Virtual Art Gallery

Estimated reading time: 11 minutes —

Along with Trill Zapatero, Nancy Popp, Miso Susanowa, Katriona Beales, and numerous other wonderful artists, I’m participating in a “Virtual Art Gallery” project at California State University in Long Beach.

On Friday I had a studio visit with Lauren Delcoure, Tayler Nicholson, and Caponte1223. Here’s a transcript of our conversation:

[10:58] TaylerNicholson: hello!
[10:58] LaurenDelcoure: hi!
[10:58] zarioz: hey whats sup?
[10:58] Vaneeesa Blaylock: Hello everyone!
[10:59] TaylerNicholson: nice to meet you! I’m Tayler
[10:59] VB: Hi Tayler!
[10:59] VB: Hi Lauren
[10:59] VB: and Zaroiz!
[11:00] LaurenDelcoure: Hi! Thank you for coming!
[11:00] VB: thanks, happy to be here!
[11:00] TaylerNicholson: 😀
[11:01] LaurenDelcoure: So, the interview.
[11:01] TaylerNicholson: right
[11:01] VB: right! 🙂
[11:02] LaurenDelcoure: What is the first thing you do when you get inspired?
[11:02] VB: do you want to do it here? I have the stage / set from an earlier piece set out, if you want to go there
[11:02] TaylerNicholson: that’d be great!
[11:03] LaurenDelcoure: Yes
[11:03] VB: we could talk in the setting of some work
[11:03] TaylerNicholson: awesome!
[11:03] VB: kk, I’ll TP you over…
[11:03] Second Life: Teleport completed from CSULB (75,52,23)

[11:05] VB: Welcome Tayler, I don’t actually have any cat poses! 😛 But lauren… if you right click one of the seat cushions… you can sit here…
[11:06] LaurenDelcoure: ok cool
[11:06] VB: Tayler I think we have a bowl of milk someplace! 🙂
[11:06] VB: is it just the 2 of you? or is zaroz coming also?
[11:07] LaurenDelcoure: Our other member hasn’t logged on yet apparently.
[11:07] VB: oh, kk
[11:07] VB: you know you can save the chat transcript so they can read it also
[11:07] TaylerNicholson: oh really?
[11:07] VB: yes, you could either just cut and paste it
[11:08] LaurenDelcoure: That is very helpful. 😀
[11:08] VB: or it actually logs it for you
[11:08] TaylerNicholson: thanks!
[11:08] TaylerNicholson: So how/ when did you get started in second life?
[11:09] VB: if you go Ctrl-P for Preferences… and then go to Network & Cache you can see where it saves your chat logs… or you can change where you want them saved…

[11:10] VB: anyway… good question!
[11:10] VB: and it ties into this place also
[11:10] VB: my first performance in SL was about 2 years ago, I was invited to be in a show curated by students at Kansas State
[11:11] TaylerNicholson: ooh
[11:11] VB: and I thought the most common “noob” avatar back then was one called “Girl Next Door”
[11:11] VB: it seemed like everyone chose it! 😛
[11:11] VB: so I decided to “present” that avatar as a work of sculpture
[11:11] VB: so we had 9 people / avatars
[11:12] VB: all the same
[11:12] VB: and stood in a 3 x 3 grid for 2 hours at the opening of the Kansas State show

[11:12] VB: and then we went on to do about a dozen other performance works in the next year, and then as a first anniversary I thought we’d go back to “the girl next door”
[11:13] VB: but since it was an anniversary party… I sort of thought of “going to the ball”,” like Cinderella, so we changed it to “Au Pair Next Door”
[11:13] LaurenDelcoure: wow!
[11:13] VB: and we had to do the laundry before we could go to the dance
[11:13] VB: so I built this place where we are now
[11:13] TaylerNicholson: that’s awesome
[11:14] VB: this downstairs is a laundromat: we had avatars come in, take their clothes off — we gave them towels so they didn’t have to be naked! 😛
[11:14] VB: and give us their clothes, which we washed and then returned
[11:14] VB: so behind us you can see some big industrial washing machines and also some hand washing stuff: buckets, ironing board, and if you notice the industrial washers have water columns going up to a big circular tank which has clothes going around in it, and then as sort of a joke… I quoted a couple of other contemporary artists
[11:15] TaylerNicholson: that’s crazy how real it is!

