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Full Circle



So here I am, back where I started.

When I look at this blog I notice that it has 3 quite distinct phases. In the beginning there seems to be much optimism and good will towards my Second Life. Which, looking back on it now, is so naive that I want to kick myself. The second part is when I start to get sad and maudlin. And then there are the posts from last year where I become insufferably self-important. So, looking at all of it together it is a rather embarrassing process of self-observation  - to say the least.

There are a few posts which are quite funny. Even re-reading them today and even though I am the one who wrote the stuff, I laugh. Like the one where the pig dies or the one where Xia organizes the computer. Reading these today I see that, naive shmaive, those early days did bring out the very best in me, which is of course the silly part of me. At some point I had to forsake the silly stuff since there was no longer a setting for it. The blog reflects the loss: For the last year or so I didn't really like the stuff that Alpha was writing about. And the way in which she was writing, I liked even less. She was trying to fill a vacuum with a lot of spurious talk. Never worked. Which is why I eventually stopped altogether.

So, the few funny posts are probably the only things that make this blog worthwhile for me. Only reason why I am not deleting the whole thing really.
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after a long silence - goodbye Syncretia



I had been thinking about letting go of Syncretia for quite some time. An announcement by Linden Lab stating that non-profit/educational sims would be expected to pay the full price starting from January 2011 catapulted me from apathy into taking a final decision. And although Linden Labs reneged upon their initial announcement very quickly - within a matter of days in fact, for me the decision was taken and I am not going to be renewing the lease, which is up on November 25th.

And, quite frankly, I am relieved.




The problem with Syncretia is that what I made gives me too much of a feeling of permanence, of being a really real place. Nothing can be deleted, and nothing can be added to it. One could conceivably tear it down and start afresh, but I do not have the heart for that either. It is too precious a toy. Problem is, it is also a discarded toy since I no longer play there anymore. I have not been there in a very long time. It is just sitting there waiting for something to happen which I seem to be incapable of delivering.

I have been taking videos and photographs to document what I made at Syncretia. Will continue to do so until the last day, I suppose.

I have learned from Syncretia. When I build again it will be different. And that will happen at OSGrid from now on. Where I already have a sim. And a new identity. Hopefully a much smarter, no nonsense sort of me...
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No Trust



I am sitting here and thinking: How many people do I know that I can trust? In the true sense of the word? Who, in their turn, trust me and would therefore stick up for me and stand by me, no matter what? Answer: One. The Boss.

I think it is in the nature of the beast which is now spilling out all over the pavement as social structures are breaking down. There are no more tribes. No more extended families. No life long friendships. People move around too much. Living has become far too complex a matter for those things to still be affordable. Some people do better at it, of course. But there are masses of others out there that are exactly like me. They live in the absence of trust.

So, why the boss? She comes from a rural background where social structures are still in far better shape than they are in big cities. And trust has been bred into her. Mind you, it is an emotion reserved for her huge extended family. We have a word in Turkish which is quite untranslatable: "El". It denotes people that are not kin. Somewhere along the line, the boss decided that I was kin even though we are not related. Will her kids inherit her values? The boss will see to it that they do. And if they do not she will whop them on the head with a skillet until they learn! She is that type of a person. Someone to be reckoned with. But she is a complete oddball and not many other parents will achieve what she does. The social fabric is in tatters and one has to be a person of extraordinary fiber to withstand the blast.

And who wants to anyway? It is so much more fun to be footloose and fancy free. To no longer have to worry about commitments. I have a cat who for the past 2 years has had chronic diarrhea. It is really bad, it happens wherever she sits and walks. Otherwise, she is a happy, alert, affectionate little animal. Eats voraciously, the grub goes in on one end comes straight back out on the other. When she wants to sit on my lap I first have to spread down paper towels. I cannot think of one person amongst my acquaintance who has not suggested that I have her put down. Only exception: The Boss. Of course.

All this is hitting me with the force of a 7.8 Richter scale earthquake. And, I do know what they are like, we had one here 10 years ago. 50000 people died. Only thing to add is that I am completely amazed that it is happening only now, so late, so many decades into my life. What was I thinking until now? Playing Pollyanna? In the face of social landslides! Like as if this is a matter of personal goodwill? I used to lecture this friend of mine about his lack of trust. Boy, was I wrong and was he right...

So... What do I do now? With the rest of my life, that is? The spot where I seem to have been all along, and that I am looking at quite dispassionately for the first time now, is horrifyingly bleak. And I am not at all sure that I want to continue being here. Somewhere along the line I must have screwed up very badly, gotten all of the rules of survival upside down. Not sure when or how. Probably a very long time ago. Now, how do I get out?

(Painting by Boris Indrikov)
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A Eureka moment



I have been sitting here all weekend - reading, taking notes, even starting the draft of the draft of a draft of a paper. (Need to read a lot more before I even get to the draft of a draft stage ;-). I really am somewhat obsessed with the question which I keep asking, you see. The one about my students. I am, after all, attempting to do a PhD, the subject of which is art education... How can I even write a dissertation without taking all this into account? Or so I was thinking until a minute ago...

Anyway, I was just sitting here, smoking a cigarette, continuing my ruminations and then I started to think about someone who I do believe has the genuine "bug". Is an artist, in other words. And I began to wonder whether this would have been something that his instructors could have possibly sensed about him while he was still in art school. And more to the point - would he have known it himself? And even more to the point (and this, I believe, is the true clincher!)  - was he, in fact, already an artist at the tender age of 20 something? Or did that actually evolve?

