Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Metaverse Creativity and identity

At the Jewish museum in Berlin
     A few weeks ago Facebook decided that I wasn't a "real" person and deleted my account after a week of giving me time to scan my passport, drivers license, credit card or various other forms of identification to prove.. well I expect essentially to prove to their advertisers that the money they pay is justified as its going to "real" people or perhaps to ensure their data mining is accurate as it culled from "real" people.  If companies buy my behavioural data then they want to be able to contact me specifically to directly sell something.  Below are two kind of humourous posts I wrote related to my slow death on facebook. 
I had planned to write a few more posts but kind of lost interest.  But if you wanted to know where the story was going let me just sum it up.  My face was going to slowly disappear as Bryn and be replaced by... Danny Devito!  Oh and I was going to draw a obviously crappy representation of some kind of
Bryn Oh on hundreds of Toronto subway platform monitors for Nuit Blanche
ID in crayons and send it to them to see what they said, and then post it here.  Lets pretend I finished the story and it was funny.
     Anyway, I have a feeling this is all a precursor to a future where people will smile at our current naivety in not creating/demanding some form of barrier between our real life and the ever increasing amount of entities that wish to profile us and use our info for various reasons.

     So yesterday I was contacted by Metaverse Creativity, who published an academic work on Bryn Oh which you can find here to let me know that I was now on their editorial board (they did ask me first naturally).  You can find the academic journal here
    This is the group of people associated with the journal below.  Have a look and see if one of these things is not like the other as they might say on Seasame Street.

Editorial & Advisory Board
Editorial Board 
Trish Adams,
 RMIT University
Selim Balcisoy,
 Sabanci University
Andrew Burrell,
 University of Sydney
Bryn Oh written about in this Vogue magazine
Stefan Glasauer,
 Ludwig-Maximilians University, Munich
Beth Harris, 
Museum of Modern Art, New York
Patrick Lichty, 
Columbia College
Bryn Oh, Artist, Second Life®

Advisory Board
Howard Rheingold,
 Stanford University
Roy Ascott,
 University of Plymouth
Arts and Algorithms digital festival
They are all "real" people.  Well all except Bryn Oh who is a virtual creation.  That is an important distinction for me because when I began working as an artist using Second Life as a medium I wanted to see if I could succeed in "real" life amongst the flesh and blood artists and curators as a cartoon or an elaborate screen cursor of sorts.  I was fascinated with the idea of people dealing directly with an anonymous figure.  I wanted to know if they would talk to Bryn or perhaps instead demand real life information.  Also I liked the idea of someone being in a physical gallery space looking at an artwork and asking who did it?.. then imagining their face as they are told that it was done by an artist residing in a virtual world.  An artist with a very grey pallor and sporting horns.  To which they would say.. "Oh.. but I mean who REALLY did it?" to which the curator must reply.. "we don't know".  In the images in this post I have shown various things I have done in the past which were done exclusively with the virtual identity of
Menage museum in Moscow's Red Square
Bryn Oh rather than the shadowy artist controlling her.  So for example Vogue magazine only spoke with Bryn Oh and had no way to contact the person behind her.  In some cases my real name had to be given, such as with the Canadian Government art grants, which is not surprising as you can't ask for Government money in such a way, but in most cases people dealt with Bryn as the first and only contact.  It's quite possible that I am the only person who gets gleefully excited with this idea, but at least you know another one of my little oddities.   Bryn Oh's work was also shown in various ways exclusively as Bryn Oh in places such as the World Expo in China, on RAI TV in Italy, on programs such as ART21, in college and university courses, in thesis works and many other things.  So my inclusion to the editorial board is a fun addition to this strange quest of mine.  If you have any ideas for content to do with Metaverse Creativity then contact me and I can help you submit your academic essay or whatever to them.

There is though another side which I don't write about too often.
     This side of me is interested in removing the influences of my ego by being anonymous.  I sometimes wonder if striving for recognized personal success might not prevent ones pure creativity from coming forth.  It seems to me, from observation of various celebrities and what not, that many
who achieve success or renown at a fairly early stage spend a much longer period of their career trying to reverse that inevitable decline from the public eye.  They desire to hold on to the recognition, and all that comes with it, perhaps at the expense of their art since I think their desire to hang on drives the subject matter they choose.  So for example one might write a song for the emotional preteen hordes and their technological prowess with twitter and what not, rather than write a song that they know will not be of interest to that generation.  I hope to be creative for my entire life and to be content with what I make whether it is seen by 50,000 or 5.  I desire that the actual creative process fulfills me rather than scrabbling to be noticed and choosing projects based on whether I think it will keep me within the public eye rather than whether it is relevant satisfying art to me.           
A guest at a Boston show turning the music box of a Bryn Oh work as seen below
      Right now, regardless of how well received anything I create in the virtual space is, in real life nobody knows what I do or have achieved.  How are ones choices affected when creating art if their decisions are not based on making those people around you, who you interact with, feel respect, give kind words or anything that is a means to validate oneself?  I don't know the answer and I am just speculating really, but I wondered and thought I would see.  In addition, there is a freedom in being anonymous in that you can also create intensely personal work that you might be hesitant to do otherwise for fear of hurting the feelings of friends or family.  It's funny but there is one side of me that wants to show people, who know me in real life, that I have achieved something.  To show my parents I was right to drop psychology for art or I would love to go to a high school reunion and be the cool one for a change. Yet another part of me wonders if that need is somehow shallow.  Hey wait who am I kidding.  If I went to a high school reunion and tried to explain Bryn Oh to them then I still wouldn't be the cool one.  In fact I might even drop a few rungs socially.  Oh well.