[11:16] VB: Damien Hirst is famous for putting sharks in giant formaldehyde tanks
[11:16] VB: so that’s what those are from
[11:16] LaurenDelcoure: that’s so awesome
[11:16] VB: and Jeff Koons is famous for putting basketballs in tanks
[11:16] VB: so in our giant cyclotron washing machine
[11:16] VB: we have Girl Next Door clothes… Damien Hirst Sharks… and Jeff Koons basketballs…
[11:17] VB: anyway… so a bunch of peeps came in and got their clothes washed
[11:17] VB: we ran the laundromat for 24 hours straight, before our anniversary, and then we went upstairs…
[11:17] VB: you can see it above thru the glass dance floor
[11:17] VB: and we had a party
[11:18] VB: lots of fun! 🙂
[11:18] TaylerNicholson: sounds fun!!

[11:18] VB: oh… and the photos surrounding us that make up the dome… are all from our 1st year of performance artworks…
[11:18] LaurenDelcoure: 😀 wow.
[11:18] TaylerNicholson: wow, they’re all really cool!
[11:19] VB: oh, thank you so much! 🙂
[11:19] TaylerNicholson: i love the abbey road one 🙂
[11:20] VB: hahaha
[11:20] VB: yes, that was a snap while we were working on another performance
[11:20] VB: that one was kind of fun also: we did a piece at St. Leo University in Florida and had a competition to design the scarf we wore
[11:21] VB: so we had entries from different places
[11:21] VB: a designer from Australia wound up winning the competition
[11:21] VB: if you see the photo of us holding a giant check, that’s me and the guy from St. Leo University giving the check to the designer
[11:22] TaylerNicholson: awesome!
[11:22] LaurenDelcoure: agreed

[11:23] TaylerNicholson: so did it take you a long time to get used to the second life program or did you just jump right in?
[11:23] VB: hmm
[11:23] VB: medium I guess… it was probably harder than I remember now… but it was cool in that you could make bodies and clothes anyway way you wanted. There was an older version of the SL viewer that used to have a button on your shape, “randomize,” and if you hit it, it would just do anything
[11:24] TaylerNicholson: oh wow
[11:24] VB: so you might get giant feet
[11:25] TaylerNicholson: hahah
[11:25] VB: or a tiny waist
[11:25] VB: or look pregnant
[11:25] VB: tall
[11:25] VB: short
[11:25] VB: whatever
[11:25] VB: so we did one piece…
[11:25] VB: where we just hit that button once every 20 minutes
[11:25] VB: we stood for a few hours, and had a clock there
[11:25] LaurenDelcoure: hahahaha sounds fun
[11:25] VB: and changed our shapes every 20 minutes, so it was fun and silly, but also, you know… RL or SL, body image is such a huge issue
[11:26] VB: so we wanted to think about that: in RL people try so hard to look one way, or are judged for how they look, and here in SL people have a lot of freedom and can go crazy
[11:26] VB: OR BE A CAT!! :))
[11:27] VB: but then we also wanted to think a little about how people chose to represent themselves
[11:27] TaylerNicholson: yeah! that’s really cool how you use SL to relate your artwork back to real life!

[11:27] VB: actually we did another piece pretty recently, a couple of SL bloggers
[11:27] LaurenDelcoure: Ooh. 🙂
[11:27] VB: surveyed their readers on their shape
[11:27] VB: how tall
[11:27] VB: how wide
[11:27] VB: breast size
[11:27] VB: all that
[11:28] VB: and then another blogger took all the data and averaged it, so we took her average numbers
[11:28] VB: the SL avatar has 80 shape values
[11:28] VB: tiny things like the slant of your eyes
[11:28] VB: and they published averages for 12 big things — like leg length and body fat

[11:28] VB: so we took our own shapes and changed them to be the average numbers
[11:29] VB: so your face still looked like you
[11:29] LaurenDelcoure: wow that is incredible. It’s so cool that the virtual world can echo reality so much
[11:29] VB: but your were the “average” SL height, etc
[11:29] TaylerNicholson: wow, that’s so creative
[11:29] VB: and then we all performed (stood) for a 2 hour performance
[11:29] VB: we were all naked
[11:29] VB: for the women I made a Bouguereau / “Birth of Venus” pose
[11:29] VB: and for the men I made a Michelangelo / David pose
[11:30] TaylerNicholson: woah that’s really cool
[11:30] VB: it was a fun piece
[11:31] TaylerNicholson: i bet!
[11:31] LaurenDelcoure: It’s great that the art is so creative and so fun.

