Femme has come to be based more on age rather than marital/relationship status, and it's hard to tell how old someone's avatar is supposed to be. The one constant is that everyone seems to be "not old." But there are plenty of "partnered" avatars (like Asimia's landlords, Jazzy and Hab), so perhaps for SL I'll shift the focus a little bit and make it about relationship-building in SL. Clearly, the metaverse makes hooking up for anything remarkably easy. What makes two people decided to "get married" in SL? And how do you stay married? Certainly in real life, there are decided rationales and advantages, both legal and social: tax breaks, the advantages of pooled incomes, inheretance issues, child-rearing, societal expectations, on and on ... (and some people say they don't see why gay folks want the right to get married!)

In SL, though, the motivations have to be different. The advantages, aside from the pooled income thing, are not the same and in fact are all but non-existant. So what makes a SL marriage desirable? And what makes it work? What are an avatar's expectations of this kind of relationship, and how are the different than expectations in RL?

And if those expectations and experiences were laid out for us, I wonder could we tell which was which?

*bing*. New art project ...

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

I.D., Please ...

Whoo-freakin'-hoo. Finally, an entire evening with a viable internet connection on the "new computer," which for the moment is fondly named "Hog."

Of course, I spent a lot of time "in-world" last night, picking up tons of free stuff and meeting people. I still don't have hair that perfectly suits me, but I do have a recommendation for a hair shop from someone whose hair I admired. I made a friend who gave me some really awesome skin and a pair of black leather bootie-shorts from her inventory. I've revised my clothes again; I'm becoming less of a watchful wall-flower and more of ... well, oddly, more myself.

This brings up an interesting point. Sometimes I feel a separation in my head between my avatar and myself; she's "her" and I'm "me." But sometimes there's no separation at all. In the middle of "Clothing Olympics" last night (which is something I seem compelled to do both in SL and RL) as I was changing tops, I had a look at my avatar half-naked in the new custom skin and thought "Wow, my boobs look fantastic." Not her, not those, but my.

This, I must say, is NOT a thought I've had about myself recently in RL, but that's not the point. Or, rather, that's a different point, and kind of an unintended one at that, and a pun to boot. But I digress.

The point I'm trying to make without cracking myself up is that I am beginning to identify with her. The more detailed she becomes, the more customized she becomes, the more I feel she is me. Oddly, I can sense that I'll be seeing parts of myself emerging through her that I thought were long-dead or discarded, things I would be if I had her freedom, her physical attributes, her mobility. She may even choose a different artistic path than me; she may become a rock star or a dancer, choose to be in front of the camera rather than behind it as I might have done if things, if I, had been just a little bit different.

I am thinking Second Life should perhaps change its name to Second Chance.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Horsie Wisdom

Last night, I could have spent more fruitless hours wrestling with the Operating System that is Trapdoor Panorama. Instead, I did something different: I drove out to the barn and rode my horse.

This is not to say that I have mastered Trapdoor Panorama; although it has features I really like, I am actively considering "rolling back" to its predecessor, which we'll just call "YQ". This would not be a long-term solution, however, as that operating system is allegedly not going to be supported by the manufacturer any more after this summer ... but considering the amount and quality of "support" I've gotten from them trying to work out the bugs between Panorama, my DULL computer, and our home LAN, the notion of an absence of manufacturer support seems almost refreshing. a picture of my big paint horse

But there is only so much grinding through bug reports and blog posts on lost network connections and stupid problems with Service Packs that a person can take in a week. Yes, it will put me behind even a little bit more. It means I will miss another Second Life Haiku SpeedBuild, a regularly-scheduled event that I am very keen to take on. It means the web site for my friend's campaign for Georgia appellate court judge will have to go un-updated for another day or two, and his stationary will remain undesigned until at least Sunday. But here's the deal: I needed to relax and be happy. And not much relaxes me and makes me as happy as riding my horse.

This might seem odd to the 2.3 regular readers of this blog, who may know from reading it that I had a serious horseback riding accident a couple of years ago—not on the horse I now own, as I had not even met her then. Those of you who are horsepeople will not be shocked that my response to an accident that resulted in four broken ribs, a fractured xygomatic arch and a subdural hematoma was to go out and buy myself a horse, and a fairly big horse at that. I admit to some degree of nervousness when I am thinking about riding her, but once I get on, all that disappears. She is delightful, even when she is being a complete pill.

I am trying to figure out how to turn her into an art project; if anyone has any novel suggestions, I would love to hear them. I think the most interesting thing is our relationship, the inter-species communication that happens, and all the ways she has of making her opinion very clear to me, even without benefit of a shared spoken language. There is also something about women of about my age and horses, maybe my "Femme d'un Certain Âge" project goes beyond the idea of women and relationships with human partners. Maybe I can write a proposal and get some funding. It's worth thinking about.

I will get back to the computer soon enough. In the meantime, riding is a good way for me to keep it real.