The seeds of it may well have been there from way back when, his childhood, I suppose. Now, I happen to have the privilege of being somewhat familiar with this persons work starting from his early twenties. And admittedly, the essence of what he is all about today is present even in his very early output. However, only an inkling of it, vaguely sensed here and there, poking its head through (almost timidly), buried amongst quite a bit of extraneous material. And then he seems to have moved closer and closer to it as he grew older. Seems to have spent a very long time in finding and then developing his own visual language. (Sine qua non in these matters, I would say). The full-on impact, the blast of "the big question" however - that, as far as I can tell, appears to have happened only quite recently, over the past 2 or 3 years. At a point when he was already in his 40s.

And then, to illustrate an entirely different case: Did I have artistic pretensions when I was 20 years old? Sure I did. It took long decades for me to reach an awareness that I am not an artist, that I do not have these burning issues. I just really like to make stuff. Give myself little assignments. Not at all the same thing!

I cannot project myself into the mindset of Bruegel. Did he know that he was an artist whilst he was still training as an apprentice? Or did that come about later? And would it even have mattered to him? Was the definition of being an artist back then the same as it is today? The operant conditions of his lifetime were entirely different from the ones surrounding my colleague of whom I was talking about above. Really, it is almost like comparing apples and oranges.

So, to get back to today: I cannot possibly know who amongst my students may have a true artistic calling. In all likelihood, they will not be able to know this themselves. Those that are will eventually know, and those around them may do so also - after quite a bit of water has passed under the bridge.
Nothing for me to get all worked up about then now, is there?

;-)
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Continued from the other day



I am still wondering here. The previous post, where this bit belongs to as well, is already way too long. So, I am starting a new one.
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First, why was I only vaguely aware that Hegel had a gripe with art? Could it be because it is an uncomfortable truth (uttered by Hegel, no less!) which goes against the grain of the prevalent art system? In other words, it is not in the best interest of persons seeking a place within that system, be it as critics, theoreticians, curators or artists, to be quoting him. You do not saw off the tree branch on which you are perching, we say in Turkish. Must be similar proverbs in all languages. So, the word does not get too widely disseminated, or whenever it does it gets buried under mountains of doublespeak. Which could possibly account for how I missed it.

Not that I am trying to justify my ignorance or anything. If anything, I am totally appalled by it: There are 448,000 page results for a query for "Hegel+art+death" on google. Which is certainly more than enough for me to have been fully aware. A lot of these lead to Arthur Danto who seems to have applied the Hegelian principle to post 1970's art. Which, would be the period to scrutinize very closely indeed. The book is already on its way from Amazon.
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Second, I said that a true artistic calling would be unlikely to bring fulfillment to its possessor. I am sticking to my guns with this one. Unless the person in question is introverted to the point of autism, that is.

I have this idea that artwork which posits the "deeper question", in the Hegelian sense, has an overall tendency to go over like a lead balloon in contemporary art circles. Will probably not even get shown. If for no other reason than the one that dictates that artwork needs to be of a nature that will enable its "consumption" within 18 seconds. In other words, the amount of time that a spectator spends in front of an artwork is no more than 18 seconds on an average. Anything that takes longer "to get" is not likely to get viewed. This, I am told, is a curatorial/museological maxim which the organizers of art events stick to world wide.

But 18 seconds would be the least of the worries of the folk that decide upon what gets shown and what does not. The real issue would be the "Zeitgeist" and to what an extent work shown is in tune to it. The Zeitgeist of our time is materialistic. And by Hegel's definition art work cannot be so. It is intrinsically spiritual.

A person may be a devout believer and still be deeply materialistic. Or an atheist and deeply spiritual. As far as I can see, the two things have nothing to do with one another. Certain people have questions which relate to what lies beyond the material while most others do not.

I am a child of my times. Thus, unfortunately, I am not at all spiritually inclined. I have a deep admiration for people who are, like my PhD professor Roy Ascott. Who are grappling with issues such as "consciousness". What "being" may be all about. I also know that these are questions that are best left unasked if you want to get funded in science. That the scientist who starts to wonder about why and how we are "conscious" tends to get kicked out of funding schemes. Is considered to be unworthy of further serious attention from the scientific community. Art is not science, but... When I look at the evidence around me I somehow end up becoming fairly certain that the exact same principles which are applied to one are also applied to the other when it comes to the funding of art work, the showing of art work, obtaining a place in good artist's residencies and so forth. It is the Zeitgeist at work. In the case of science, some harm done I am sure, but by and large science may well be benefiting from this. Become more accurate, more deterministic, obtain better results. For art however, the effects are devastating. It is the era of non-art. Material object devoid of spirit. Or at times, even worse: Material object as a representation of "fake" spirit. "Social awareness" it is called? The artwork as sociocultural/political propaganda board.

And then also - and no matter how admirable the initial intentions may have been in most of these cases - the many uneasy marriages between art and science which, more often than not, yield offspring who not only seem to fall short of satisfying the innate requirements expected of either parent, but also of engendering their own novel discourse.