[11:31] VB: if you guys have seen this webpage:
[11:31] VB: http://vaneeesa.com/portfolio/

[11:31] VB: all those pieces have 2 pix on the page
[11:31] VB: and then there’s links to pages with more documentation for each performance
[11:32] TaylerNicholson: oh wow!
[11:32] MystiTool HUD: Entering chat range: caponte1223 Resident (3m)
[11:33] VB: Hi Caponte!
[11:33] VB: wow
[11:33] VB: you and Lauren are twins!
[11:33] LaurenDelcoure: lol
[11:33] caponte1223: Hi 🙂 sorry im late
[11:33] TaylerNicholson: these are so cool!
[11:33] VB: they can give you the transcript of what we said so far
[11:34] caponte1223: so I just start asking questions?
[11:35] VB: haha
[11:35] VB: sure

[11:35] caponte1223: so my 1st question is: what inspired you to get into art?
[11:36] VB: oh
[11:36] VB: good question
[11:37] VB: I studied dance as an undergraduate
[11:37] VB: and then new media in grad school
[11:37] VB: I guess it started from the typical childhood ballet stuff
[11:37] VB: so it was fairly simple in the beginning
[11:38] VB: and more about technique in a way
[11:38] VB: and over time that maybe got a little boring
[11:38] VB: and I wanted to think more about ideas
[11:38] caponte1223: What do u mean by more ideas?
[11:39] VB: well, you know, all performing arts… especially dance… ESPECIALLY BALLET
[11:39] VB: is SO much about technique… years of practice… so you can do a famous Russian ballet from a century ago… so as I moved into a more performance art space, it wasn’t so much about perfect technique

[11:40] caponte1223: dang! lol so why do u like to create pieces in second life?
[11:40] VB: but about pieces that reflected ideas in our culture today
[11:40] VB: it’s been a nice environment for me
[11:40] VB: we were just saying before you got here
[11:40] VB: that it’s so flexible, to do works about body image for example, that you can be different bodies
[11:41] VB: we did a piece in collaboration with another artist, Gracie Kendal
[11:41] VB: she’s a “thin” avatar, but her typist is “heavy”
[11:41] VB: and she’s been thinking a lot about that issue
[11:41] VB: when she first came to SL she said she felt LIKE HERSELF… for the first time in her life
[11:42] VB: so the ability to have the body in your mind… instead of the one you’re stuck with in the physical world is very empowering, but then again, it also can reinforce cultural stereotypes… so it can be marginalizing at the same time that it’s empowering

[11:42] VB: anyway
[11:42] VB: for this piece with Gracie Kendal we created 4 versions of her body:
[11:43] VB: her normal thin SL body
[11:43] VB: her normal large RL body
[11:43] VB: and 2 variations in-between
[11:43] VB: and then we created 4 clothing looks for her
[11:43] VB: naked
[11:43] VB: painter clothes
[11:43] VB: leather outfit
[11:43] VB: ball gown
[11:43] VB: and so we took 16 avatars and put them in a 4 x 4 grid and had the different versions of Gracie stand for 2 hours as that performance
[11:44] caponte1223: ooo i saw that piece 🙂 now i understand what it is 🙂

[11:44] caponte1223: who would u consider to b ur fav artist? and piece?
[11:45] VB: I mentioned Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst earlier… they’re pretty interesting
[11:45] VB: but I do think a lot about performance artists these days: Marina Abramovic and Ana Mendieta are both incredible, but if you want me to pick one, I’d probably say Alan Kaprow
[11:46] VB: amazing man
[11:46] VB: amazing artist
[11:46] TaylerNicholson: oooh
[11:46] caponte1223: ur fav piece from Alan?
[11:46] VB: Stelarc also very interesting…
[11:47] VB: actually Stelarc has done a few performances in SL
[11:47] VB: favorite from Alan Kaprow?
[11:47] VB: well — hahaha — a lot of course! 😛

[11:47] caponte1223: yeah…and ur fav piece that u created?
[11:47] VB: but I guess my favorite would be one I actually did a reperformance of in SL
[11:48] VB: a piece called New Clothes
[11:48] VB: or that’s what we called it
[11:48] LaurenDelcoure: Is there a particular creative process you go through when you create art?
[11:48] VB: his piece was called Match
[11:48] VB: in Match, he had 2 people keep trading clothes: on… trade… off… And we were thinking about another anniversary / rebirth…
[11:49] VB: long story! 😛