Music box encaustic

Sunday, August 16, 2015

An interview with Artistide Despres

An interview with Artistide Despres

Artistide Despres
Bryn Oh: Where are you from? And who are the most renowned (not necessarily the best) artists from your country in your opinion?

Artistide Despres:  I was born in Normandy, France. The most renowned artists… difficult question as there are so many of them. Charles Baudelaire, Arthur Rimbaud, Auguste Rodin, Francis Picabia, Yves Klein and even Serge Gainsbourg to
Francis Picabia
draw a diagonal line through time and disciplines. I'm not even sure my mum knows Picabia. I could have added a lot of impressionists, and listed the ‘Musée d’Orsay’ artists.

Auguste Rodin
I've undoubtedly forgotten so many people, some are not really French by the way, like the film director Jean-Luc Godard who is French-Swiss and the photographer Brassaï who was a Hungarian. Once upon a time, France was an attractive place for artists.

Bryn Oh:  Often the average person outside SL is perplexed with virtual worlds in general. When people unfamiliar with the virtual ask you what you do how do you explain it?

Artistide Despres:  This is true, many people are unfamiliar with virtual worlds. Maybe I would say: Imagine you're living in Italy and you would like to meet a good friend from Japan
Yves Klein
in the MoMA in New York. This will require some organisation. After an evaluation of the costs, maybe you will renounce the project.
  Now, imagine that a good representation of yourself and of your friend (avatars) meet in a space that is a good representation of the MoMA. That you could walk together, chat and share the same feelings about this (virtual) environment. If you have felt this illusion you have successfully entered or used a virtual world.

Bryn Oh:  Who are a few of your favourite artists and why?

Artistide Despres:  I will give you 500 names… Any discipline?

Let me try per century then:

- XXIst - Too many. All those 15 minutes of fame. No, we have just entered the XXIst
Robert Frank
century, haven’t we? My students in a few years :)

- XXth - Marcel Duchamp because of his clear and intelligent discourse on art, especially the interviews he gave in the 60s. I like the way he splits art in ‘retinal’ and ‘non-retinal’. Jean Cocteau because he was such a ‘touche-à-tout’. Pier Paolo Pasolini as a poet, writer, film director and politician. Many photographers: Robert Frank, Bill Brandt (such nice persons).

- XIXth - Paul Cézanne, because you can feel the cubism coming alive in his work, especially in “La Montagne Sainte-Victoire”. Gustave Moreau because he fits so well in this century. Sculptor François
Paul Cézanne
, but I don’t know why I like his work.

- XVIIIth - Goya of course, he was so modern for his period. Do you know any more artists of the XVIIIth century?

Or did you mean in SL?

- AuraKyo Insoo because her work comes from the heart. We miss her a lot. I hope she is safe.

- Rrose Selavy because I have always been jealous of this artist’s realisations (that's a good sign, isn't it?)

- Bryn Oh for showing us the perfect storytelling in SL.

Bryn Oh:  Whose artwork do you personally dislike the most and why?

AuraKyo Insoo
Artistide Despres:  Well the artwork I dislike I generally cannot remember, I annihilate them from my memory! In RL I truly hate Salvador Dalí’s work, but more because of his personality.

In SL? Well, bullies don’t produce art in SL, they are too busy, luckily.

Bryn Oh:  Which of your own works are you most proud of? Do you feel any failed and if so do you now know why?

Artistide Despres:  My RL work is mainly photographic. Twenty years ago I made a series of pinhole exposures, traditionally printed on water-colour paper as kallitypes; they are still my favourite creations.  In SL I like some of my music instruments the most. Especially ‘Etude sur Olivier Messiaen’, maybe because it still astonishes me whenever I watch it. I will certainly miss that one the day SL stops working. My work relays on Havok®
(proprietary physics simulation software) because I always use physical objects and complex scripting. Unfortunately I am not able to transfer my creations onto another virtual world, not even on a local server. It will not work.