One seeming exception? A lot of personal soul searching abounds in contemporary body art and this could very easily be confused with the term "spiritual". Body art may be (in fact, almost always seems to be) deeply personal. The person embroiled within the process often grappling with formidable personal demons. Is that a spiritual quest though? Given how all the demons would be flesh-bound to begin with? And then, even more importantly: Is a spiritual quest something personal? Or does it transcend the personal? Does it only become spiritual when it leaves the realm of the  personal "I" and enters the realm of collective consciousness? Are there works of contemporary body art that do attain this state? Possibly so, yes. I need to think more about this one. A lot more, in fact.
And then New Age manifestations: Do they go against the spirit of the materialistic Zeitgeist? Can they be seen as evidence of a mass spiritual quest? Maybe the start of a new religion even? Humm... Maybe back in the 1960's and early 70s they might have been indicative of some sort of a search. But today? Isn't the bulk of it all about "what's in it for me"? How can I use age old spiritual techniques to extend my income, become a more successful person, attain a better love life, lose weight and maybe stop smoking even? Sure, there are bound to be persons out there who pursue a deeper calling. Enough for a critical mass to come about? Enough to shift the Zeitgeist, in other words? No evidence whatsoever for that, as far as I can see.
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So, getting back to my question from before: What do I tell the rare oddball "true" artist who may wander into my class in pursuit of a deeper quest? A student who has entrusted him/herself into my tutelage? Do I tell them that a lifetime of frustration; of very often, if not indeed inevitably, being overlooked awaits them? That they are proposing to enter a Quixotic state of existence which goes against the very grain of the prevalent Zeitgeist? Tell them to forget it, in other words? And could they "forget it" even if they wished to do so? So, do I stand by, helplessly wringing my hands, as I watch them head off to emotional perdition?
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re-blogged



Quoted from the blog Sex Drugs and Post-Structuralism (unfortunately no longer active, it seems):

... "when I am alone with myself, I have not the courage to think of myself as an artist in the great and ancient sense of the term. I am only a public entertainer who has understood his times and exploited as best he could the imbecility, the vanity, the cupidity of his contemporaries. Mine is a bitter confession, more painful than it may appear, but it has the merit of being sincere." Pablo Picasso (Interview with Giovanni Papini in Libro Nero, 1952)
It is maybe not Picasso’s fault, higher forces are at play. Hegel had already proclaimed the death of art one hundred years before. Art, for Hegel, had reached its expressive limit, its “spirit” or Geist, had been exhausted. Art’s expressive form had achieved all that it could. In Hegel’s scheme of things, art had reached full-circle in the complete self-awareness of itself as art... in other words, art becomes self-conscious.
As soon as a particular expression of Geist starts becoming self-conscious, it multiplies itself; art is everywhere, there has never been so much “art” in the world than today...and yet, what is “art”?
The very asking of the question amongst the proliferation of “arts”, is for Hegel, the Zeitgeist, or the “signs of the times”, that art is dead. Art becomes self-conscious, as it starts theorizing about itself in an interminable questioning of itself.
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Read the whole text here:
http://chaosmose.blogspot.com/2005/09/death-of-art-hegel-and-picasso.html
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Do I agree? Well, yes and no... Sadly, I do think that the author of the post above knows precisely what she is talking about.

But then again, I still see the real thing on rare occasions as well? Works of art, in other words? That do not theorize about themselves? Tough to pinpoint, tough to define, tough to categorize and to label. And thus, unforgettable. Admittedly, few and far between. If anything, I seem to encounter them years apart. Certainly not an everyday occurrence. Buried amongst a pervasive avalanche of verbose iniquity, gasping for breath. But nonetheless - there!
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Continued on the following morning:

This shook me up. I have to be totally honest and own up to the fact that I was only vaguely aware of Hegel's proclamations (*ouch*), until an article sent to the journal which I am editing made me encounter them head-on yesterday. Needless to say, I have been reading up feverishly since then.
I have felt the Zeitgeist which Hegel points at. And for a long time too. But obviously my feeling something, no matter for how long and however strongly, and Hegel articulating it are two different things entirely. When the man, whose thought processes have helped shape two centuries of subsequent intellectual activity, says that "a (social) need for art is obsolete" it is of momentous impact. For me it is so anyway: Can a calling which attempts to exist with no underlying societal purpose achieve this exalted state at all? Well... Yes, it seems that it can. Can it do so and still bring fulfillment to its possessor? Very seriously doubt it...

I do not call myself an artist, so this does not shake up the foundations of my existence on an immediately personal, first person singular sort of a level. I just carry on doing what I have been doing all along - which is making stuff that I know to be design output. But nonetheless, it is still important, even on a personal level, in the sense that I am also an art educator sometimes. Not always, thank God. I am a design instructor most of the time. However, I do have students that have artistic aspirations as well, particularly on the graduate level. So, what do I say? What do I do? Because I do know that Hegel is correct. A visionary, given that his thoughts do not really apply to the works of his contemporaries, as Chaosmose very accurately points out in her post, but to what came about long after his death.

Hegel argues that art, in concert with religion and philosophy, is an activity of the mind whose task is to reveal spirit, in sensuous form. And as such, it would inevitably have completed its intrinsic life cycle with the advent of materialism as the founding principle of the post-romantic/modernist social mindset coming to the fore during Hegel's own lifetime. I have previously tried to define an artist as someone who has a fundamental question that they are trying to articulate, a question that has no answer but the answer to which is haunting them nonetheless (by which I suppose I was groping for that very Hegelian definition). Today, for the largest part, individuals with such an obsession would have a horrifyingly difficult time getting across their query, given that they are totally obliterated by a maelstrom of non-art to begin with. And then - even more importantly, the religious/cultural infrastructure that would have provided a socioeconomic milieu of "genuine need" to aid Bruegel in his quest - where is that now? How do things work in it's demise? What is there for a "real" artist to do today? In the year 2010?

The malady would also manifest in the proliferation of art, which Hegel seems to define as one of the symptoms of its decadence, apparently already somewhat in evidence towards the end of the Romantic era (all this as far as I can make out from my survey reading since yesterday - believe me, I will be reading more deeply - ordering the books even as I write...). So, how many artists are there now? I mean how many human beings are there in the world today that define their output as "art"? Thousands? Hundreds of thousands? Millions? Hundreds of millions? 1% of the world's population? 5? 10? I have no clear idea, but a huge number, of that I am certain... And so, what would have been this same percentage until the advent of modernism? 0.001%? 0.0001%? 0.00001%? I think that whatever that tiny percentage may have been back then, it would probably still be the same today. In other words, a handful of individuals, in societies comprised of tens of millions of people are artists today also - very much as was the case during the Renaissance or whenever.

