"I am not interested in dealing with a few sophisticated people."
"griefing is a bourgeois concept"
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
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
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
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
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
events...theatre 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" 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
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.
 orbiting: ejects an avatar million meters away from the property via a script routine.