Wednesday, June 17, 2009

SL6B and Forbidden Art

Well, woohoo and wahwah! I was all jumping for joy when I got my acceptance for an exhibit at SL6B - that's the Second Life 6th Birthday Bash. Last year was wild and amazing, many many interesting, thought-provoking, astonishing and downright beautiful installations and exhibits.

Even though my acceptance came late... because i was part of the "second round" when the application process was opened again for three days on the 12th and closed on the 14th. Last year it was tooth-and-nail to get a spot at SLB5 so it's surprising that there seem to be so many unclaimed parcels facilitating this late call for exhibits. It also leaves me one week to plan and build :O

Banned Art?

Or is it that surprising? With the new Content-Oriented Guidelines, those shifting sands of nebulous and subjective opinion about what is "offensive" or "violent" or just downright "we don't like this," there is a growing concern among artists about the censorial aspects of these "guidelines."

Feathers Boa is having a show this Friday, June 19th called "Forbidden Feathers" which features some of her strongest art, dealing with her personal hells in the least sensational and most true exposure of her soul and mind to life's not-always-rosy circumstances. This is art at its best - communication of a personal experience which touches a common chord in others, creates dialogue and questions and makes us realize that no matter how far apart we are ideologically or politicaly, there are common threads that bind us together.

But Feathers' work might not be shown, or be pulled from galleries (as one such piece was, for incorporating a photograph of her, nude, at the age of 22) on grounds of "pornography." A gallery owner may be forced to take down a work incorporating a burning fire and a stake (a commentary on the current hysterical attitude in the US and Britain regarding "childmolesting hacker terrorists") on the grounds of "violence." My own "Confessional" distills some of the damaging and scarring experiences I had in private school when young.

The high purpose of art is not just to be pleasing aesthetically. Admittedly, the delight in shape, form and color helps to brighten and enhance our living experience and is often an end in and of itself; i am not a "theory nazi" (uh oh, Godwin's Law rears its' ugly haid) and quite often enjoy works for their sheer beauty.

But art cannot be confined to mere prettiness or design execution. If it was, we'd never have experienced "Guernica," Woody Guthrie, William S. Burroughs or the satires of Lucius, Euripedes... ok I will stop here; there's no use rewriting Art/Lit History 101. Last year, a beautiful statue (in a very classical mode) by Artfox Daviau was forced to have her breasts removed for *gasp* showing what breasts look like! Stephen Venkman's "Family" project, showing the *totally Disney-approved activities* of a typical SL "Family" (including of course kids) generated a huge controversy and protest on the part of SL Children and led to a quick backpedal-reverse of Linden Policy and the admittance of the SLC children's community (which incidentally, won several awards for their sim designs and themes :P).

So perhaps it is no surprise that there are so many empty parcels for the SL6B "celebration" necessitating this last-minute reopening of the application process. Following the openspaces debacle and the continuing lack of engagement and involvement of the Management layer of Linden Labs with the actual residents of SL, this latest round of dictums and fuzzy guidelines have many of the most engaged and active residents of Second Life questioning the point of participation in a dog-and-pony show designed to play up the pretty aspects of SL over the deeper and more significant aspects of virtual worlds.

Which brings me to the second part of this post, SLB6 itself.

SLB6 - What is the theme?

Here's the blurb straight from the SL blog regarding SLB6 -

"The Birthday theme this year is The Future of Virtual Worlds and we're betting you have some pretty awesome visions to share of the future you're building here. How will Virtual Worlds work? How will they look? How will they be part of everyday life? How will we learn, socialize and evolve in them? How will they affect your beliefs, and be affected by your actions?"

Ok, neat. How will virtual worlds evolve? How will they engage us, facilitate our communication, weave themselves into our life, affect us in the same fundamental ways as radio, television and the internet did? Some cool things to ponder, especially that "how will they affect your beliefs" bit.

Which makes the notecards I have been receiving more than a little puzzling. They talk about being on a rock in space... about alien biology... flora and fauna... the "lack of atmosphere"... "no water but an amazing substance of water-like qualities that we call Glorp" (or something, i forget)... in short, they appear to be about some project/science fiction novel about Worlds In Space, rayguns, robots, babes in skimpy spacesuits (ala "Barbarella") and the entire panapoly of 50's sci-fi movies and Amazing Tales devices. Hardly anything about "virtual worlds" unless you count the "worlds of imagination" as a "virtual world." In fact, the entirety of the communications I have received (perhaps there are others I was not privy to, being a latecomer/admitted person of little consequence) appears to have been cribbed from notes left out of the 1939 World's Fair or maybe leftovers from Epcot (ideological propaganda meatloaf, anyone?)

So I am busy building a fable of a man, encased in biologically-purified stainless steel (or some future analog) playing with his daughter in a virtual space, building another virtual space in a computer cluster somewhere on Phobos and meanwhile monitoring the delivery of nanotech scrubbers to a polluted and uninhabitable Earth from orbit high above...

This is one vision i have of "the future of virtual worlds" which isn't really a "nice" part of the ongoing VW dialogue - that we may be forced to live our lives in such places given the hostile and soul-numbing nature of being encased in metal and plastic, breathing through tubes and confined to strictly-controlled environments for lack of habitable places. Of course, people like Philip K. Dick, Thomas Disch, Orwell and many others have had this shadow-vision long before, but it seems to be lacking in the current VW PR-fest. This perception/fear alone should spark dialogue about our present conditions on this lovely but small and increasingly-strained planet, which would be a wonderful use of the virtual-worlds expansion of thought.

I did have two other "visions of virtual worlds" given the current politics of Second Life and Linden Labs... one of them involved legions of identical Barbies and Kens, marching happily towards a huge and glowing shopping mall, all dressed alike (yet different!) and blinging merrily... the other vision involved a giant playpen, with many boxes representing "virtual worlds" being stuffed down into it by a giant Linden Green hand.

Of course, i expected these "visions of the future of virtual worlds" to be pulled immediately on the grounds of "copyright infringement," that current bludgeon to commentary about the looming Corporatization of both real and virtual spaces. So i am happily doing my space fable and inserting my little message inside it while still building my alternative visions/versions. Maybe someone will lend me space to show those works (the Playpen is only 98 prims; the Linden Army will probably be a lot more but 2048m should handle it). Of course, no one reads my blog so... *laughing*

Make sure to go see Feathers' show this Friday. I'd advise getting there very early; from the amount of duplicate notecards i have received in two days, it's sure to be a well-attended (jammed) event and very involved/stimulating.

And i will work on my totally-infested-by-web-sloppiness writing skills. I promise! Kthxbai.

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