[11:49] VB: but anyway for New Clothes
[11:49] caponte1223: haha 🙂
[11:49] VB: I made one knit top, and a pair of denim shorts. So everyone was just in their underwear and we put the clothes on… and said either a thought of our own
[11:49] caponte1223: haha 🙂
[11:50] VB: or else we said the line from the original AK piece, “new clothes, and they fit just perfect.” And then we took the top & shorts off and passed them to the next person…
[11:50] caponte1223: i dont think i’ve seen that one :/
[11:50] VB: in the Alan piece it was 2 people trading over and over, in our case it was passing them down a line of a bunch of people
[11:51] TaylerNicholson: that’s awesome
[11:51] VB: http://vaneeesa.com/2011/01/31/vb23-performance-document

[11:51] caponte1223: are your pieces supposed to attract a certain age group?
[11:52] VB: I haven’t really thought too much about age… in SL you don’t really know anyone’s “real” age anyway, I guess I’d say my focus is more Time than Age, in that we try to think about life today, whether it’s physical life, or virtual life… but how identity functions and is shaped in the contemporary world… contemporary culture
[11:53] caponte1223: that’s in interesting point of looking at it 🙂
[11:53] LaurenDelcoure: so do you create some pieces in answer to something from real life?
[11:54] caponte1223: on average, how long does it take u to create a piece?
[11:54] VB: I guess I don’t think of pieces being exactly about “real life” or about “virtual life”…
[11:54] VB: I hope they’re just about “life”
[11:55] VB: so our lives are increasingly virtual anyway: even a phone call is a virtual experience, or Facebook, etc etc
[11:55] VB: so that identity we have and express in the contemporary world is what I hope to contemplate in this work… whether you like to think of that as “real” or “virtual” or “hybrid”…

[11:56] VB: on how long to create a piece…
[11:56] TaylerNicholson: hm that’s a really interesting way of viewing it
[11:56] VB: that seems to vary a lot
[11:56] LaurenDelcoure: wow. So it’s like more of what you “think” or “feel” is what is?
[11:56] VB: some ideas are on the back burner for a long time
[11:56] VB: some just pop up
[11:57] VB: that one I mentioned about the Average Avatar, for example, that happened pretty fast: I saw those blogs with all that body / shape data and thought oh wow, what a performance we could create, and then just did it. The “Au Pair Next Door” piece that I talked about, I spent a lot longer building this dome, and it was an anniversary so we were thinking about that for some time.

[11:58] caponte1223: would u ever consider bringing ur pieces to the “real” world?
[11:58] VB: I might
[11:58] VB: actually
[11:59] VB: for whatever you guys want to do
[11:59] VB: I sort of had a thought: what if there were a grid of people… avatars in the virtual world… and humans in the physical world… and the ‘humans” are holding laptops showing SL… and the avatars are holding laptops showing a video feed of the real world, so it’d be the same
[12:00] TaylerNicholson: woah
[12:00] VB: maybe 9 people
[12:00] VB: in a 3 x 3 grid
[12:00] VB: or something like that
[12:00] VB: but they’d each be showing the other, kind of a virtual / identity hall of mirrors

[12:00] TaylerNicholson: That would be really really cool
[12:01] caponte1223: it sounds cool 😀 u should try it 😀
[12:01] VB: you should try it! It could be your gallery maybe! 🙂
[12:02] caponte1223: but our gallery has to b in second life :/ were u ever embarrassed/ or nervous about showing some of your art?
[12:03] VB: I guess so
[12:03] VB: you’re always a little self conscious
[12:04] VB: whether you’re a child ballerina in a street fair or an avatar in a virtual world, or anywhere in between. But it’s also inspiring, in the sense that performance / performing gives you a heightened sense of aliveness, you can do things, or you do do things, that you otherwise wouldn’t
[12:05] VB: so the nervousness also makes you feel active, alive, invigorated

[12:06] TaylerNicholson: So how has second life affected your everyday life?
[12:06] caponte1223: I apologized for leaving so soon but i have to go because I have a class and I have to drive to csulb…sorry 🙁
[12:06] VB: kk Caponte, nice to meet you
[12:06] VB: Tayler, SL… everyday…
[12:06] VB: well they do I guess interact
[12:06] VB: well as an aside, one funny thing is that I make a lot of poses in SL, for what bodies will be doing. So I stand in my studio a lot, twisting my body and trying to figure out how to position the avatar body
[12:07] TaylerNicholson: haha
[12:07] VB: kind of amusing – haha – nobody watching
[12:07] LaurenDelcoure: haha

