I’ve never actually seen Steven Zaillian’s 1993 film Searching for Bobby Fischer, and therefore don’t exactly know what it’s about, but I’ve always loved the idea of the title. I’ve always loved the idea of a quest for this diaphanous master out there somewhere. Bobby Fischer. Cyanide Seelowe. Others. Touchstones. Perhaps “real,” perhaps imaginary, stars in the night sky that form the constellations that give context to our lives.
At Haiku Speedbuild last week, host Special Jewell told me a little about the history of the event and of the parent organization Virtual Artist Alliance. One thing she told me about was that the VAA founders had all left long ago, unfortunately without turning over the keys to those who now try to operate a group where no one has owner permissions, where there is no real parent organization for Haiku Speedbuild and Photohunt, and so on.
When you click on the group profile for Virtual Artist Alliance, you learn that it was founded by Cyanide Seelowe. According to Virtual Artpedia, VAA was founded by Seelowe on 2 December 2006, just 2 weeks after Seelowe herself had rezzed on 19 November 2006. The original formation of VAA was with 3 entities: Haiku Speedbuild, Photohunt, and VirtualArtPedia.
I’ve spent this past week Searching for Cyanide Seelowe. The virtual world / Virtual Artpedia trails seem to mostly be cold, the websites seem to be gone or years dry, and Seelowe seems to have left maybe 4 of her 6 years ago. From everything I’ve uncovered she seems like a remarkable, charismatic, generous, big picture person. As I sift through the breadcrumbs I think how nice it would be to meet her. Not really to any particular end, but simply to touch for a moment that old dream that I am now a part of in 2013.
I recognize Seelowe as a vaporous apparition, but like a glitchy hologram of Princess Leia, the degraded quality of the transmission only serves to make the distant and inspiring person all the more captivating in the mind.
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From Seelowe’s Second Life Profile:
I am the initial founder, event coodinator, and resident smart-ass of the VAA. Our goal is to provide resources, discussion and general useful information for the aspiring and/or well established Second Life artist. If you need help, I’m there, or I’ll find someone who will be!
This is THE place where members of the Second Life art community can get together and share information about Second Life artists, art venues, and anything else related to fostering the arts on the Grid.
The Virtual Artist Alliance in collaboration with the Shin Tao Haiku Retreat is proud to present the weekly Haiku Speedbuild! Every week, a haiku is chosen for the theme of the speedbuild, and the haiku will be revealed right before a contest begins. Each contestant will have 50 minutes to create a sculpture that best exemplifies the haiku within a 50 prim limit. Only ten building pads are available on a first come, first serve basis, so be sure to get there early!
Come and join in on the fun of Virtual Artist Alliance’s weekly PhotoHunt contest! PhotoHunt is a game in which participants must search for the best Second Life snapshot that embodies a theme and/or landmark provided by a moderator. Each contest lasts 60 minutes, and everyone is invited to vote for the winners of each contest!
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Seelowe’s Biography from Virtual Artpedia:
Rezzed on November 16th, 2006. After a month of exploring Second Life, Cyanide Seelowe involved herself in the art community by attending gallery openings and other artistic events. She met Rezago Kokorin at the the opening of Blekinge Sculpture Park and founded the Virtual Artist Alliance on the spot with the intention of providing new residents of Second Life with a portal to the art community of Second Life. This is her continued goal in the Second Life art community, and she uses the Virtual Artist Alliance primarily to facilitate this goal.
She has since coordinated several events and art shows with the Virtual Artist Alliance and its members, collaborating with various individuals and groups along the way. Among these were the First Book Charity Art Auction at Blekinge Sculpture Park in January of 2007, a Haiku Speed Build with the Shin Tao Haiku Retreat in October of 2007, and the Artist Self-Promotion Website with Krystal Epic. She has also curated several sculpture shows at the Virtual Artist Alliance Gallery, including “Kinetic” and the “Awesome Hat Show”.
The thing about Searching for Jesus Christ, or Searching for Philip Rosedale, or Searching for Cyanide Seelowe, is that they don’t exist. They did exist once, they were powerfully alive, palpably present, and they, in their various ways, had remarkable influence. Even so, they are now enmeshed in a matrix of time, they are on the other side of a widening antarctic crevasse. They are well worth admiring, yet they are of the past. They can’t help us now because they are not of our time. It’s only us here now, and the best we can do for their remarkable legacies is to do the best we can in our own time. To uphold their vision when it is appropriate, and to be unafraid to forge new paths, even paths conflicting with those founders visions, if that is the best way to serve the continuity of their vision.
I don’t envision any radical change for Haiku Speedbuild, I believe it to be a remarkable event and I would like to continue the tradition. Yet it is clear that these founders were not individuals who took the long way around, they seemed to walk in a straight line to see their latest vision realized.
In a sense “VAA” doesn’t exist anymore, it’s really 2 former VAA “projects,” Haiku Speedbuild and Photohunt that exist now. I guess they’re siblings or cousins. But there isn’t the visionary dreaming new forms up. Photohunt is really rolling ATM, and Speedbuild has some work to catch up, so in a way we don’t need more wild innovation now… still… as you find and digest the Seelowe breadcrumbs you feel the energy of constant innovation.
I think Virtual Artpedia was a powerful idea. It could have worked. But perhaps those who like to make web pages are busy with their own blogs, flickr, and other web pages. Those who mostly like to do in-world projects like Photohunt and Speedbuild are perhaps less likely to go make wiki pages. So while I treasure the fragments there, perhaps it’s not surprising that that vine has withered.
Even though “we” don’t need new innovation ATM, her’s an idea anyway. The virtual world is home to many powerful creative programs: The University of Western Australia has promoted magnificent machinima and other festivals, The Linden Endowment for the Arts has been the site of remarkable, large-scale installations, the many teaching facilities in the virtual world have helped residents create architecture, apparel, vehicles, and toys of every sort.
What I think is unique about VAA, is that unlike the longer durational pursuits of excellence found at places like UWA or LEA, VAA has a tradition of focusing on the “finger exercises.” We love it when musicians go off on wild, inspired, brilliant improvisations… not everyone loves the hours, days, and months of tortured “finger exercises” on the piano or trumpet or paint brush or video camera… but without becoming a master of those scales you can’t eventually be the genius of improvisation. VAA challenges us to make something: a photograph, a sculpture, a piece of architecture, in an hour. To practice our skills, our “virtual finger exercises.” I think the time is ripe for, hmm… “Machiniminute”… a 60 minute challenge to produce a maximum of 60 seconds of machinima, upload it to YouTube, and share the results with your fellow explorers…
I’d love to meet Cyanide Seelowe, though I’m sure I never will. It’s funny to think about, to admire, someone you don’t know… perhaps we’d become fast friends… we probably wouldn’t spend long afternoons braiding each other’s hair… but who’s to say… perhaps within 5 minutes of meeting we’d be screaming at each other! Those sorts of distinctions matter for people you work with in your own time, but for someone who has become a diaphanous moment, a glitchy Princess Leia vision, in time, these mundane factors don’t really matter… I’ll never meet Cyanide Seelowe… but I’ll always admire her…