Article Archive

A Second Life First-

Author: Darryn King
Thursday, 13 September 2007
The latest version of Microsoft Office isn’t the only 'installation' you can experience on your computer… the Australia Council for the arts has awarded three artists a residency in the cyber world of Second Life. Teacher, writer and Second Life n00b Justin Clemens tells The NL about the project.

To begin with, can you tell us a little bit about what you do in your day job - in the real world-
I teach literature (mainly Shakespeare and Milton) and theory (mainly contemporary European stuff) at the University of Melbourne. I also write a lot about contemporary Australian art for catalogues and magazines.

Have you strolled through Second Life as a citizen before- And Were you immediately excited by the possibilities of working Second Life, as a sort of new medium-
I’d never been in Second Life, but was fascinated by the idea of Second Life. Like many writers, I’m very interested in writing about and working with situations I would never normally be in – especially situations I would never want to be in!

Who are you collaborating with and what are they bringing to the project-
I’m collaborating with Christopher Dodds and Adam Nash, who have a long-time familiarity with virtual worlds. Chris is a well-known designer and art-game theorist with; Adam’s an artist, composer and lecturer in new media.

Tell us a little bit about the installation and how people can experience it.

The working title for the project is ‘Babelswarm’ - given that our globalised, mediatised planet literally swarms with innumerable languages and idioms of all kinds, mostly mutually incomprehensible. This idea will be translated into a ‘real world’ and ‘Second Life’ component. The real world component will be a gallery-based interface, where audiences can interact via an audio interface and computer-driven screen projection. Their contributions will produce swarms of letters that will virtually interact in various unexpected ways. Likewise, avatar visitors to the SL installation will be able to do the same.

So, the installation will exist in Second Life and in the real world - is ‘parallel dimensions’ an accurate analogy- Will stuff in one dimension affect the other-
That’s the best thing about the actuality of virtuality, if I can put it like that: that what really doesn’t exist not only has direct links with ‘reality’, but integrally affects, even utterly transforms, the nature of reality itself. It’s not so much about ‘parallel dimensions’ (which suggests dimensions that never meet), as it is about the power of non-existence. The short answer to the second part of your question is therefore: yes!

Do you think that there’ll be more artistic ventures in the Second Life world in the future-
Absolutely. I’m looking forward to seeing what art can become under such historically and technologically unprecedented conditions.

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