[12:07] VB: but otherwise I guess SL & everyday life, they both connect, and don’t. In one way… if you’re working a lot on a piece in SL, well.. then you aren’t out hiking, so SL can pull you away. On the other hand, a lot of the ideas and feelings you have in everyday life that you don’t really have that much outlet for, other than tweeting something goofy, SL is a place where you can take those ideas, whether they’re things that excite you… or frustrate you… or just observations…
[12:10] VB: you can do that IRL too of course, but it’s always such a project, to get a performance space, and spend a lot of €€€
[12:10] TaylerNicholson: thats true lol
[12:10] VB: and here it’s easy and fast to make what you want. And you don’t have to bother with stuff weighing 12 tons or whatever
[12:11] LaurenDelcoure: that’s a plus. haha
[12:11] VB: or giant slabs of marble costing insane amounts of money
[12:13] LaurenDelcoure: Do you sketch your ideas or do you go straight to SL?
[12:13] VB: oh yes, I do a lot of “previz,” or pre-visualizations for performance works. Here’s a summary of a bunch of previz:
[12:14] VB: http://vaneeesa.com/portfolio/previz/

[12:14] VB: and then each of those has a link to the full previz
[12:15] TaylerNicholson: thanks!
[12:16] LaurenDelcoure: Oh when I looked at your portfolio earlier I really liked the wedding concept one
[12:17] VB: oh thank you! That was a nice piece. After the “ceremony” we had an amazing light/sound “DJ” on stage to dance to, you should totally do a gallery on her! Anyway, the guy who owned the building, The Rose Theater – an amazing build, incredible architecture, I’ve used it a couple of times as a stand in for Covent Garden, London – anyway, he was freaking out that all her virtual pyro was going to damage the building! He was sort of kidding of course, but I think it was a little too avante garde for his classical sensibilities
[12:20] LaurenDelcoure: hahaha. 🙂

[12:21] LaurenDelcoure: Any words of wisdom we should take away for SL art?
[12:21] VB: hmm… good question… I guess I like to think of “SL Art”…
[12:22] VB: well
[12:22] VB: that it’s a medium… rather than a destination… so you could say I’m going to paint because I like paintings or I like the process of painting… or… you could say, I have ideas I want to express / explore, and painting might be a good medium to express them in… or maybe some other medium. And so for me it’s not that I want to create SL pieces per se, but that it’s a nice medium to create pieces that explore issues of identity,
[12:23] VB: body image
[12:24] VB: gender
[12:24] VB: persona
[12:24] VB: individuality
[12:24] VB: uniqueness
[12:24] VB: and so on

[12:25] LaurenDelcoure: Well I appreciate SL a little more. lol. Thanks. 🙂
[12:25] VB: oh great
[12:26] LaurenDelcoure: This was really interesting. Thank so much for chatting with us. 🙂
[12:26] TaylerNicholson: yeah thank you so much!
[12:26] VB: thank you
[12:26] VB: you can email or SL/IM or facebook me if you want to know anything else
[12:26] VB: or have questions
[12:27] VB: or need stuff for your project
[12:27] VB: or want to collaborate
[12:27] TaylerNicholson: thanks!!
[12:27] LaurenDelcoure: thank you!
[12:27] LaurenDelcoure: 😀
[12:27] VB: and if it’s ok with you guys… I might blog our conversation…
[12:27] TaylerNicholson: no problem!
[12:27] LaurenDelcoure: Sure go for it
[12:27] TaylerNicholson is online.
[12:27] LaurenDelcoure is online.
[12:28] TaylerNicholson: 🙂
[12:28] VB: 🙂
[12:29] TaylerNicholson: alright! well i have to go now. thank you again for taking the time to talk to us! later! 🙂
[12:29] VB: my pleasure
[12:29] VB: good luck with your project! 🙂
[12:30] TaylerNicholson: thank you!
[12:30] LaurenDelcoure: Thanks! We really appreciate your help.
[12:30] VB: any time
[12:30] VB: looking forward to see what you create!
[12:30] LaurenDelcoure: 🙂
[12:30] LaurenDelcoure: Bye! ^_^
[12:30] VB: ttfn!
[12:31] TaylerNicholson is offline.

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