Gazira Babeli
Code Performer
Gaza Stripped
By Wirxli Flimflam, Slate Magazine and, January 2007

"I am not interested in dealing with a few sophisticated people."
Miuccia Prada

"griefing is a bourgeois concept"
Leon Trotzky


These past couple of months has been extremely productive for me... Not only was the performance-art group that I co-founded, Second Front formed within days of me actively creating my avatar (Second Front est. November 23, 2006) - this very same group was able to add Gazira Babeli to our roster almost exactly a month later. For those who do not know Gazira Babeli already, she is probably considered to be the very first dedicated performance artist in Second Life. Little is known about the RL life of Gazira Babeli. This is an avatar who likes to hermetically exist only within the virtual bubble-economy of Linden Labs. All the public knows for sure is that she hails from Milan, Italy and is a "code performer".
You may have seen her at Ars Virtua slinging endless pans of singing pizzas or possibly had to scrape off the globs of both the nanotech industry's and Linden Labs' worst virtual nightmare, "grey goo". If "Gaz'" (as she is known in SL) took a special liking to you, you may have had the privilege of being barfed on! If you have not already witnessed Babeli's official performances and artistic interventions yet, you are very likely to be her unwitting "audience" sooner or later. Just make sure you do not offend her with any foul language as she is likely to send an intelligent yet sinister tornado after you in order to make you repent your impolite ways.

I interviewed Babeli about modernist White Cubes, contemporary Pop-(T)art(s), "Fluxus Hut" pizza toppings and the generally non-lucrative enterprise of performance art in Second Life...

Wirxli: The Second Life art-critic, Lythe Witte has written a previous article for SLatenight magazine called "The White Cube of the Virtual Art Space" where she questions whether or not the modernist white cube gallery model is worth reproducing in Second Life.
You might recall from a few days ago that we were all hanging out together feeling depressed and bored about the fact that even Second Life itself felt like one big and boring white cube.
My question is, what kind of methodology do you think is needed to make interesting art that can be comprehended within the unique context of Second Life?

Gazira: To realize an "artistic" or "aesthetic" experience, it requires a frame-space that is contemporarily physical and conceptual; it could be a frame, a museum, a computer network, a bedroom... or just a plain box 'dressed' like a RL art-galley. This referential "cube gallery" reminds me of the ironical artwork made by Marcel Duchamp called "Box in a valise" (Bo�te-en-valise, 1942).
Although the "box gallery" could be a valid expression, I prefer thinking the whole SL environment as (a kind of) frame-space. It means that scripted and built objects, avatar-people and their behaviors become essentially parts of the artwork...a "world in a valise", in this case. :)

Wirxli: So there are parallels between the Second Life infrastructure as a kind of "artistic" framing device and the statements made by the early RL performance-art group, Fluxus where they blurred the boundaries between "art" and "life"?

Gazira: Sure, and it is very similar with the Linden's statement: "Your World. Your Imagination". We still don't understand what "life" is and yet, we are talking about a second one. One life at a time, please! Maybe these lives (RL and SL) are not so different: symbolic abstractions and virtuality are common attributes.

Wirxli: Is there a difference in your mind between "performance art" in SL and "performing arts" (theater etc) in SL? Also, everyone in SL seems to be either intentionally or unintentionally an artist of some sort - in what way does a performance art group like Second Front stand out from the regular surreal, yet routine activities of SL residents?

Gazira: Yes, SL looks like a very democratic kind of theatre. Everyone is an actor, director and audience together. But is that so different from what we call RL? I think that "intention" is the keyword. The artistic goal could be primarily some shared aesthetic way of thinking and it also needs a shared kind of intentions, so I enjoy being part of the Second Front crew. I think Second Front is the first example of Second Life as the embodiment of a "native" artistic proposal.

Wirxli: Do you feel there is a fundamental difference between performance art in RL and performance art in SL?

Gazira: Physical emulation? Falling down from 21.987.0987 meters height is not so safe in RL. Geographical audience? Nothing new, I still call it Internet Network, is the Internet RL? But I think there is a fundamental difference: in SL you forget the 'computer', it disappears and you are totally inside the frame-space. Everybody knows that this is a Real Experience, therefore, I don't like the dualistic statements about SL/RL. "Second" is merely a title invented by the Lindens only... People will (eventually) discover the nature of that kind of experience.

Wirxli: I think my question above was referring more to Lythe's critique for what she calls the mere "remediation" or "refashioning" ("repackaging") of RL art-world protocols. If she calls for artists to move beyond the remediation/emulation of the blatant white-cube space for producing "authentic" art in Second Life, should there also be a need in Second Life to transcend performance art's remediation of 1970s performance practices and find something new? I say this because there is even a tendency at this point in time to directly "re-enact" historical performances from the Fluxus-era.

Gazira: Yes, I told you above that it could make sense if you think of it like a mirrored "repackaging" of RL social-show of art again. There are the main artists, the young artists waiting for... the critics, gallerist, curator... the complete cast.
Artwork is pretty much an optional element, "the piece of conversation". This mirrored ritual has got a surrealistic effect and at the climax point, when boredom begins, you could "orbit"[1] all the audience. I repeat, Linden Labs is a Fluxus corporation!

Wirxli: You have a coded-script and a performance series based on Andy Warhol's Campbell's Soup Can called "Second Soup - You love Pop-Art - Pop-Art hates you". But in Second Life, what really is Pop-Culture's artistic relationship towards the residents and artists of Second Life? Is the pop-culture part of the unique properties of Second Life that artists must learn to do deal with when producing "pure" art in Second Life?

Gazira: Most of SL pop-icons have a RL heritage. One word: gadgets. Technological "fashionism" = any kind of gadget that allows you to create personal or "artistic" identity. My first SL performance has been: 4 hours sitting in front of a big discotheque with a default-naked-avatar... nobody talked with me as they were a bit scared. With no gadget identity, I was the perfect alien.

Gadgets are the primary matter in SL, like stone, bone, wood, and clay for Neanderthals. Is it so different from RL? Do you have an iPod? It is an iGod... I have three iGods. I'm polytheist. "Pure art" is good for aliens.



[1] orbiting: ejects an avatar million meters away from the property via a script routine.

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