Networked Collaboration

Individualized vision as opposed to collective production is a relatively recent concept but nonetheless a strong stereotype bolstered by the loner, hero artist of the media. The fruit of the collaborative process belies that deeply-rooted concept, but old ideas are strong and persistent. There also exists a prejudice toward social media fostered by sensationalist journalism and the culture of the critic. Networked collaboration is, however, alive and well and thriving in arenas such as You Tube and flickr creating collections of ideas in singular representations.

Collaborative efforts have in the past been hampered by drug usage, caffeine greed and one guy who insisted on painting without his pants. Frustrated and lonely we turned to the internet which arrived just in time.

Social Media Arts, a combination of Media Arts and Social Networking is phrase coined by Ricardo Peach, program manager for the Australlia Council’s Inter Arts office, to describe the world wide phenomenon of web focused time specific performance and visual art.

“Gutenberg Parenthesis” is a term Tom Pettitt, Associate Professor of English at the University of Southern Denmark, used at an MIT conference on Folk Cultures and Digital Cultures.

Gutenberg Parenthesis describes the reign of print and the powerful grip publishers had on knowledge. A grip now being released by the collaborative network of the Web. A parenthesis because pre Guttenberg everyone was an artist, it was more about the performance than the accuracy of an idea or the supremacy of it’s originator. Plato saw artists as craftsmen capable of the best and worst of human nature. The Gutenberg Parenthesis saw artists as the gatekeepers to high culture. Separating artists from craftspeople and talentless sunday painters by the written word of paid critics.

Modern man has opportunities to collaborate, mix, and reform that were never available before the proliferation of social networking. The lonely painter drawing from his tortured soul while a romantic image for the general public is not such a happy, healthy sustainable existence. Humans are social creatures and as the starving artist myth is slowly being released we can now keep up in Twitter with every little movement of those we choose to spend time with effectively shrinking the vast scary world in to a warm collection of friends, supporters, and collaborators.

The core beliefs which shape my art are grounded in an egalitarian outlook and a learned mistrust of limited perception. I know two heads are better than one. Resolving the difficulties in collaboration is a lifetime goal. Somewhere between assimilation and subjugation there lies not a middle ground but a higher plane, an alchemical effect of collaboration. Stretching my viewpoints is more important to me than the finished piece of work. It is in opening up to a greater vision that art soars past limited ideas to a rarified state of transformation for the artist and the audience. Together we adopt a purpose of discovery, a process-oriented practice with collaboration at its core.

How hard is this to accomplish over a network? It has its challenges. It’s harder to detect sarcasm, boredom or disgust. Does that mean we push on past doubt and visual signals that trip us up in local collaboration? It can mean we dig a hole which is too deep to make our way out of again. People are complicated and with unacknowledged goals and motivations true communication is a spotty affair at best. It helps to have a clear purpose and remain aligned with that purpose. With the collaboration as the goal it’s easier to move past the doubt and suspicion which permeates human affairs. The limitations of networked communication serve to avoid the pitfalls of cleverness and muddiness by limiting the conversation whilst squeezing it through the systems. The strongest ideas seem to bubble to the top and yet the curious whim remains awaiting discovery on closer examination.

The kind of virtual art which results from this process-oriented common-goal driven work is no less than transcendent. It is always greater than the sum of its parts because it is imbued with the spirit of cooperation and understanding. Simply because of the willingness to shift perspective, to being open to seeing things as the collaborators see them, the work has the power to shift perspectives in the audience. It can remain a powerful expression of one idea, while also serving another without loss of intensity or focus.

The collaborative aspect in the creation of the work fosters a collaborative nature in the work itself. The essence of collaborative projects lure the audience into interaction and participation, as that is the very nature of its being. A core belief in the respect for the perspectives of others allows the finished piece to grant access from a myriad of angles and welcomes the participant without coddling or patronizing.

The ability of virtual art to engage people from around the globe provides us with a heretofore unimaginable array of perspectives to engage and evaluate. As much as we would like to take some of the ideas to public spaces such as parks or city squares and learn from that interaction, at this point the logistics and expense is like molasses to the movement of discovery. There is no telling where this journey leads. To determine a point in time or space is to narrow options. Safe in the arms of curious nature, pants on or off, we cannot avoid being stimulated and encouraged by every human interaction and hopefully an audience will be changed by the results. We go where no artists have gone before…… collaboration in the virtual world the “final frontier” or the tip of the iceberg?

Here are a couple of examples of the resulting artwork.

“No Man is an Island”

January 2009

 Snapshot_015  Snapshot_005

“No Man is an Island” is aimed at that social creature in SL created by such a creature called an avatar.

The avatar enters and is confronted by a huge tower of white blocks approximately 3 ft square with the word fear written on each one. When the avatar approaches the tower he is given a notecard explaining, not so much, but beginning the journey. Whispers surround the avatar saying free me, love me , respect me, in English and Italian. As the avatar approaches the tower the blocks closest to him change to now say love rather than fear. Proximity affects the message. Text begins to appear in the chat window making statements about the avatar apparently by other avatars nearby. Statements of Love and statements of Fear. There 100’s of drawings and text in each cube activated by touching. If the avatar is curious enough about the line drawings of peoples faces and the statements written next to them he will keep clcking to see more eventually finding the box which opens his way in to the center of the column.

Inside the column is a scroll at the bottom of a ladder. When the avatar clicks the scroll he begins to climb the ladder watching as he rises and the wall of fear becomes a wall of love. The ladder allows you to climb right through the roof which is the only way out of the column and the box which enclosed it in the original exhibition. As you climb there are symbolic figures rising with you as if souls rushing toward heaven.


