Friday, February 27, 2009


There is something about conference presentations that brings out the curmudgeon in me. Really, nothing gets me going worse than some over-degreed sufferer of OFS (Omnipotent Faculty Syndrome) honking vociferously about the "dangers" and "fallacies" of something I happen to be immersed in, and with which he has, in all probability, no actual experience whatsoever.

Today's winner of the "Not This Again" award shall remain nameless, but the focus of his terse little academic tirade was essentially to attack both the idea that computers can inspire and enhance creativity and the veracity of online communities. "It's not that I think these groups aren't important in some way," he said smugly, the OFS leaking out of the very pores of his skin, "it's just that I have a hard time calling them communities. "

If you're one of the 2.3 regular readers of this blog, you know that I am very passionate about online communities, not only as a forum for artwork and artistic exchange, but also as a social platform. Basically, Mr. OFS was saying that my entire artistic thesis is invalid and possibly even damaging to society. He then went on to blather a bit about the "dangerousness" and "isolation" that computers inspire ... which is thinking basically contemporary to the 1970s and Alvin Toffler's book Future Shock.

Really, sir. It's 2009. Have you not been paying attention for the last 30 years?

This is when my inner curmudgeon got the best of me. In another time, I would have sat quietly and tried to take in this point of view so antagonistic to my own, so completely informed by nothing even remotely resembling my experience. I would have tried to question my own ideas and reactions, and tried to comprehend where the speaker was coming from.

Today, I got up and left.

There is something to be said for being open to opposing points of view and interpretations of expereince that do not mirror our own. But there is also something to be said for believing in your own path. While I do the best I can to let the waters of life wash over me without stress, I also now feel that, if the water is too cold, I have not just the option but possibly the responsibility to get up and move to a different spot.

Artists face this challenge on a regular basis. What we do is often misunderstood or even denigrated. It is often labeled "elitist" or "pointless" or "unproductive." Or, even more frustrating, "easy." How many abstract painters have heard someone standing in front of their work mutter "my kid could do that"? How many photographers working in the field have been beseieged by strangers toting camera phones or all-automatic SLRs who blithely announce "oh, I'm a photographer too"?

Are we contributing members of society or not? It's not a question your average engineer ever gets asked.

It's enough to bring out the curmudgeon in anyone.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


It's my second day at CAA, and all I can think is "beige."

The sessions I've been to have not been so good, leaving me thinking that either 1) this is a way of considering things that is so completely foreign to me that I cannot understand it or 2) academics can suck the life out of anything. So far, out of three sessions that made even the briefest mention of Second Life, I have seen the same two really impossibly annoying and small-minded projects (in my humble opinion) extensively referenced like they were the second coming of Jesus ... although one presenter's style and contextualization suggested her comments were heavily tongue-in-cheek. I have watched otherwise lively and engaging people become stiff and boring behind the podium. I have heard the most exiciting things I know of in art rendered superfluous and dull by rote, bloodless presentations.

Oh well. At least I had a nice lunch today.

Our long-labored-over show "@" has its opening reception in just a few hours. I still need to make a run to the hotel business center to get the curatorial statement printed out, and maybe a few copies made as well, but I think we are basically set ... and if we aren't there is not much I can do. I think a pre-show cocktail is in order.

More later. With photos.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Planes, Explains, and Automobiles ... CAA 2009

Well I made it to L.A. The drive from the airport to the hotel was longer than the flight from Oakland to Los Angeles, and as the hotel is a fair distance from the convention center, it looks like a lot of time is going to be spent standing around waiting for shuttle busses. I was torn tonight between heading off the the Gala and just going to bed at 8 pm, but I wound up not doing either ... I was digging my room service when my delightful co-curator called and I wound up whipping out a curatorial statement for the show ... which is only fair.

(My co-curator is quasi-famous in Second Life, where his avatar goes by the fabulously schizophrenic name of Rubaiyat Shatner. He is kind of the embodiment of that dichotomy. I like him very much. His avatar calls himself a Futurist. I once knew in real life a delightful person whose literal job title was "futurist," he was frequently hired to speak at conferences I attended on future trends and their potential impact on a particular industry. He once told me that the thing he liked best about being a futurist was "by the time the future gets here, the check's already cleared.")

Anyway, working on this show has been an eye-opening experience in a lot of ways. There are some astonishing technological feats on display, both as artwork and as the guts of the show's mounting, which is in and of itself something of a work of art. One of the best things has definitely been the friends I've made among other artists ... people who are geniune, fun, interesting, smart, and open. I'd met other artists in Second Life before, and found them to be clique-ish and slightly snotty, very much members of an "in crowd" performing for other members of the same "in crowd."

In the wise words of my new friend Mencius, "those people are NAIRL." (Not Artists In Real Life. Okay, so that's a little bit of an in-joke in and of itself, sorry.)

The other eye-opening thing is that these people seriously seem to have NO IDEA about promotion. None. Not a droplet. Not an iota. Zero. Zip. Nada. Maybe I just don't understand the crowd, but I'm thinking I'm going to have to run one of these puppies myself from beginning to end just to see what would happen if things were well and seriously promoted. Maybe my keen interest in New Media needs to expand into a more active role in the New Media Caucus. Maybe. (In my copious spare time, no doubt, but there we have it.)

Monday, February 23, 2009

Where You "@"?

It's almost time for another meeting with my tribe, aka the College Art Association conference. I'll spend four days surrounded by artists, academics, and artist-academics, plus the usual scary collection of freshly-minted art degree holders looking for work. (I am not freshly minted, but will, in fact, be looking for work.)

However, the most important aspect of CAA for me this year will be New Media Caucus exhibition "@" . This is not just because I have it in my head that I am keenly interested in new media (which you will know if you are one of the 2.3 regular readers of this blog), but also because I am one of the curators. I worked with James Morgan on the Second Life aspect of the show. James is sorta kinda famous in Second Life as the founder of Ars Virtua.

The reception will take place simultaneously in both "real life" and Second Life, as does the show itself.

New Media Caucus Reception: for the Exhibition "@"
9 PM Thursday February 26

real life location:
WM Keck Lecture Hall
Southern California Institute of Architecture
960 East 3rd Street, Los Angeles, CA 90013

(The building entrance and parking lot are located at 350 Merrick St,
between 4th Street and Traction Avenue.)

Curated by James Morgan, Leslie Raymond, E. Marie Robertson, and Vagner M. Whitehead, with "Analog Interactivity" curated by xtine burrough, plus an SL performance by Second Front and live cinema by Be Johnny and Potter-Belmar Labs

driving instructions

Second Life location:
Arts Virtua Convening Space
Seventh Eye

(NOTE: If you're coming to the reception in SL, you might want to set yourself to log in to home beforehand. The work of Second Front is frequently known to crash sims. And no, I'm not kidding.)