Estimated reading time: 8 minutes —
VB28 – The Seniors Project
@VB/CO Villa, Biscuit Bay, An Li
SATURDAY 18 June 2011, SLT: 10am – Noon
Performance Doc: http://vaneeesa.com/2011/06/21/vb28-performance-document/
Raw Images: http://www.flickr.com/photos/vaneeesab/sets/72157626867176027/
About VB/CO Villa
The site for VB28 – The Seniors Project was the newly created “VB/CO Villa” on Biscuit Bay at An Li. A Roman(ish) Villa felt like an appropriate setting for a consideration of that state of being that, if we’re lucky, we will all eventually inhabit.
Here’s the story of the creation of VB/CO Villa…
Perfect Storm of Performance Venues
The idea for a Classical / Roman Villa evolved in loose parallel with the various dynamics of other venues we thought about for the project. A variety of coincidences fell in the right time and order to create this new architectural site.
It’s funny how “real” and unpredictable the dynamics of Art & Life in the virtual world can be. There are just a lot of human beings pouring into these scenarios and you truly don’t know where you’ll find yourself downstream of any given moment. Back on our ill-fated Burn2 project VB22 – The House with the Ocean View, it was never my intention to create drama or to not be a part of that event, yet the forces that washed up on my cultural beach wound up shaping the coastline of my virtual art career for the last ¾ of a year now. Nothing that’s happened since was really “planned,” and yet the events do feel consistent with the artistic vision, principles, and identity integrity of the overarching metanarratives of this performance / life.
Plan 0 – Petruchio
The first, most obvious choice for VB28 would have been the amazing worlds of Leto Zerbino & Steel Howlett’s Petruchio. Petruchio was the site for both VB07 – I Advance Masked and VB12 – Landscapes with a Corpse.
I say Plan “Zero” because this never really was an option. Somewhere between VB12 and VB16 – Au Pair Next Door, Leto & Steel created a dance club and proposed we do some entertainment there. I don’t think discussions of this ever went very far, but I guess the boys came to feel that we had taken advantage of their architecture and now were refusing to reciprocate. When we created our laundromat at the Odyssey sim for VB16 the boys were upset. I’m unclear whether something about the laundromat itself seemed inappropriate to them, or more likely, the fact that we put a dance floor on the roof of the laundry somehow aggravated the unresolved feelings about our participation or lack thereof in their own disco. In any case Leto called me some names and we were banned from Petruchio.
I remember when I was a teen, not a particularly bratty one, at least in my own mind, but I know some of my friends and I did sort of wear out our welcome at a place or two. We wondered, lightheartedly for the most part, if we lived long enough, if there’d eventually be nowhere left for us to go.
Perhaps I hadn’t been appreciative enough of Leto & Steel’s generosity or of the excellence of their work. Since then Rose was banned from SL7B and VB/CO was banned from Burn2. I’d never have dreamt of even applying to exhibit at SL8B. Trill Zapatero did apply and has been working almost without sleep for weeks now. This past week the SL8B logo tragedy between Linden Lab and Miso Susanowa came to light and a new set of artists was now boycotting SL8B. Trill has gone from frantic building to temporary idleness.
I spent some time with legendary USA Volletyball setter Debbie Green a couple of years ago. Thirty years, and a couple of volleyball star-setter children later, the mention of “1980” still brings bitterness and disappointment to her. The games they were “supposed to win”… but never participated in. Artists and athletes often seem to suffer in the game of politics.
To Leto and Steel wherever you are. I apologize if I was inconsiderate or ungrateful. That was never my intention. You are in the top rank of builders I have known.
Plan 1 – SLLU
The next, or really the first, plan for VB28 was some sort of synchrony with the day-long RAWA event at SLLU. This was talked about for many weeks, but wound up falling through about 6 days out from our performance.
Plan 2 – Caledon Gazebo
The next plan was to return to that lovely gazebo that was the site of VB03 – Veinticinco Mujeres. I spoke with Trilby Minotaur, our long-time cast member and Caledon resident. She gave me the info and wrote a supporting letter for us. After no reply for several days we had to move forward with another plan. We actually did finally receive approval for the performance from the Caledon authorities, but that approval came only 36 hours out from our performance and by then VB/CO Villa was nearly complete.
If any of these plans had worked out, VB/CO Villa would never have been constructed. Yet once it was, it seemed to present itself as the best, most appropriate, almost in it’s way, the only solution to the VB28 Site Plan.
Sometimes you find results that, a priori, project themselves into being. VB/CO VIlla was in a way a “last resort” solution, but it was almost as if the Villa willed itself into existence. As if it knew better than we mere humans stumbling around that it was the ideal solution for this performance venue.