No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee (Devotions upon Emergent Occasions, #17).
— 17th-century English poet John Donne

If people allowed themselves to experience the pain of others — they would not be able to inflict it: no bombs, no murders, no tortures, no attacks of any kind.

If people allowed themselves to remember that the bell of judgment, like Donne’s bell of death, tolls for them, and that their guilt would cause them to pay the price of their vengeance and hatred, of the pettiness of their projections — there would be only peace and no judgment of others.

If people recognized that air, water, and nuclear pollution symbolize caring only for the satisfaction of their greed to the blatant disregard of others, and that such selfishness but hurts them — they would cease to pollute in an instant.

For who would rape minerally rich lands, wresting in righteous wrath treasures that were not theirs, knowing it was their own treasure of love they were losing?

For who would willingly choose the murderous thought system of specialness, inflicting pain and suffering upon another, knowing it was their own death they were plotting?

Finally, which government would willingly choose the murderous thought system of imperialism, inflicting pain and suffering upon others, knowing it was their own riches they were plundering?

— Kenneth Wapnick, Ph.D.

A Journey to One through two.
An awakening from a dream of death.
Please keep arms and legs inside at all times.

There exists
in the wall of fear
A keystone clear

A message spoken
only you can hear

Aequitas thanks:

Franz Kafka
Glyph Graves
John Donne
luce Laval
Innula Zenovka

Remnant Ashbourne
Davy Maltz
Neil Young
ArchTx Edo
Roxelo Babenco
Arco Rosca


Aequitas June 2009

Social media has drawn together a group of international artists to New York for Aequitas, an exhibit of art based on childhood experiences.

Artspace OSA in New York City and the virtual community of Second Life hosted a joint exhibition of international artists: paintings, digital work, and virtual world installations during the month of June 2009.

Artists can be a solitary lot but with the advent of virtual worlds and web 2.0 they are finding each other and communicating in the way they know best: making and exhibiting art together. This disparate group of artists, having never met face to face, nevertheless finds a common ground in exploring their childhood for art.dolls_004.jpg

Sowa Mai, also known as the artist Stephen Beveridge, conceived and planned this exhibit as an extension of the relationships he had formed in the Second Life virtual world with artist/avatars from different time zones and cultural backgrounds.

The exhibit in New York City displayed paintings and digital work by the human artists. An exhibit in the Second Life virtual world consisted of (art) installations and scripted objects by the human artists’ avatar counterparts. Both exhibits are based around the theme of mining childhood experience for art.

Dekka Raymaker Andrew MacLachlan Penumbra Carter Beth Olds Nebulosus Severine CM Pauluh Sowa Mai Stephen Beveridge David Ferrando Banrion Constantine Robert Garlick Elif Arat

Artspace OSA, Caerleon Art Collective
June 2009

Field of Voices
April 2010

Networked Collaboration Collaboration for the Caerleon Isle Through the Virtual Looking Glass exhibition.

Collaborators Dekka Raymaker, Misprint Thursday, Penumbra Carter, Selavy Oh, and Aequitas have encapsulated the theme of the Real life / Second Life crossover exhibition with their Networked Collaboration, Field of Voices. Special guest artist Oberon Onmura, provided the Ghost columns.

As a result of six months of weekly meetings by the collaborators an idea was was arrived at to illuminate a shift of perception from outside to inside the virtual world paralleling preconceived notions regarding networked collaboration and collaboration in general. collab_firsttry_009An earlier photograph by Selavy Oh of poles which appeared on a scaled down map of the virtual world corresponding to trackers worn by the collaborators as they visited different areas was the visual genesis of the field. Upon arrival at the platform overlooking the field of voices the visitor is presented with a beautiful expanse of white columns not unlike a circuit board or a graveyard. Each column looks exactly the same and they are arranged in a grid suggesting equality. Jumping down in to the field we soon realize that each column, upon approach, shifts in color and emits sound, we are treated to the voices of a diverse group of real people announcing , reading poetry, singing, and declaring obscure sentences. This surprising event is meant to belie the sterile perception of Second Life, and social media in general by reminding us there are people behind the virtual avatar on the screen. The effect is quite touching and before you know it the visitor falls through the floor and is treated to a soothing light show as they walk through the amusing, touching, and clever voices in the poles. Very much like the sticky experience of Second Life, it’s hard to leave.

Aequitas is currently the playground for two U.S. artists whose practice involves equality, and anonymity as a working ideal. Collaborating in separate physical space they have explored themes such as alienation, childhood, perceptions of identity, spirituality, and consumerism with most of the work being first presented in the virtual world of Second Life.

Each piece they work on is an entire journey. It begins as an evolution of an idea that passes through many incarnations before it reaches the final stage. Each piece often has a massive body of work that maps their progress — they spend a lot of time researching, looking for relevant information on the web or in books and papers, seeking out inspiration, conducting interviews and finding references — documenting their finds as well as writing out their own perspectives and views on the material.

The results of this process oriented work have veered between the abstract and illustrative. The key threads are a strong aesthetic with a core spiritual disposition that focuses on non dualism and ideas of equity and balance. There is a sense of the nostalgic and ironic to the more representational work which avoids jokiness and schmaltz. The abstract leans toward iconic minimalist; white cubes or columns enhanced with minimal scripting and the use of single words or symbols. The cartoon-like nature which pervades virtual worlds is offset by simple texture selection and careful lighting.

By working under a singular identity as Aequitas, the intention is to direct focus on the art rather than the individual; to remain outside the cult of personality, to explore alternatives to the more culturally accepted individual creative force. They believe collaboration does not require leadership and can bring better results through decentralization and egalitarianism. It is a working practice that art collaboration should be playful and not taken too seriously.

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