So, I could well encounter one of them or maybe two of them in my classrooms in all the decades that I teach. How do I know that they are the genuine article? And again, what do I tell them even if I do manage to somehow distinguish them from the fray? And then, what does one tell all the others? How does one differentiate even? Does one simply shut up? Probably... I am certain that shutting up and pretending that all is hunky dory is what is expected of the likes of me. Our employers, our peers, our students - no one wants the apple cart to be upset, do they?
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The Tales of Ruysch



It would probably never have occurred to me to construct the nonsensical/non-linear web tale which I am cobbling together out of virtual imagery and Shakespeare's quotes and sonnets, had it not been for the pose library which I was given by storyteller Frigg Ragu in Second Life. Initially I was using these to take photographs of the output of alpha.tribe for display purposes. Even on the very first occasion that I wandered back and forth between them I became aware to what an extent Frigg had managed to capture the expressive language of Renaissance/Rococo paintings within these poses. There was an art historic quality to them which was simply begging to be put to use within such a context. In other words, not "contemporary" avatar photographs in Second Life, but something more along the lines of genre painting.

I had already made a number of quasi-historic outfits for sale in Second Life, but once the idea began to gain hold I started to deliberately create more of them since "the actors" would need to be kitted out in appropriate garb. I also began to experiment with virtual photography and realized very soon that an artificial studio, completely closed off from the outside world would need to be created within the already artificial world of Second Life if these images and videos were to look anything like what I wanted them to look like. So, although shot in Second Life, this is not really Second Life, but a simulated environment housed inside a colossal spherical mega prim in the skies above Syncretia, at an altitude which is high enough for privacy and yet low enough for windlight presets to fully work. This latter is quite crucial since the bulk of the lighting is achieved through a number of custom presets I have created for the studio (and which are completely unusable outside of it by the way).  These are supplemented by countless small light prims placed close to the avatars, particularly around their heads and inside their palms. The walls as well as all the props of this studio are textured with historic genre paintings, which change from scene to scene, since I found out that, for me, there is a particular fascination and magic in juxtaposing the "synthetic" avatar to the "analog" content found in these.

It should also probably be added that I have quite a bit of previous familiarity with Real Life photo studio environments as part of my old job as art director. It was surprising how easily this past experience could be transferred into the virtual studio of my own creation. One in which the props, actors, and light are under my full control. And, even better, Frigg's poses give the scenes which I set up an expressive quality which it would have been quite impossible to achieve with human models, unless one were using highly skilled actors and actresses for the task.

I have to say that I am not a big fan of History. I have no nostalgia whatsoever for days past. In fact, if anything I am heartily thankful that they are precisely that - past! I tend to avoid biographies as well as historic novels and films if I can possibly do so (they tend to bore me to tears mostly...) but there are some exceptions to this overall dislike: Jane Austen's novels, which I must have read at least 20 times over (and will hopefully read a good few times more before I leave this earth); the whole period of Western art ranging from the late Gothic to Classicism. And therein particularly Dutch genre paintings and still lives, including the small but exquisite output of one of the very few professional female painters in art history, Rachel Ruysch. And then, bizarrely enough (since I often cannot understand him straight off the bat, but have to resort to dictionaries and explanatory texts), I really adore Shakespeare.

And Shakespeare's words are what I am basing this somewhat absurd tale in progress upon. It is good to know one's weaknesses and one's strengths: Although I do love a good yarn, I am completely incapable of making one up myself. Thankfully, once I have a story I can work it visually. Years of professional design work have given me the know-how of doing so. And it is no remarkable or rare skill by the way: Any art director worth his or her salt has to know how to set up good visual hierarchies and develop a keen eye for detail. Has to know how to create a story board and know what moments within the "tale" to emphasize.  And yes, a storyboard for advertising eggs or facial cream or dish washing liquid involves no less of a tale than what I am trying to do here.

Currently there are three episodes to which I shall continue to add, so, this is not anywhere near being complete. There is, however, already an ending of sorts since, as Shakespeare says, all Journeys end in lovers meeting, Every wise man’s son doth know. And who am I to argue with old William? ;-).
The next episode I am contemplating right now is Vanitas, for which the sonnet which goes Sin of self-love possesseth all mine eye And all my soul, and all my every part; And for this sin there is no remedy seems to provide the perfect context.

I am thinking that there will probably be 12 episodes based upon the months of the year (although this will most probably get added onto given how much in Shakespeare there is to pillage): Some years ago I generated 12 quasi-Renaissance/late Gothic tunes with a no longer existent software named Koan. The idea back then had been to create a web based book of hours along the lines of Les très riches heures du Duc de Berry. This never worked out, I could never get it to be like I wanted it to be, however I did do a lot of studies for this at the time and the 12 sound tracks are part of that and seem to fit into the current undertaking rather well.

