Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Why you need to pay attention to Brooklyn is Watching's "Best of Year 1 Festival"

Posted by Bettina Tizzy

It's been a big year for Brooklyn is Watching (BiW), the mixed reality arts project sponsored by Popcha and taking place simultaneously at the gallery Jack the Pelican Presents in Brooklyn, New York and in Second Life®.

In fact, it's been the only year that BiW has been in operation, and what a year it has been. In March of 2008, I reported on the new performance space and presentation/sandbox that had been set up in Second Life (teleport directly from here), and the avatar in the shape of an eyeball and going by the name "Monet Destiny" that would be viewing and projecting the goings-on there onto a large screen monitor at the Real Life gallery.

Now the project's founder, Jay Newt (aka Jay Van Buren), has announced The Best of BiW Year 1, a two month-long festival spanning parts of 3 sims and the Jack the Pelican Presents gallery in Williamsburg (Brooklyn), with artist talks, panel discussions and two art shows leading up to the BOBIWY1 Prize. Anyone may nominate artworks that have been rezzed at Brooklyn is Watching during its first 52 weeks, but the key difference between this and other virtual art competitions is that the five finalists will be invited to create new works or adapt existing work to be displayed in Second Life and at Jack the Pelican. In the interest of full disclosure, I'm tickled that I've been asked to be one of the five judges, along with AM Radio, Amy Freelunch, AngryBeth Shortbread and Sage Duncan.

Nominations have begun and the Brooklyn is Watching Year 1 Prize (the golden eyeball) will be awarded on August 23, 2009.

I caught up with Jay to get the skinny:

Has your work with BiW impacted Jack the Pelican gallery? How are things different there from one year ago?

Jay: The biggest evidence of it having an impact is the fact that it is still there. Don (Carrol - he runs the gallery) was really going out on a limb to give the project space in the beginning. So the fact that now, more than a year later and even in these tough economic times, he's still devoting space where artwork that could be sold means that he must feel it is important. Many of the artists who hang around at Jack the Pelican have told me how blown away they are by the quality and variety of artwork that SL is showing us at BiW. BiW has kind of become a fixture at the gallery, and now with the coming RL show, it will be getting a much bigger profile than its ever had.

Have any non-SL users been won over by experiencing BiW from Jack the Pelican gallery?

Jay: Both Jenna Spevack and Norene Leddy (Norene is the first site if you Google her first name! She's like Cher!) were not that much into SL before they became involved and they have both got so interested in it that they joined the project and became my collaborators.

How has YOUR view of virtual art changed over the course of a year?

Jay: I just continue to be amazed and excited by what artists are doing. I think that the work is getting better. I don't know that my view has changed that much. I feel my belief that this is an important medium has been vindicated.

If you were to identify the three things that most helped to transform BiW in one year, what would they be?

Jay: Well - we would have never got off the ground with out Amy Wilson, and then I think Beth Harris and Steven Zucker really brought us a lot of fresh energy. The biggest thing is the growth of the BiW community, and I love that they complain when they don't like the podcasts - there is a reciprocal relationship.

If you could have three wishes come true in regards to BiW, what would they be?

Having Dekka Raymaker and Penumbra Carter show up in RL with a bottle of champagne was fantastic. I loved getting to go to Estonia for Estonia is Watching, and the last one is this upcoming RL show which will bring a new level of attention to some very deserving artists.

Who is sponsoring the land on the three sims?

Jay: We're going to have the "30 Best" show which on part of the University of Kansas Department of Visual Arts Sim, and Part of a new sim the University is getting called "Impermanence" that will be the new home of the regular Brooklyn is Watching Tower and space which will continue through the Festival as well. And lastly, the "Final Five" show will be at the Odyssey sim.

Do you remember most/all of the artwork that has been rezzed at BiW? What if an artist who has rezzed there wanted you to see something different? Would you be okay with that?

Jay: I don't think I even saw half of what was there - there's been so much it's just staggering - it's mind boggling. The idea of "30 best" is that its all artworks from the past, so we're going to be including specific works. Certainly the artists will be welcome to put notecards on those works that offer TP's to places where more and newer work can be seen. In the "Final Five" show the idea is that the five artists can create an entirely new work for that show, or choose to adapt and existing work.

What's showing at Jack the Pelican these days?

Jay: There's a painting show up in the front room - a group of young New York artists who all work in a style of fairly realistic looking images of fanciful, improbable or just slightly "off" subject matter. They're really good paintings.

Jay is especially excited about the Nomination Wiki: "It is going to be a fantastic resource for future art historians. I predict that sometime in the next 20 years at least 5 of the artists that have shown at BiW are going to have one-person shows in Real Life museums, and monographs written about them.