Saturday, February 14, 2009

Head, move back up to the neck please!

NPIRL joins Olza Koenkamp's Big Psomm

Posted by Tooter Claxton

There's a huge box in Brussels that looks like a giant padded cell. So, I felt right at home when Bettina Tizzy and I arrived there on our first NPIRL team building trip. We were there for the opening of Olza Koenkamp's latest project; the Big Psomm. There are a bunch of free avatars you can wear there, and each avatar is a piece of one giant avatar. The idea is to gather a group of people, everyone picks a body part to wear and together you try to construct the Big Psomm. Sounds simple; it's hard.

Olza had sent out invitations and put up a huge sign at the Hobo info hub, so there were more than enough people there to make it happen. At first everyone was trying on the different avatars, admiring Olza's work on them and running around in circles. So for ten minutes it looked like the Big Psomm was hit by a train. But then it slowly came back to life. The lower leg cuddled up to the foot, some of the heads (one of the more popular avatars) found their way to the neck which was trying to decide which of the 3 chests (also popular because of it's curviness) to attach to. Then there was a lot of laughing and shouting instructions to each other. “Head move back up to the neck, please!” “There are three bellies, give us a hand!” Text chat covered the window. Everyone tried to get this done in their own way; some IM'd their nearest limbs, some politely asked where to go, some yelled, and I started a group called Big Psomm right leg. I'm so pragmatic.

And sure enough, we pulled it off. There was the Big Psomm in all it's glory! Some dislocated joints in places, but a recognizable human shape nevertheless. Frankenstein, eat your heart out.

We all just stood there for a while to take some pictures and let Olza get his footage, and then we got overconfident and tried to shimmy sideways. (“East!”, “Which side is east?” and so on) and the whole thing fell apart again.

So there it was: an evening spent with sixteen or so people -most of whom I had never met before- turning abstract art into figurative art, and back again. Quite an accomplishment. And a lot of fun too.

Olza Koenkamp (Piotr Kopik) is a Real Life artist, computer graphics teacher, father and avant garde shanty choir singer from Warsaw, Poland and one of my favoritest people in Second Life®®©™. I know Bettina already told you a lot about him here on this blog, but since both Olza and I spend a lot of time building in Glidden Campus I got to do an in-depth interview with him. I'm not much of a interviewer, so at times the answers are at 1% length of the questions but who cares, right? Right.

Me: The thing about the Big Psomm that was quite surprising to me was the fact that working together with a group of people to get it together is half the fun. Did you anticipate that?

Olza Koenkamp: I didn't have any clear expectations. I was really curious if people would like to participate and what they would do. I thought it would be more of a mess. I provided the toys with certain aesthetics, in a specific setting, so there was some control. But they could do anything, I was surprised that they wanted to cooperate.
It wasn't just the idea to make a perfect connected body or to make a video of moving body parts only, there was also the social aspect.
I was thinking about the body and how every part has got some kind of consciousness. The head wants to sit and do something, but the arms are tired, as is the backbone. The legs are half relaxed half stressed... etcetera. You think and feel many things at the same time. The same thing happens when all the different people make the Big Psomm.

Me: Now that you mention conscious body parts: why doesn't it have genitals?

Olza Koenkamp: That would have made it all go one way. Everything would have focused on sex .. so i just added some additional elements, like the flaps. If anyone feels the need to do make a penis with them, ok.

Me: In your art, you seem to be obsessed with certain techniques or metaphors for a while, and then you move on. Recently you are preoccupied with the human body. Are you a fetishist?

Olza Koenkamp: I don't know. I concentrate. Now I'm working with 'body'. This is body art. New body art. It's about combining mind and body. I explore expressions, feelings, physical sensations. It's all about me, but I don't use a mirror or photos. Just my imagination.

Me: So the characters you build into your avatars (see Olza's shop-TC ) are all you?

Olza Koenkamp: Sure. In my avatars I emphasize a certain pose or feeling that i have, I just improvise to adjust them to my mind.
I'm searching for a kind of Utopian -I dont think it is Utopian- harmony. Of course, to find it you must pass many of the monsters. Which I actually think they are not.

Me: So the next stop is blissfulness?

Olza Koenkamp: Little joys, little steps. If I was near to super-blissfulness-enlightenment I probably would not do anything anymore.

Me: So the harmony is in acknowledging and embracing the flaws. That's very Ying-Yang.

Olza Koenkamp: As well as Indian, Hindu, also some baroque, fairy tales from the far east and organic things. Someone said about my exhibition in Real Life that it is folk art. Also, I've been doing yoga. That's very inspiring and helpful for this theme. But I know that 90% of yoga is shit. It's so popular that 90% must be shit.

Me: Somewhere on your site your work is compared to one of my all time heroes, Kurt Schwitters, and I agree, but with one exception: you make what you use, he used what he found. On the other hand you could say that you 'find' techniques like black and white graphics, figurative painting, video, animation, graffiti, tape, food, Second Life®©™, right?

Olza Koenkamp: yes

Me: So do you have a plan as to where you're going with your art? Do you go with the flow and see what happens, or do you adapt your style to your theme?

Olza Koenkamp: Now I go with the flow. I just have some plans. I want to make another Real Life build from wood which I will paint and put stickers on, and big pencil and crayon drawings on paper, and I have ideas for new avatars and there is a 'serious' movie* I will do. There's also the Szu Szu art group, so there are really many different things to do. The only thing I know is to make more, and get better at it, to satisfy my eye.

Keep an eye out for Olza, it may get satisfied. I'm pretty certain it will.

For now you can still build a Big Psomm with your friends here, and watch Olza's video of our attempt here. Or see some (better) photos on Olza's Flickr pages.

* Olza has made avatars and written a scenario for a Second Life machinima movie that is being picked up by people in the 'business'; but I promised to keep quiet about that. TC.

P.S. I'm new to this blog. Find out all about me on this one.


Alpha Auer said...

YAY!!! Welcome Tooter!

Bettina Tizzy said...

Tooooooter! It's a thrill to have you round these parts.

bRYEnd_of_the_schtick said...

(^ heck if tooter shows, I'll follow suit, even if I don't speak dutch.

(^ clacketty clack clack clackstoned cold studying yet still less than moreso.

mm said...

it was a pleasure being feet with you tooter, even though you said i was smelly :p