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Activist behavior…

The simple act of declaring oneself an artist in any life is a deeply political and I would even say activist behavior.

SL is a capital construct, a place of great potential that is presently being eaten by a combination of corporate interests and the same gold rush mentality as the www when it became available to the public. There was a honeymoon in the beginning of the public access to the web where a few of us used it for purely art purposes, there being no infrastructure for commerce. This was a wonderful time akin to a group of artists moving into a massive warehouse in post industrial urban centers. Nobody cared, and there was no pressure from the push of capital. This state of grace as we all might have guessed does not last long because as soon as artists move into a neighborhood and start putting energy into it, the value of the place starts to increase again. Word gets out and gentrification begins, capital starts to sniff knowingly and developers slither in to appraise the place.

Some experience SL as mostly a wasteland of sad strip malls. For the most part a world of cheap illusion, little pixel shoes, poor graphic design, prurient and banal pursuits and not yet inhabited by a culture. Indeed it takes time for culture to develop. Strip malls abound in SL because at it’s core it is a capital construct. There is no free lunch in SL so most people respond to this by starting a franchise of something they can peddle to other residents. It is an ideological imperative if one wants to explore SL beyond a free account (which leaves you essentially homeless and destitute). Some would say that “someone needs to pay the freight”. And this would be sadly correct in SL as it is in RL. However in SL artists are adding a dimension that didn’t exist before, a layer of depth and culture that adds significantly to the value of the young culture there (not youth culture).

I am deeply invested in the exploration of SL as a platform for producing and exhibiting cultural works, in a place where (like RL), retail, gambling and porno are dominant forms of expression and consumption. These are things we (human beings) create for our gratification in any world we inhabit. They make us happy and I don’t portend to dismiss these aspects of ourselves, however these aspects are weeds that grow anywhere. Cultural producers in SL (artists) try to plant roses instead of weeds. Indeed it is my opinion that the only two things of real lasting value in SL that are transferrable from RL to SL and SL to RL are art and music. What I mean by this is that art and music and the value they produce are nearly the same in either continuum. Some would even say that all of SL is art. I’m not so sure I agree, but this is another conversation.

My background is in fine art (SFAI) and I was invited to participate in a show at Ars Virtua (also mentioned on this list) in SL. I think it is was their second show in SL. From that point on I discovered SL to be a perfect context to show digital work that I have been producing since the late 1980s. On the web all images are reduced to the same flat state as “files” or “graphics”. In SL the artist has control over context and scale like nowhere else. The work found a home at last (and an audience). Concurrent to that I founded (and still produce and direct) the ZeroG SkyDancers, a cross between water ballet and arial acrobatics that takes place in a reactive architectural stage set that produces many audio and visual effects as the SkyDancers perform choreography to a central theme. This is highly collaborative and has no RL analog. SkyDancers performed at the ZeroOne/ISEA last summer and for a variety of other RL and SL forums.

David “DC” Spensley –
DanCoyote Antonelli in SL