One thing to add is what is going on with the avatars in all of this: For the first time since there has been a "tribe" I am logging in almost all of them simultaneously from the two computers that I have at home and that are up to the job (I have more, but they are quite useless for something like this). And I am amazed to see that an unforeseen (re)distribution of roles and a novel constellation of personalities is in the making, almost outside of my control. While Grapho seems to have taken upon himself the role of the worldly older man (although by no means the wise old man); the male "tour guide" for Syncretia, Syncretio Kanya has gone and cast himself in a lead role of sorts: A handful of naughty, mercurial, confused, well meaning yet blundering, but ultimately lovable manhood (with whom I seem to be all too familiar with from my own encounters with the ilk). And then Syncretia Kenin, the female tour guide of Syncretia has turned out to be a complicated, somewhat pathologically inclined problem child. Alpha is remaining resolutely in the background for now, as is Amina - the latter, funnily enough, showing a distinct preference for male parts. And then Xiamara, little Miss "goody-two-shoes", "never-put-a-foot-wrong" is suddenly a jilted heroine? Crying her eyes out? I somehow always assumed that she would be in full control of herself and others in all encounters of a romantic kind. Well - apparently not! (teee heee)... Indeed, so far, only Alpho seems to stick to character, a no-nonsense Furry, given to speaking her mind.
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And one very important thing to say is also this:

At the end of the day, the aim of The Tales of Ruysch is nothing more than to create entertainment for me, it’s assembler. It is a frivolous (21st century - hhh) rococo folly and should not be seen as an ambitiously serious undertaking but rather as tongue-in-cheek play with material borrowed from here and there, ruthlessly chopped up and re-assembled to suit my needs, involving my many avatars as its actors. If anything, a funny sort of a doll's theater.
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Blogged by NWN on April 20th:
http://nwn.blogs.com/nwn/2010/04/shakespeare-tableaus.html

Thank you Hamlet!
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Cloaca



I have been obsessing about Cloaca since I knew of it's existence - which was precisely 3 days ago.
Not that I want to get overly dramatic and Spenglerian here by screaming "Untergang des Abendlandes"*** or anything like that - but civilizations are also often defined as organisms, yes? And organisms grow old and die. And one of the signs of old age dementia, as far as I am aware, is a fascination with feces.

Now, had this been something that one person had made, financed out of their own pocket as an anti-art establishment statement, it would be a different matter entirely. After all, how is this so very different from Duchamp's urinal some may well ask? Well, the difference lies in the fact that Cloaca cost hundreds of thousands of Euro's to build (it is a very sophisticated and complex robot) and apparently art and culture agencies world-wide were racing with one another to finance it. And now museums are lined up to exhibit it, paying colossal monthly fees (one, right here in my home town being amongst them, if what an acquaintance of mine told me today is anything to go by).

So, no, Cloaca is not one man's brave/humorous stance against what he considers to be a rotten to the core art establishment but a direct product of that very art establishment itself. An establishment which sees art works solely as objects of entertainment and which as far as I can see, is part and parcel of a very old, very tired human race that has lost faith and direction... Sorry, I know this sounds more pessimistic than even pessimistic, but I happen to believe that this is in fact the case. I have been thinking this and feeling it deep inside my bones for a very long time anyway. Cloaca just really brought it home to me one more final time.

And in one way, this is a liberation of sorts as well: To (re)quote the Beatles - "but oh that magic feeling, no where to go...". We are now all free to "be". No more responsibilities. No more plans. No more big ambitions. No more big tomorrows...
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I cannot give this a category as a "good thing" - obviously. It has to remain "uncategorized". There are no categories anywhere on this blog that this would fit into.
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*** I want to make it very clear that when I say Abendland, this is in no way an "anti-western" statement: We are a global culture, possibly with shades and tones of Abendland everywhere nowadays. So, one thing, at least for me, is certain: There is no more "Morgenland". We are all in the same boat, all of us equally affected and/or equally guilty and/or innocent.
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Afterthought: I have focused upon the funding of Cloaca and not the individual who made it, Vim Delvoye, since it is not so much the work itself but the system that supports it and applauds it that is an issue here. So, a thing to consider may also be whether this was not Vim Delvoye's aim also? In other words, are he and I on the same side? We would have been, yes - IF! He had exposed the whole "thing" upon completion. Published all the budget sheets. Declared every penny, endorsement and commendation obtained from every art agency that was ever involved with this. And declared that THAT exposure had been the reason behind Cloaca. As far as I am aware he never did so. Had he done so, and if he ever does so at some point in the future, then yes. We will be on the same side.
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"... but the output to RL is very tiny"



This is quoted from an email conversation with a colleague where we were discussing Second Life artistic endeavors.

And it is an understatement if ever there was one - when you consider it solely from the vantage point of "objects", that is. You cannot export objects out of Second Life at the moment. Well, yes, there may be complex, esoteric means of doing so. But the results fall far short of expectations. And what is more, you also cannot import objects into SL. Yes yes, sculpties, I know. But come on people, let's face it: That is a half measure at best! And not even... Which would be the reason why professional architects tend to avoid the place like the plague - outside of a handful of visionary pioneers who (correctly) regard it as a testing ground for architectural concepts. I mean why waste time on building stuff that you cannot send to a 3D printer to create a physical architectural model to show to your clients? Surely AutoCad works better for that?

When it comes to art however, you have an equally big, if not even bigger, problem. SL-Art will not get you RL shows. Other virtual art work will. Create something in OpenGL or VRML and the world is your oyster. Every art & technology oriented venue, biennial, curated international art event, juried show, museum, gallery - you name it, it is yours for the taking. Do the same exact work in SL - no one wants to know. I know this from personal experience: I have tried. It won't work. On one occasion I even had the reviewer own up to their prejudice: Kicked off the rejection paragraph with "who would have thought that work like this could come out of Second Life!", continuing to tell me in something like 300 words how they loved what I had submitted, only to end the paragraph with "sadly, the work has been created in Second Life and as such is not suitable for this event". The work in question was Anatomia. And no, I am not going to tell you the event that I had applied for (I may yet do so again one day, after all... ;-), but it was one of the biggest art and technology exhibitions globe-wide.

