Monday, August 6, 2007

Inter-Access Summer Workshop Reflections...

Photo by Miulew Takahe.
True to form and within a matter of milliseconds, Second Front quickly transform what was meant to be a formal workshop series at Inter-Access Gallery in Toronto (Canada) into a surrealistic performance art arena...This workshop series took place on July 23rd, 2007.

NOTE: Ian Daffern from the Globe and Mail (Toronto) made a special video-report about this workshop series featuring Second Front. To watch it, click here.

"Second Front members recently participated in the summer workshop series held at the Inter-Access Digital Media Centre in Toronto (Canada) that had our avatar performers, Man Michinaga (Patrick Lichty) and Great Escape (Scott Kildall) making Real Life appearances at InterAccess and the rest of us, Tran Spire (Doug Jarvis), Liz Solo, AliseIborg Zhaoying (Penny Leong Browne) and Wirxli FlimFlam (Jeremy Owen Turner) giving workshops online that were projected into the gallery space itself..."

Photo by Miulew Takahe.

"... For the RL workshop event, Second Front banded together and performed 'Breaking News III' a text-based performance in which we stormed the Reuter's building in Second Life announcing 'Breaking News' headlines about Second Front's clandestine operations and notorious affiliations in-world.

The online workshops that were projected into the RL gallery space of InterAccess were held at Second Life's Columbia College which turned out to be a challenging space to present. With exception to Tran Spire's workshop, the Avatar's Way, the rest of us had to contend with technical issues that was largely due to an overloaded prim count (Columbia College is a sumptuous space with floating sculptures, murals and intricate architectural elements)..."

Photo by Miulew Takahe. After awhile, the workshop venue begins to look increasingly informal and constantly in a state of perpetualizing Fluxus.

"...Crashing, frozen avatars, major lag, and tools that produced crazy errors demanded a Second Front response to the unpredictable nature of the event. How did we respond? The only way we know how - by improvising our way through our workshops that produced some wonderful surprises and reactions from the participants. One can say that we didn't so much present our workshops, but performed them!"

- Foreward by AliseIborg Zhaoying a.k.a. Penny Leong Browne.

Here are our individual reflections about the workshops we gave:

Tran Spire - A self-help workshop for creative avatars

Photo by Miulew Takahe.Here is Tran Spire beginning his extremely "hands-on" self-help workshop/lecture/seminar...This was the very first workshop presentation of the day...

"There was a gallant turn-out for the first workshop of the evening Self help for avatars. Participants and friends were eager to unfold the onion skins of their virtual psyche's to unleash the self confidence and creative potential that each avatar relies upon for entertainment and self preservation. After the logistics of handing out a grab-bag of debaucherous goodies, we settled into the participatory program exercising the three guiding principles:

Intoxication - being an avatar can feel similar to being intoxicated all of the time, get used to it.

Fashion - the surface between the inside and outside world needs to work for you.

Responsibility - defer this to others, let them worry whether you are a consistent individual or not."

Photo by Miulew Takahe.For most of Tran Spire's workshop, avatars helped themselves (in true "self-help" fashion) to all sorts of goodies including fashion accessories and SL drugs.

