Thursday, August 21, 2008

Unexpected objects

"Recent works," which will open this Sunday, is a bit of a meditative walkabout with surprises around each bend in your path. Created by Mencius Watts and Taggert Alsop, and curated by Tayzia Abattoir, this kinetic light and sound and space installation invites quiet exploration, and while much of it - if not all - would be possible in Real Life (PIRL), the cost of mounting such a show would be prohibitive unless you happen to be one of the ten or so names in the art world with the proven ability to pull in some very serious money and support.

It works well in a virtual environment, and realism is achieved with these unexpected objects in unexpected places by breathing life into them through the use of video, light, movement, and live feeds.

One exhibit works interactively with Flickr. You type in any word, and it pulls and displays approximately thirty photographs that are tagged with that word. For this video, I typed "NMC," which stands for New Media Consortium, the organization that is hosting the show. Another installation displays RSS news feeds. The works are proximity triggered, so you must get close enough to set them off, or alternatively, turn your media on.

Filmed and edited by Bettina Tizzy
Sound files produced by Taggert Alsop

Mencius Watts is the "artist" account for an American with a Master of Fine Arts degree in Intermedia and Video Art. Using another account for his "day job," he heads up a research group that works exclusively in virtual environments, including Second Life®. His professional focus resides with interface design, social engagement, virtuality and simulation.

Mencius Watts: We work a lot in Second Life these days... art mostly. We do museum kiosks... gesture-based, touch screens, etc.

Does that carry over in the art that Mencius does?
Mencius Watts: Yes. I reinvent a lot of my Real Life works. I am a video artist... do installations. I collaborate with scripters, composers, etc.

Who are your collaborators?
Mencius Watts: A group of Real Life artists and programmers. The main avatar is Taggert Alsop.

Ah, not in world...
Mencius Watts: Well, we are in Second Life, too. All blurry. Taggert does most of the scripting and most composing for the works. I do the 3D and media concepts. For me and our group, (this show) is a wonderful opportunity to explore virtual art and showcase the intersections of art and technology. (There is) a lot of content in the works, but some pretty hefty back end know-how driving it (and) making it work. For the user, a direct experience with the work... not clunky. The aesthetic experience is the most important. The technology behind it should disappear.

The collection of works will open to the public beginning Sunday and will be up for a month at Ars Simulacra, the New Media Consortium's (NMC) Second Life artist showcase island. Teleport directly from here.