Co-curator Jason Pramas developed the concept for the show after his first residency in the MFA Visual Arts Program at the Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University in Boston, MA, USA in January 2011.
During the residency, he realized that no one in his program was producing artwork in virtual worlds. So he decided to put together a show for his June 2011 residency to introduce AIB students, staff and faculty to some of the finest artists working in Second Life, and was pleased when the AIB administration quickly agreed to host the real life portion of a “dual reality” art opening for the show on June 25, 2011.
To fulfill the pedagogical mission of the show, Pramas proposed a simple theme based on two of the elements that make artwork in virtual worlds unique – light and gravity. Both those natural forces can be manipulated in 3-D immersive environments like Second Life in ways that are not possible in the real world.
The idea resonated with a dozen of the best known talents in virtual art, who then worked with co-curator Pixels Sideways, an expert virtual artist and gallerist, in the several weeks leading up to the opening to create a lively and engaging series of installations on Caerleon Isle – a huge virtual space that is the equivalent of 256 meters wide by 256 meters long by 4092 meters high.
AEQUITAS: “CHOOSE AGAIN”
1) Tell us about your Light and Gravity piece. (Title of piece, how the theme inspired you, etc.)
Choose Again relates to the theme of this show in that it deals with heavy choices in a lighthearted manner. When a theme is proposed the function of the artists is to explain why their work fits the theme. The danger of this type of exhibit to newer artists cannot be overstated. Find your path before you let someone lead you down theirs. Your first responsibility is to your vision.
2) Tell us about yourself – in real life, in Second Life/Virtual Reality, or both.
Aequitas is Latin for equality, symmetry and fairness between individuals. By working under the 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. The artists of Aequitas 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.
Collaborating in separate physical space Aequitas has explored themes such as alienation, childhood, perceptions of identity, spirituality, and consumerism with most of the work being first presented in the virtual world.
3) How did you get involved in Second Life and/ or other Virtual Reality Worlds?
The constant search for new experience brought Second Life to our attention and the ability to collaborate from separate physical space kept us coming.
4) What attracts you to virtual art?
In a virtual space the artist has the ability to work out spatial issues quickly and relatively easily. The ability to connect to people from around the world easily and often gives the art an audience that increases the chances of honest appraisal.
There aren’t the storage problems in the virtual world. Collaboration is much easier and does not require the use of deodorant or breath mints. It doesn’t cost as much to explore ideas. Time moves much quicker. It’s not messy and doesn’t require soap, a broom, a backhoe, a blowtorch, interns, a safety degree, hazardous materials license, goggles, warehouse space…
These factors allow art to develop at a faster rate, they allow for experiment which frees the art in a way that a well staffed and moneyed non virtual studio still couldn’t hope to come close to.
5) How does your virtual art differ from your real life art?
The virtual art for all its ease and expediency initiates much more research and discussion than a painting or sculpture ever did. Perhaps the networked aspect of the work is what has engendered this increase in mentation but whatever the cause there seems to be a marked difference in the virtual as opposed to non virtual works for us. It seems not enough to just make a pretty picture with such a rich medium to investigate. The greatest challenge in such a full medium is one of simplicity. What to leave in, what to leave out. Just because you can doesn’t always mean you should.
6) What kind of artwork have you been doing in Second Life and/or other Virtual World Environments?
With the focus of the work being the process Aequitas amasses a large quantity of research and iterations before arriving at a final piece. This documentation is as much a part of the art as any momentary instance of development.
The results have veered between 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 and the abstract leans toward iconic minimalist.
7) Have you presented the work you’ve made in Second Life and/or other virtual world environments in any RL galleries or venues and if so, how was your work exhibited and how was it received by the public?
Aequitas has been fortunate to be involved in a number of exhibitions involving virtual art in the nonvirtual world.
“No Man Is An Island” – “ARENA” Event – Hosting the largest art exhibition ever staged in Second Life, held in coordination with Virtual Renaissance, the exhibition held in Florence at the Museum of Natural History in the Festival of Creativity. The work was projected on to a screen live from Second Life.
“Mining Childhood” – We also undertook to curate an exhibition in New York City which had a virtual and unvirtual segment. Each of the invited artists created two works based on the theme of childhood experience. One of the works virtual to be shown in Second Life and one unvirtual to be exhibited in a Manhattan gallery. The show was intended to explore the similarities and differences between the virtual and non virtual works of established artists. (For this writing we are using established to denote an artist who has a consistent vision rather than the accepted definition which has more to do with the artists luck in making connections to people with money and influence.) The exhibition openings were well received. In Second Life, the virtual space was laid out like the gallery with images of the artists’ works accompanying virtual world works by each of the participating artists avatars. In the gallery there was a book with photographs of the virtual segment which was looked upon as a novelty by the majority of the attendees but was studied by a few people for similarities and differences between the two pieces (virtual and unvirtual). The catalog had images of the two pieces side by side as well as bios and artist statements.
“Field of Voices” was originally part of the Virtual Art Initiative as a collaborative work on networked collaboration. The virtual world installation was well received with positive feedback from attendees. The gallery exhibit not only had video feeds and recordings but included motion sensitive boxes broadcasting some of the audio contributions in the gallery space. The Field of Voices went on to receive a grant to be developed as an augmented reality project bridging virtual with the non virtual and increasing the public access.
8) Do you believe that art that is exclusive to the Internet and/or virtual world environments is the next revolutionary art form in the same way that photography followed painting and cinematography followed photography and video followed photography and so on?
It seems the ground rules have changed and that there will never be another revolutionary art form but a multitude of art forms or as Bruce Sterling put it, “uni-modern uni-medium” in which there is no real difference between one medium or the next, it’s just all one big blended medium”.
9) How do you see art that is exclusive to virtual worlds and online environments gaining in prominence, legitimacy, value and acceptance by traditional RL galleries, museums and art collectors?
Museums are irrelevant, galleries are for the dilettante and collectors are sheep. The only way for any art to gain prominence, legitimacy, value and acceptance is for the artist to studiously ignore prominence, legitimacy, value and acceptance. The virtual art that has been pioneered in worlds like Second Life is merging with the rest of life as the screens begin to move. Augmented reality is a fusion of virtual art and nonvirtual. Aequitas is exploring this with the Field of Voices augmented reality project. Field of Voices began as a Second Life art installation but since then the AR version has been presented in Upper Manhattan, Governors Island in New York Harbor, and outside on the street here in Boston. As the technology and hardware develop we will see the same basic 3d installations developed in the virtual world and placed in site specific locations as well as location based sites.
10) Any suggestions for artists interested in joining a virtual arts community?
Be prepared for the same situations as in any community only at a much faster rate. (Read your history)