So, as my colleague says, the output to RL is very tiny. A host of aspiring individuals, who have rezzed just one phosphorescent glow object too many, have seen to it that the place has acquired an unbelievably bad name for "serious" art. So, unless you are Cao Fei, you suffer for the misdemeanors of others. It is unjustified, I know. There is good art in SL. Few and far between, it's true. But it is there. And what is "good art" you may ask? Well, I talked that one into the ground a few months ago and in case you missed it, here's the link.

For me at least, art in SL has absolutely nothing to do with the creation of objects. It has to do with the construction of identities for which "objects" may or may not be utilized. I am going to dare and take this one step further even: I would dare to suggest that the creation/investigation of identity (as opposed to the creation of objects) is one of the very few routes left to explore for "serious art" in the year of 2010. Where there is a big question left unanswered. The quest for which involves wandering down the abyss of who you are and coming face to face with the complexity of "you". And bringing that quagmire of "you" back to the surface of your consciousness. And sure, this may involve the creation of objects. Objects as signifiers of identity.

It could be argued that when it comes to the creation of objects human ingenuity is endless and what is wrong with wishing to create even more of them? For me, what is wrong with the practice is that unless you contextualize what you rezz (SL or RL, I am using the word rezz in a broader context here) within some deeper quest, you will inevitably end up with silliness on your hands. And the silliness may even look good! Not at all the point - how good it looks! It will still be vapid, a pretty soap bubble which cannot sustain its own existence. Anyway, we have always contextualized our creations within deeper quests, up until the last 30 years or so. What happened here, of late?
What happened (I believe) is that we hit a wall. As a species. Not where science and technology are concerned, mind you. There we flourished. Or design. Again, we went from strength to strength. But in art we floundered on the same rock of materialism that aided creative progress in those fields. Quests that dared to address unanswerable questions became very "uncool" in the modernistic/post-modernistic world of materialism... And so all art was left with was a bunch of PC clap-trap, social awareness, bla bla bla bla...

And of course, objects. Just that. Objects.

You cannot take objects out of SL. What you can take out is a mindset. A mindset wandering down the path of the self, or of novel perceptions of the self. One that is constantly testing the borders of consciousness and metamorphosing them into art. Art, very likely, created outside of Second Life - art that feeds on the mindset of the synthetic world from whence it arose, however. Just to give one tiny example: I reviewed a paper written by Gregory Garvey for a special edition of the Journal of Consciousness Studies the other day. Garvey points at a number of strong analogies between the Second Life experience and clinical dissociative identity disorders; particularly focusing on the default "over the shoulder" POV of most virtual worlds and similar perceptual shifts in clinical DID patients. Fascinating subject, fascinating paper. Artwork based on a query of this "over the shoulder" POV and how it affects identity and consciousness would, in my mind, not be a "tiny output to RL".
There is an "artistic" migration to RL from SL in progress, even as I write. And quite inevitably so, I fear. However, as Castranova describes very beautifully in his book, unlike a discrete, one way migration (as is the case with population shifts in the physical world), this migration may (hopefully!) be of a continuous nature, with migrants switching back and forth between the physical and the synthetic world. The mindset in one world, the output in another.

Curioser and curioser... As Alice once said...

(Note: The image at the start of this post is from a build of my long time buddy Eupalinos Ugajin.)
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The definition of happiness



Bob Dorough. Again. For me, this is the exact definition. Exact! Verbatim. Every syllable of every word! And then the way he sings it... 
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SL Xeniversity



I am probably one of SL's worst travelers. Stay at home, mind my own business - pretty much. Not that I am alone in this, I imagine: All hardcore builders are probably more or less the same way, in the end. Stay put, get on with your rezzing - till the cows come home...

So anyway, I had been seeing this background image on the Emerald viewer for the past few weeks and from the first time that I did so, it aroused my curiosity. And yesterday, on a total whim, I clicked the "visit this location" link and found myself in one of the most remarkable sims I have ever been at in Second Life to date: Xeniversity, the home sim of a Mr. Xenius Revere, who apparently uses the place to teach people Maya and SL lighting techniques and who also sells furniture, sculpty packs as well as a very nifty range of goggles. So, essentially this is a learning and commercial sim. But, important as function and usage may be to the design process, Xeniversity is a location which has surpassed it's design brief and has evolved into something quite beyond that. Something downright awe inspiring, I would say.





This is the sort of visuality, construction, design system, architecture, art - call it by whatever name you will, that makes my heart skip. And one that I hardly ever see in Second Life - or First, for that matter... Sure, I see similar efforts that somehow never manage to deliver quite what Xeniversity does with such impact: Not only is it a complex, intricate and yet liquidly harmonious design system which Mr. Revere seems to have rezzed through the usage of hundreds of cubes; but it is also incredibly, beautifully, finely, masterfully crafted. And, for me, it is this attention to detail and craftsmanship which makes Xeniversity work where so many other "minimalistic" efforts  seem to be failing so miserably.

Glorious textures! Just glorious! Really I cannot think of a lesser word here so I am going to stick to it at the expense of sounding totally bombastic - they are that stunning! So, what's so special about texturing a whole bunch of cubes with an almost solid fill, you may ask? Ah... But you see it is not just a solid fill! Mr. Revere has added very delicate, soft shadows behind every cube he has rezzed! Either these are part of the actual cube textures, in which case he would have had to place each and every cube in exact proximity to its shadow, or these are separate alpha enabled png or tga files, which have been mapped onto very thin prims and then placed behind the cubes. I did not do a ctrl+alt+T to see if this was in fact the case while there. Never even occurred to me even. I was much too engrossed in admiring my surroundings to have all my speculative faculties engaged. But, whatever the technique involved has been, what matters is the result: Depth! Light! Softness! The breaking down of the rigidity of the construct (it is all cubes - all of it!) into something which creates it's own "flow". Becomes "nature" even, I would say: Cubes that metamorphose themselves into a remarkably powerful topography and (in one instance, at least for me) also flora.