[16:55] Tran Spire: This workshop will start as a hands on, activity based session where we will be playing with some objects and scripts. This will give each avatar a chance to exercise some of the more indulgent aspects of Second Life and self / avatar manipulation.
[16:56] Tran Spire: Section 1: Intoxication will involve some moving around
[16:56] Tran Spire: we are going to test the lagginess here in the auditorium
[16:57] BubbleGum Canning: thanks :D
[16:57] Tran Spire: In the folder that I have provided you will see an assortment of libations and other essentials for avatar delight
[16:57] Tran Spire: Personal Ban Zone, Placard/Black - Self help for avatars, Absolut vodka, Glass of Champagne, Giger Bar Red Wine, LOTS OF TEXTURES, Flight Feather, Self help Cape, Roller Skates, Absynthe, Bored Dance, Spread Eagle, Tran Spire Blue Doo
[16:58] Zabeth Lilliehook: like the buckyball seats
[16:58] Tran Spire: Please grab a drink from this file, this part is very important
[16:58] Absolut vodka whispers: thanks
[16:58] Tran Spire: I personally enjoy the Absolut Vocka, it has a nice kick every once in a while
[16:59] Absolut vodka whispers: thanks
[16:59] Borisz Nagy: freaky, d00dz
[16:59] Fau Ferdinand: champagne and popcorn , an unbeatable combination
[16:59] sake whispers: watch that third sip
[16:59] Tran Spire: You will also see some cigarettes please wear those as well
[17:00] BubbleGum Canning: but i dont smoke :(
[17:00] Tran Spire: the object of this portion of the workshop is to experience Intoxication and the general affect of being an avatar
[17:00] Tran Spire: Performance art can be easier than you think!
[17:01] Tran Spire: Please attach what ever you can and start moving around
[17:01] Tran Spire: the idea is to get used to being intoxicated as an avatar
[17:02] Tran Spire: For the more advanced participants in the workshop, you might try to make your operator feel noxious operating the computer
[17:03] Tran Spire: ok, first exercise
[17:03] Tran Spire: spin around for 2 minutes
[17:03] Tran Spire: on the spot

Photo by Miulew Takahe.Towards the end of Tran's seminar, it was not apparent if all the avatar-empowerment was positive and tranquil. One such avatar (pictured here) seemed to be reacting to the drugs and guns in a somewhat aggressive manner...It must have been the drugs because as you will find out soon enough, the drugs seemed to be affecting more than one person in a hostile and homocidal way..

"...Based on an initial post-workshop analysis, I believe the group reached some very powerful and important insights into the complex and dynamic composition of an avatar self. With workshop tools and constructive criticism in hand all participants will now have some defense against any future dark-days dealing with avatar identity issues..."

Photo by Miulew Takahe.Hmmm..Was it getting hot in here or was it just that the avatars had helped themselves too much to some of the more corrosive party favours for the positivity-challenged?

"...I would like to thank all of the avatars who attended and made this workshop a RL experience (list withheld due to client confidentiality agreement).

Tran Spire" - Text reflections by Tran Spire.

Liz Solo – Frontiers of the Virtual Playground

Photo by Miulew Takahe.Here is a close-up of Liz during her presentation of her music machinima video, "Amazing".

"Liz Solo's workshop demonstrated how even the most customized tools in Second Life, the most well thought out plans will need to be adapted on the spot due to the ever-evolving and untamed nature of SL environments..."

Photo by Miulew Takahe.An example of the kind of drunken and drugged residue that resulted from Tran Spire's Self-Help workshop...this was the sort of leftover that Liz had to deal with when she began her presentation.

"...Amid the chaos of avatars still drunk from Tran Spire's excellent workshop, with a giant horse head and other props floating through the space Liz showed workshop participants examples of the unexpected. She demonstrated some of the limitations/boundaries of the technology - from multiple crashes, to being de-winged upon re-entry to displaying her avatar stuck in an uncompromising pose that could not be rectified.

After several futile attempts at opening the program containing part of her presentation Liz Solo then chatted with participants about the possibilities for interaction and collaboration that exist in the SL metaverse, including the notion of creating idealized communities..."

Photo by Miulew Takahe.Another view of Liz's presentation which further illustrated the kind of "virtual playground" she was referring to for the duration of her workshop.

"...Finally she screened two pieces of machinima to show examples of how Second Life can be used as a creation tool -
a music video created in Second Life and an experimental clip super-imposing Second Life video over Real Life video. Liz's workshop exemplified how presentation in virtual space is challenging, exploratory and immediate - one is constantly responding to unruly, hilarious and sometimes frustrating elements while actively seeking ways to communicate."

