Estimated reading time: 3 minutes —
This year’s Burning Life theme is Evolution. Evolution is a contextual idea. Yes, we can chart it for millions of years. We can consider the watershed of the cambrian explosion, that eventually finds, among it’s far downstream rivulets, our story. But we are most often most interested in the vicinity of our story: the journey that leads us to Homo sapiens sapiens, the journey that leads us to Western Liberal Democracies, the technological journey that leads us to to our current cultural and conscious moment, the journey that led to Burning Man, the journey that led to Second Life, the journey that leads us to Burning Life 2009…
In our more humble moments we remember that evolution is not a process to the best or the ideal or the ultimate, if it were possible to define such things, but only a process that leads us to the sustainable-for-a-time in a given set of circumstances.
I am a performance artist. In the past half year in Second Life, about a dozen designers, about a dozen staff, and about fifty cast members have participated in about a dozen performances, flashmobs, and gatherings that have considered identity and individuality in the contemporary moment. The Second Life avatar has been our art medium; the Second Life avatar has been our vehicle to consider and express the evolving nature of identity here in the mid-morning of the 21st century.
For Burning Life 2009 our company, “Vaneeesa Blaylock,” proposes to consider evolution thru the vehicle of the Second Life avatar in a week-long event entitled “VB10-NAKED LIFE”
In the evolution of art, the Renaissance marked the emergence from a thousand years sometimes known as the “dark ages” into the light of knowledge and inquisitiveness. It was a time of learning and understanding that lead our culture to the Enlightenment which in turn lead us to the contemporary moment.
The Renaissance joyously celebrated the human body, and for five centuries now, artists have spent countless hours drawing and painting the body. From their work directly experiencing the human body, they have presented mediated experiences of the human body on canvas and other media. In our work in Second Life in the past half year, this company has strived to remove the mediation of the art interlocutor from this equation and present the body, the avatar, directly to our audiences for consideration in a range of contexts.
The consideration of the body in these past five centuries has often included an objectifying nudity which, in the century and a half since Victorine Meurent’s performance of Olympia, has to some degree been replaced by an empowering nakedness.
And so, in VB10-NAKED LIFE we consider what it means to be “naked” in a virtual world. In the physical world this tends to mean taking your clothes off, but in the virtual world, if you take your clothes off, you are still “wearing skin.” How do you take your skin off? One way to do this may be to reduce yourself, to reveal yourself, down to the UV Grid that most skin and clothing designers use to create the skin and other things we hang on our virtual bodies.
In psychoanalysis we have the idea that language comes before language. That the impulse, the need, causes itself to burst forth into existence. In a sense the UV Grid represents this sort of primordial realm of infinite possibilities who’s very presence ultimately causes itself to burst forth into being. To cause the creation of a populated world by the myriad creators across the globe who build the world that we and they inhabit.
The UV Grid becomes for us a metaphor of building a bridge in the same moment that we cross it. It is a folly that entropy does not look favorably upon, yet something about the integration that is intelligence causes this journey to push onward, to evolve. In spite of the improbability of our ever even being in this moment, here we are.
Our company proposes a NAKED LIFE VILLAGE to operate around the clock for the duration of Burning Life.
This village will continuously offer performances and workshops much like the drum circles at the waterline below Domingo Ghirardelli’s chocolate factory not far from Linden Lab. In those drum circles, individuals come and go at intervals that suit their lives, but the circle is unbroken, the circle never ends. For the nine days of Burning Life 2009 our performances and workshops will never end. The circle will evolve in ways we can speculate on, but never fully imagine. Like any complex system, this village will be the amalgam of factors large and small and who’s to say what fluttering butterfly on 17 October will lead to what sort of community and experience on 25 October.
What we will do is, in partnership with many of the designers and gallerists we’ve worked with in the past half year, create a village that offers UV Grid finished skins, raw elements, and other free and full perm materials that will allow visitor/participants to consider and explore the skins and the shapes that they wear on their virtual backs in our world. We will experience with our visitors creating elements, designing performances, and participating in performances. Like those San Francisco bay drum circles, everyone is welcome and every rhythm is a cherished strand in a greater whole. We will teach, we will share, we will consider, we will experience, we will perform.