Petite Etude sur Olivier Messiaen:

Bryn Oh:  Do you have a method when creating? If so how does it often progress?

For example do you sketch or write out ideas first for weeks or do you perhaps just jump directly into the project with little planning and adapt as you go?

Artistide Despres:  Generally I have an idea that comes up and I know how I have to handle it. Some work involves a lot of research. The ‘Fukushima’ installation needed some realtime data of the amount of radioactivity. Finding a good feed was quite hard.

The tuning always takes a long time. In SL some factors are unpredictable, like the quality of the server you have been assigned or new implementations that can slow down processes you were used to. For my photographic work it is quite the same, I spend a lot of time selecting and refining.

Alea Fukushima:

Bryn Oh:  What are you currently reading, listening to or looking at to inspire your work?

Artistide Despres:  Actually I give more priority to my photographic work. My direct source of inspiration is the world around me. I teach in an art school (it is wonderful to work with master's and bachelor students) which gives me very few time to read, except during the holidays. Pier Paolo Pasolini “Contre la télévision” was the last book I read. And I enjoyed the fiction-documentary ‘Sunless’ by Chris Marker (1983), which I related to a RL project I am still working on.

Bryn Oh:  Does your work have an overall theme and if so what might that be? If not please describe how you tend to pick your topics.

Artistide Despres:  I feel concerned politically by topics like ‘war’, ’tolerance’ and ‘endangered nature’.  For example my ‘Fukushima’ installation or ‘Where I found my Ivory Tower surrounded by a Huxleyan World, which turned out to be an Orwellian World’ project.  In fact I have always had social or political themes.

Where I found my Ivory Tower surrounded by a Huxleyan world, which turned out to be an Orwellian world:

Bryn Oh:  Have you ever had to deal with negative publicity or a disappointing rejection of your artwork? How do you deal with it?

Artistide Despres:  In SL it is ‘take it or leave it’ because it is not easy to evaluate a project. The public is generally not very difficult, in terms of quality and content. I would be rather glad with an utter rejection, because that means it's a 'true' reaction. It happened to me when I presented my installation ‘Les Petits Soldats’. It was an anti-militarist artwork where notions like ‘honour’ and ‘patriotism’ were heavily discussed. It resulted in verbal fights and a lot of commotion. We need more instances like that one.

Les Petits Soldats:

Bryn Oh:  Would you like to take a stab at explaining what defines virtual art?

Artistide Despres:  I am not a philosopher, nor a good writer, so I may need to refer to Gary Zabel’s thesis about virtual art.  Film and books are immersive but they don’t
Artistide Despres Image by (I think)
constitute virtual art.
  A game or a good website is interactive but they are far from being virtual art.  A 3D representation is impressive but I cannot live inside it unless I am virtual too.  What about combining all these factors and meeting other creative persons virtually?

Bryn Oh:  What would you say makes virtual creations unique over other art forms?

Artistide Despres:  The mixture of immersion, interaction, the feeling of space, the possibility to work through the network with other persons (avatars) is certainly unique and constitutes a new art form. I almost forgot about coding and writing script, which is an important procedure when you are working with virtual arts.  When scripting will resemble poetry we will probably have the ultimate form of virtual art. (When the difficult task of scripting won’t be a technical challenge anymore.)

Bryn Oh:  Centuries ago there was no such thing as an "artist" just craftsmen, as time progressed superior technical ability and creativity created the elite "Master" artist whose work stood recognized above all others. In 1917 Marcel Duchamp submitted a work entitled "Fountain" to the Society of Independent artists. He stated "... He (the artist) CHOSE it. He took an article of life, placed it so that its useful significance disappeared under the new title
Marcel Duchamp
and point of view – created a new thought for that object" He wanted to shift the focus away from technical craft to more of an aesthetic intellectual interpretation. Some say that because of him almost everything is considered art today. From an elephant painting with its trunk, a Banksy, a child's drawing to someone vomiting paint onto a canvas. What is your perspective on this?

Artistide Despres:  I would like to think that art is the ‘thermometer’ of human intelligence. Therefore ANY painting made by an elephant is NOT art.  Duchamp’s Fountain was a big statement on art. The object was eventually lost and destroyed (The actual object is a remake). It is stupid to think that because of him almost everything is considered art today. Duchamp was far more selective. Art must be linked to the context of its creation (Why? When? How? For Whom?). Duchamp’s set came at the right time: the concept became more important than the representation.  Sometimes, random circumstances or specific persons improve the quality of art : The invention of Photography and Film, Cubism & Dada, Dodecaphonism, and Sound synthesis have been huge steps for art. Virtual Art might be such a step as well.