Personal reflection written from a 3rd person POV by Liz Solo.

Wirxli FlimflamWirxli Flimflam’s 15 Minutes of Fame:

Photo by Miulew Takahe. Here is a pic of Wirxli Flimflam sitting next to Fau Ferdinand. The snazzy shades conceal a Ava-Star that is completely drugged out of his/her mind and feeling the fleetingless fame of a genuine was only when Wirxli finally had to deliver a presentation was there any sort of stirring and yes, stylish stumbling towards the podium...

"Well, even though I prepared a formal lecture for the Teacher’s Pet auto-lecturn, I must admit that the nature of this realtime event lured me towards a more performative and hands-on (the drugs) presentation....ooops! Thanks to all the laggy SL drugs I took earlier in the day to relieve my virtual nerves, I was stuck practically passed out in my chair next to Fau Ferdinand for most of the lecture and could barely walk by the time it was my turn to present.

If you really want to succeed as a SLebrity in SL, you really need to feel the fame coursing through your pixellated veins, if you know what I mean. Even during the assassination attempt on my life mid-way through the workshop series, I barely stirred – how cool is that?"

Photo by Miulew Takahe.Just before Wirxli's workshop is about to begin, gunshots ricochet throughout Columbia College's virtual campus. Wirxli ducks (well, nods off) for cover in the comfort of his/her seat while his/her personal bodyguard du jour attempts to locate the perpetrators of this assassination attempt. At the end of the day, it turns out that Wirxli's colleague in Second Front (Man Michinaga) and his/her trigger-happy best friend (Fau Ferdinand) were involved in some sort of routine performance-art shootout.

"...I was originally going to say before the captivated audience that I hired bodyguards solely for optics and to enhance my SLebrity mystique but when the gunfire started spraying, I realized that I actually needed the service..."

Photo by Miulew Takahe. Here is a close-up of Fau with her big gun...

Photo by Miulew Takahe. ...and here is a close-up of Man with his big gun.

"...In conclusion, I guess you could say that I “led by example” and illustrated in detail to the Inter-Access crew the virtues (and vices) about how important it was to live out a drugged-up SLebrity was a good thing I wore shades as I became a real role-play role-model for the delayed and debauched ;-)"
- Text by Wirxli Flimflam.

AliseIborg Zhaoying - Collisions of Artifice and the Real:

"There were definite collisions in my workshop - collisions with technology - my Teachers Pet tool , problems rezzing, lag and crashing constantly causing my avatar to come to a stand still, literally. When my spot eventually came up, all I could do was improvise my lecture so I took to the lectern and delivered my topic in a series of 'Breaking News' sound bytes that resulted in a fragmented riff of theory and sensationalist news about Second Front's past interventions.

A further reprocessing of my original text came about through a Babel translator that make text appear in a thought bubble above my head.

Photo by Miulew Takahe. Here is a pic displaying Second Front's Tower of Babelfish example that being discussed in detail by AliseIborg Zhaoying in the final workshop presentation of the day.

We had used this tool in a previous performance, Tower of Babelfish, that interpreted what was entered in the chat window into a bizarre remix of semantics and morphology. Needless to say, theory and practice never looked more sublime to me! Also, I think there were definitely clashes of the 'Artifice' (critical theory and Second Front praxis posing as news) and the 'Real' (RL gallery turning off its lights!).

This juxtaposition between what was happening in RL and what was going on in-world, produced moments of ambiguity as to how our avatars should react and behave. I sensed that the avatars around me were definitely feeling slightly awkward, uncertain, even slightly dumbfounded at first - asking questions like 'What's going on here?' and some even adding to their own 'Breaking News'.

My workshop, in this way, turned out to be much more about performance, especially improvisation and ironically, created an actual situation in which social codes of conduct within Second Life were definitely challenged!"

– Text description by AliseIborg Zhaoying a.k.a. Penny Leong Browne.


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eda said...


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