For two thousand years now, Western Culture has lived in resonance with The Classical. About half the time we embrace it with various neoclassical revivals, and about half the time we reject it and explore other values and aesthetics. Either way, Western Culture has been defined for two millennia in resonance with the Classical. In an ephemeral age, the classical offers a glimpse of the eternal. The simple power of Greek and Roman forms resonates with architecture and governance across time and place, and indeed extends into the stars as a final launchport for “old humanity’s” next evolutionary step in Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick’s great Odyssey.
In contemplating both human mortality and human life lived well, the Classical seemed to resonate once more.
The first, enormous, pitfall to grapple with in this design is the obvious pitfall of creating a fiction adapted from great history.
Perhaps because I kind of liked one of my brother Jeff’s friends once upon a time, I somehow let the boys drag me off to High Springs, Florida for a week one summer. Yes, that “FL”. 🙂 We tried cave diving, which was surprisingly fun. At one point I saw a formation on the cave ceiling. I’d later learn that these arc’d forms descending from the ceiling were called “pendants,” but my first response was simply to say, “just like the Submarine Lagoon at Disneyland!”
Needless to say, I had it exactly backwards. This “real” place hadn’t been “inspired” by a global entertainment conglomerate’s commodity, rather that “copy with no original” had been inspired by / plundered from “real” places like this one.
My “mistake” was an interesting one. Like so many Westerners I grew up less in the natural world and more in the mediated world. I mistook the simulacra for the real because in terms of my own upbringing the simulacra was the real, it was my earliest experience, it was my primary source. In the age of the digital network, perhaps we are all raised suckling at a simulacral breast.
Of course artist do “plunder” art history all the time in their work. A painter, a music remixer, or a virtual performance artist, we all plunder, but the more compelling the work we remix, the higher the bar to do something that takes the work to a new level and doesn’t just “stick a blender” in the fabric of art history to see what comes out.
Las Vegas has plundered cultural history in an effort to create the purest contentlessness of banality. But at least they have spent decades doing it. On Macau they recreated ancient Rome and so much other human culture within a couple of years. As with Las Vegas their aim was not enlightenment or understanding, but simply to entertain in the most surface way possible at the behest of the casinos.
Living in such a Disneyfied, or “Jihad vs McWorld” world, I was quite uncertain about creating a Roman-ish Peristyle-ish Villa-ish space. In the end we had a performance bearing down on us and my background isn’t nearly sufficient to create a truly accurate Villa in less than a week. So I chose to, with pitfalls in mind, and with as much reverence as the dynamics of the project would allow, to create a “loosely inspired by” Villa that contained at least a modicum of internal consistency.
When Clarke and Kubrick imagined the eternal, they imagined the classical. And coincidentally enough it was not Jupiter, but Mars that made the way for me. Working on the villa I saw a tweet about the Mars Science Laboratory and how technicians at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory were preparing this new Mars rover for launch, and that a camera was streaming the uneventful (to the naked eye) events live on UStream.
As I worked on the Villa, I put up a flat screen tv and watched the work at JPL. But if you have one television… you want two. I’m eager to see how Anish Kapoor’s Orbit structure for the London 2012 Olympic Games turns out and I looked for a webcam. Surprisingly, I couldn’t find a live streaming Olympic construction cam, but instead found the continuously streaming tower bridge cam.
Realizing that the Roman Villas of two millennia ago didn’t have giant flat-screens not because they wouldn’t, but simply because of the vagaries of anachronistic technical reasons, was as liberating as it was silly a revelation. Of course this “summer home” for the affluent avatar would have flat screens connected to the global brain. London and Mars would stream in to the reflecting pool at the center of our little world. Yes, VB/CO Villa would be a simulacra, a copy with no original, but it would be true to some sense of historical qualities as expressed in the fullness of the contemporary moment. Its architecture would make complete sense… to those it made sense to. Yes it would be a pastiche, but not an unbridled one. I’d strive to meet the needs of the performance, which hopefully would say something real, and not bring in more disparate, confabulating sources than necessary.
One of the reasons I like the Villa idiom and and chose to take it’s open-air qualities even further is that I live in a world where my “camera / eyes” are a couple of meters above my head, and they gaze slightly above the horizon, as opposed to in my head and oriented slightly below the horizon, which I think is how most humans view the world. The nature of the way we view the world very often makes traditional enclosures feel claustrophobic in virtual space. This, and the lack of climate oppression, figure prominently in my preference for open-air structures like Peristyles and Lighthouse Decks.
In the end the design juggling was to throw all the relevant balls in the air and keep them up if possible. That ongoing response is the design of VB/CO Villa.