Friday, March 14, 2008

Gazira Babeli with a foot (and a show) in both lives: Gazworks

Call her a code-performer, a griefer, a virtual Goddess, an artist and Machinimator... the fact is, Gazira Babeli is all these things and much more.

Gazira's highly interactive "art" is the result of combining images and representational objects of things and concepts we know and are comfortable with, and code that takes liberties with our avatars and our heads. The sum of these elements never fails to challenge the participant's view of their virtual identity and their sense of self in any life. Gazira is also renown for her group participations with the both venerated and despised Second Front, an avatar performance art group in Second Life.

Her work has ingrained itself so profoundly into the cultural mind of Second Life, in fact, that people have taken to referring to things that look like, behave or seem to have been made by Gazira Babeli, as Gazworks.

Tomorrow, Gazira will have a show opening at the fabioparis art gallery in Brescia, Italy. The exhibit will feature her much-celebrated film work, photographic prints of some of her performances, and a 3D object/sculpture: a "hand-made" avatar.

Concurrently, Gazira will host an event on Saturday, March 15th in Second Life at her strangely ingenious and farcical Locusolus sim (teleport directly from here), at 9am SLT, which I plan to attend.

I've written about Gazira Babeli's work before, but this marks the first time I share a conversation I've had with her (at her consent). No text on this flat thing we call the web can adequately convey the sharp wit, the bravado, and the charm that is Gazira, but here is a taste.

Bettina Tizzy: At what point did you understand yourself to be the Gazira Babeli that we know today?

Gazira Babeli: At the first login. When I saw Buster Keaton walking in front of me. I have never used animations to humanize my way of walking... I still walk like Buster Keaton. Maybe-I-am-Buster Keaton!

Bettina Tizzy: As I understand it, you had not done any programming prior to your introduction to Second Life. Is this true?

Gazira Babeli: No, I knew a little C language, and Second Life scripting has a very similar, simplified grammar.

Bettina Tizzy: What kind of griefing did you do, early in your Second Life? Did you mingle with other griefers and are any of them still around?

Gazira Babeli: I didn't consider it griefing. I tried to "interact" with the enviroment and its residents and some of them considered my acts as "griefing." Basically, I was only applying the rule "Your World, Your Imagination," but apparently human imagination is quite an unstable product. I never met any griefers. Could you introduce me to some of them?

Late last year, Gazira participated in a Second Front "Miami Vice" event

Bettina Tizzy: What is the purpose of your artistic "interventions" with our avatars, and what is "Gazwork?"

Gazira Babeli: At the beginning of the Sixties, Philip K. Dick, with his "Perky Pat" dolls, was already thinking about avatars. Literature and theories arrived much earlier than facts, creating superstition and bias. I try to bring back experience to the basic "real fact," by wondering "which kind of body is this in front of me?," "which is his space and where does it end?," "who are the -others-?," "who imagines what?," "what is the difference between all this and spending eight hours working on Microsoft Office?"... and so on. These questions are Gazwork. Is it artistic? Possibly yes. By asking these questions I use instruments and rules of the artistic tradition/convention.

Bettina Tizzy: In your view, what is the distinction between avatars and objects?

Gazira Babeli: I apologize to the animists, but I don't think objects have a soul.

Bettina Tizzy: So, avatars have a soul?

Gazira Babeli: Many souls! Geographical soul, cultural soul, generational soul... feel free to go on. Ask your avatar to use the imagination soul.

Bettina Tizzy: Do you laugh a lot sitting at your keyboard as you perform these interventions?

Gazira Babeli: Yes. I laugh when I perceive intellectual fun; I cry when I see mental pain.

An 88-page catalogue "Gazira Babeli," curated by the Italian art critic Domenico Quaranta, (FPEditions, Brescia, 2008) with texts by Patrick Lichty, Alan Sondheim and Mario Gerosa, will also be presented.


Anonymous said...

My imagination soul gets shelved sometimes, usually by people behaving as objects.

Anonymous said...

I don't think that having my avatar's body deformed is art, whatever you may think.


Unknown said...

Well,my own view is I love those who push me so past my envelope that I end up in a box and then they just push harder until I end up limitless. And the closer I get to limitless the closer I get to divinity