Only 2 colors are placed within a tonal range which travels from white to black, incorporating a series of gradations of gray. The first of these colors is a brilliant blue which is emitted from light sources which colorize their surroundings and then, secondly, there is a vitriolic green. And this green could have ended up being such a god awful blunder had it been in the hands of just about anyone but Mr. Revere's? As it is, it stands apart on its own little islet, manifesting in a tonal range which is mapped onto a rectangular variation of the cube system of the main island. Which seems to cling to a huge tree almost like some strange minimalistic novel plant form. A cubic vine?

I could continue on and on and on here, but I am not going to. Instead I would very much like everyone who stumbles upon this post (and who hasn't been there yet, obviously) to go and visit Xeniversity for themselves. This place is a must see for all people who cherish design and architecture, virtual or otherwise:
http://slurl.com/secondlife/Xeniversity/214/227/81

My hat goes off to Mr. Xenius Revere!
...

Two little additions: One is that I could not help but think of Moshe Safdie's Habitat project as I was gazing at Mr. Revere's construct. Not that this matters all that much at all by the way. Things do not have to always remind us of other things and we should not be groping for these associations to validate output. In fact, if anything, it is an odious little habit to always be doing so. However, in this case, Xeniversity really does remind me of Habitat and the association is strong enough that I feel that I should probably say it.

Second: I would like to create a "Xeniversity" avatar as part of my output for alpha.tribe. The place has really inspired me and I am now obsessed with inner images of how I could translate the architecture there to create unique avatar apparel, which may or may not be thought of in conjunction with Xeniversity. I have to first consult with Mr. Revere to do this, of course. And I had not even heard of him or Xeniversity until yesterday. So, I really do not know this person and I have no idea what his reaction would be - possibly not favorable at all, is my guess... But, I think I will pluck up my courage and contact him and ask for his permission anyway. And maybe he might say "yes, go ahead". Who knows?

Oh and also! Very important this last one: These have been photographed with a custom sky preset, Mescaline Tammas' London 2050, to be specific. However, I should probably also have added an image captured with the default SL sky into this series. This is the only case which I think I have ever seen in SL where an entire sim's architecture actually (almost!) works even under a midday SL sky! That is how good the building/texturing of it is!
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Cutea Benelli's Shoes


I have to admit that I have let my SL shopping lapse somewhat since things have gotten so busy with alpha.tribe. A state of affairs which needs to be remedied ASAP! What I was doing before, and should really continue to do so, was creating a collection of noteworthy SL design artifacts. Which is of course an endless undertaking, given how much of it there is out there...

grim bros is no secret: Most female avatars who have been around the block once or twice (and quite a few men too, I would guess), have probably ended up there and have been as gobsmacked as myself at the amount of imagination, humor and diversity that Cutea manifests, in fact is literally bubbling over with. And no, I am not being impertinent or brazen by calling Miss Benelli by her first name only. She is in fact an SL friend, although admittedly we hardly ever exchange two words from one month to the next - both of us way too busy rezzing for much time to be left over for social chitter chatter. That is certainly what it is like on the alpha.tribe end and given the volume of output at grim bros (phenomenal would be an apt word? Staggering? Unbelievable?) I would assume that Cutea is even busier than we are.
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Painting Syncretia

Naxos Loon gave me a landmark yesterday. I have yet to receive something from him which has not turned out to be some spectacular find or other (and particularly of the hilariously funny kind), so this evening I made my way over there. I am not a good SL traveler, in fact I am no traveler at all. But, when Naxos tells me to go someplace, I usually go. And am I glad I did so in this case!

Isn't this great? It has been created by pallina60 Loon, whose profile left me none the wiser since it is mostly, if not entirely, in Italian.






I love this! And Syncretia is in dire need of a lick of paint. Long overdue, in fact! The trail stays rezzed for a really long time by the way, so I was in no kind of rush to take these photos. Took my sweet time with camera angles and sky presets, in fact. That's how long it was around for! The sky preset I used to take these is one of the ones by Mescaline Tammas. And needless to say, the ones I took without the custom preset are not nearly as nice.
...

Note: I will be writing a whole big post on Naxos sometime soon, have been meaning to do it for ages, almost a year now. And that one will be an academic post by the way. That is probably what is taking me so long to get going with it...
:-)
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Artistic Oxymorons

... and Tautologies!



I have been giving some thought to these of late. I found a gem of a one the other day, but I am saving that one for later. And if I continue to find some more, who knows, I may even start a weekly rubric called "Artistic Oxymorons and Tautologies by Alpha Auer" right here on this semi-dead blog. Neat, huh? Pump some action into this place!

Coming home from work just now, stuck as I was in heavy traffic on the bridge, another really good one occurred to me. Which seems quite an appropriate location for inspiring thoughts to spontaneously burst forth by the way. Given how you are stuck between two continents, there would have to be some added planetary (not to mention cosmic, of course) energy, right? hhh... So, really no wonder at all that several million Istanbulites hit peak levels of misanthropy on this very spot on a twice daily basis...

But hey! What the bridge evoked in me tonight is not just another good one! Oh no! This one is the cherry on the icing of all artistic tautologies of all times: Conceptual Art!

As opposed to?... ? What?

Un-conceptual Art? Now what could that possibly be? The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel maybe? Wonder what Michelangelo would have to say about his pride and joy being called un-conceptual? Rembrandt's Anatomy Lesson? I am sure he would not have been best pleased either! The cave paintings of Lascaux? Let me tell you, those shamans would have had fits! Elgin's Marbles - Phidias, dissolved in tears over the insult? Monet? Cezanne? Who? What? What in the entire history of art that is even worthy of the slightest mention therein is un-conceptual? Could ever be so?
So, if anyone out there can enlighten me on this subject, I would be truly indebted to them. Mind you, I am up to scratch on all of my Kosuth reading and so forth - so, I am most definitely not looking for any elucidation on what conceptual art is. What I would very much like to know is the other one...
So, please people - tell me: What exactly is un-conceptual art?
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de stijl



I wished to make something starkly, absurdly geometric and see whether it could in fact result in a garment – one that people would actually wear, that is…

I was thus hugely gratified when, not so long ago, fellow Turk and SL associate Troy Vogel contacted me and told me what a traffic stopping, knock em dead success he had been wearing this outfit (down to those lovely little prim shoes) to the opening of the Frank Lloyd Wright museum in SL. And a more appropriate place to be flaunting this I really cannot think of…

The thing with the big tenets of modernist design, such as “less is more”, “form follows function” and “ornament is crime” is to know exactly how far to take them before the whole thing erupts in sublime ridiculousness, and somewhat more seriously in a relinquishment of personal identity, given that (when it comes to appearance) it is our very ornaments that distinguish us from the one standing next to us. Sometimes intentionally so, but more often than not quite unawares: You wear suede cowboy boots, I wear Doc Maarten’s – both are in their essence ornamental objects that reveal who we are, what we like, and quite a bit more as well. The purely functional boot, entirely devoid of the crime of ornament? Hmmm… Kinda hard to imagine really, no? And, I for one, have to be very careful to remember all this since my natural tendencies in design do in fact lean towards the stark, the unadorned, the less rather than the more… So, I do fall in love when I see something like Rietveld’s Schroder House and my little old graphic designer’s heart does go pit-a-pat gazing at his famous white chair.

Stark as it may be, the de.stijl dress is (in the end), all about ornament – and quite deliberately so at that. In fact, it is ornamental to the point where I quite enjoy imagining Theo van Doesburg clobbering me on the head with one of his arithmetic compositions as a punishment for it (not that he is still around to do so, alas…).

Ornament as evidenced in the spine cubes: They certainly serve no function, other than to make your life utterly miserable should you wish to lean back into your – oh so gorgeously comfortless – red, blue, yellow and black reclining chair. (Oh and, just before I forget – I did throw a couch along the same lines into the sales box of this. With embedded poseball of course! A nice small cube: Right where your derriere is supposed to go. Verrrry functional that!…). Or the prim train: Try getting into a crowded space with that! (I wonder how Troy managed it? Can’t have been much of a turnout at the event, I suppose). Or the mohawk? What would you need to put that on, I wonder? Screws? And last but not least is of course the prim manicure! Try nibbling at your hors d’oeuvres with that!

So, it is me taking the piss out of my own obsessions. This de.stijl dress. For men and women, I should add…



Note: Following the worthy adage of less is more, this is probably the most decolté outfit alpha.tribe has ever put out there. In fact, so risque is it that I got bashful and did not pose for it in any of the images but had Amina do it instead. I mean, when all is said and done, I am a look-alike avatar and it would not do at all, you know!?!

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Bob Dorough



If you talk about a musician who is special to you, are you (in the end) (again!) talking about yourself? Well, yes. I suppose you are. But, no matter - I do want to talk about Bob Dorough, for whose music I placed a big order at Amazon last week. Apparently they manufacture one of the items I wanted only on demand, so I am still waiting for the whole shipment to arrive; but this is my Syncretismas gift to myself this year. You can listen to the samples if you are not familiar with the man's music here.

I had not thought of Bob Dorough or listened to him in a very long time. I used to have his stuff on audio cassettes. Then when that technology became extinct I tossed out the whole kit and caboodle which I had accumulated during one of my major clean out sessions some years back and Bob Dorough's music went out with the rest. And then lately I started hearing his songs in my head. Why I hadn't done so in so long I have no idea. Anyway, the real music should be arriving in a few weeks and I cannot wait!

For someone who adores The Who, Bob Dorough may appear to be a somewhat bizarre choice but nevertheless I love his music - and I love Bob Dorough. He does "vocalese", which means he adds lyrics to jazz standards that are essentially conceived of as instrumental music. And then he also sings quite a few regular jazz standards that others have in their repertoire as well. Like Polkadots and moonbeams, after which I named a whole alpha.tribe outfit. I do not really care for any of the other versions of this song sung by other vocalists, but his I love!

And much the same also goes for Devil may care and even Midnight sun (although admittedly Sarah Vaughn does a pretty mean Midnight sun as well).

He sings almost like as if he is talking, even maybe whispering. And yet there is still the melody. But he sort of teeters on the edge of melody, doesn't seem to make a big deal out of it almost and yet it pours out perfectly of course. Off the cuff he is. Naughty. Mischievous. The voice of the refusal to grow up. Sticking to your guns of childhood as you plod through your boring old grown up life. And it carries both the joy and the sadness embedded into that state of being, which would inevitably bring with it humor and idiosyncrasies. And somehow Bob Dorough sings all of this, brings his psyche through in his vocals: Very tongue-in-cheek, very mercurial, very tough to pin down. Almost impossible to categorize, almost impossible to put a label onto.

Like I said - I love Bob Dorough. I love the music itself  of course, it is awesome. But I do more than just love the music in Bob Dorough's case. I hear the one who sings it and love what the voice tells me of its owner

I just rooted around online a bit and Bob Dorough is alive and well at the age of 87. He has a page on my-space and I am almost tempted to sign up and become his friend there. Bloody shyness stopping me of course. In any case, although it is extremely unlikely that he will ever hear me doing so, I wish him all the very best of health and longevity and good spirits in the upcoming decade!