Re: [-empyre-] intro from tamiko thiel

Hello Tamiko,
Congratulations on your piece. I was wondering if you were aware of this site that uses Flash to look at similar issues to your piece:

Face to Face: Stories from the Aftermath of Infamy

Here's the blurb:

"In the wake of 9/11, many Muslims around the United States faced a backlash of resentment and anger. This groundswell of emotion was not without parallel, as Japanese and Japanese-Americans faced a similar reaction after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941. The Independent Television Service has developed this Web site to bring a human face to the experiences of Muslims and Japanese people in the United States by collecting these powerful interviews from members of both groups. On the site, visitors can listen to stories from older Japanese-Americans talk about their experiences on the West Coast after Pearl Harbor, and the experiences of Muslims, both young and old. The interviews are divided into thematic sections, such as "Fear," "Internment," "Identity," and "Being American." At another section of the site, visitors can respond to the stories, and a glossary of terms is also provided as background material."

As this is dealing with very similar subject matter, I thought it might be good way of the list looking at the differences between Web2D and Web3D. Would you feel like elucidating what properties you feel that 3D brings to the work and why you prefer to work in this medium? Whilst I've only seen the web version of your piece, I imagine its the difference between 'experience' and 'being told'? Whilst I note that you use the term 'virtual reality', I don't imagine that your aim is for the beholders to actually think they are experiencing it, rather to provide a deeper, more experiential, insight into what it must have been like to experience that reality? I ask this because I am very interested in Web3D artists trying to develop an appropriate vocabulary, rather than one that is based on precedents (usually cinematic or early-90s hokum).

As an example, I love the idea of 'immersion', but recently this word has taken on a very narrow definition that means the kind of Imax or CAVE type environment that attempts an actual physical immersion, whereas (as much as I enjoy Imax movies) I find reading a novel to be far more immersive. Similarly, what is the verb that we use for beholding a Web3D piece? The verb 'seeing' is inadequate. Perhaps 'experiencing' is more appropriate. By identifying the qualities that set Web3D apart from Flash and other 2D tech's, perhaps we can start working towards an appropriate vocabulary.

I'd be most interested to hear your views, as well as those of the other guests this month.


At 01:18 PM 5/06/2003 +0200, you wrote:
Hi Melinda,

Thanks for your question, I just realized that I hadn't actually subscribed yet to empyre, so now I should be more online =)

Actually the San Jose Museum of Art very specifically wanted to acquire the piece for their collection BECAUSE of the topical political content, and explicitely states in the flyer that visitors can take with them that we see parallels to the current situation. Needless to say we were delighted that the museum wanted to take such a definite, public position. They have told us that the piece is very popular, and in fact have decided to leave it up for the entire run of the exhibit, until September 2004.

There are obviously going to be some people who react negatively to the piece, but they haven't talked to me and I haven't heard any feedback from that quarter. Perhaps we're preaching to the choir - San Jose has a large Japanese American and Iranian American community, and is in general a very progressive community. In the States there is a tremendous frustration amongs progressives about the climate of censorship and blind patriotism, not to mention the attacks on both civil rights and random countries we don't like, and I got the sense that people who have seen my piece were relieved to see that others share their worries and are willing to make a public statement about it.

In our piece we're not denying the culpability of the Japanese government in WW2 or the Iranian hostage takers during the Crisis - in fact it was important to us to include headlines showing their aggressive acts, so people would remember that there was a reason for the anger and hostility. We try however to put the user in the situation of being innocently and arbitrarily imprisoned for the "crime" of belonging to a specific ethnic group - the people who are caught in the middle and whose suffering is often ignored, because they are somehow "guilty by association."

Specifically, people who had been interned in Manzanar have told me that the virtual reality environment brings back an eerie sense of being back there, and they felt that their children and grandchildren have finally gotten a sense of what it was like. It is clear by the way that the life-sized scale of the buildings, fence, guard towers enhanced by the sounds (wind, footsteps on gravel) contribute tremendously to the sense of "being there."

In a very real way, as artists during times of crisis have always realized, a work that talks about similar situations without directly addressing the actual situation allows people to look at the issues being addressed in the piece without feeling like they are being blasted by propaganda. Such an artwork can put the current situation into perspective, and let the viewer draw their own conclusions - or ideally prompt discussions between viewers that give all sides new insights as they begin to discuss what they had feared to discus..

(Note: The piece premiered in December 2000 so we were basing our "fear of internment" issues on the calls for internment of Iranian-Americans that had come during the Iranian Hostage Crisis 1979-1980, not on the not-yet-happened 9-11. But on Sept. 11th, 2001, I was giving a talk on Beyond Manzanar at a games conference in Amsterdam, not knowing that at that very moment planes were hitting the World Trade Center ...)

- tamiko

Melinda Rackham wrote:
tamiko hi..
i unfortunately only know this  work  in documentation on the web, but i was
wondering about it as a political work .. one that intersects with, at the
meoment, very emotive states of people  involved in , or for or  against
current US military actions  as well as i would think hightened tensions in
the community between  different ethnicities stirred up by the constant
media barrage of war and terror.
do you know if there have there  been any different or unsusual reactions to
Beyond Manzanar from museum audiences, or authorities ..  as this sort of
Virtual enviroment has the ability to place the user in the position of the
detainees..a position i guess which most viewers wouldnt be familiar.  and i
remember last time  we spoke about this work one of your main thrusts with
the work was making the viewer expeirence a different perspective than their
usual one and very related to their sense of physical space and freedom..
eg. forcing them to go though doors, making them be contained in a yard,
hearing the crunch of gravel as they moved through the camp.. etc.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Tamiko Thiel" <>
To: <>
Sent: Monday, June 02, 2003 6:51 PM
Subject: [-empyre-] intro from tamiko thiel

Hi Y'all -
here's a brief statement of my artistic interests in using VR, and an
abstract of the Beyond Manzanar virtual reality installation which is
being shown in the Lab3D exhibit at Cornerhouse. The full piece is not
available online for various technical and legal reasons, but there are
screenshots and some small VRML excerpts (which give you an idea of the
stage set, but not the play.)
Yours, Tamiko Thiel

Artistic Statement:
I am interested in social and cultural uses of virtual reality, and in
developing VR as a powerful (hyper)narrative medium. With VR we have the
capability to visualize metaphors in a 21st century form of Surrealism
that expands the dreamscape from an image into an environment. We can
build extraordinarily rich, sensitive environments wherein the structure
of the virtual space itself and of the user's interations with that
space create an intimate dramatic tension between the user and the
virtual environment.

Beyond Manzanar abstract:
Beyond Manzanar is an interactive 3D virtual reality environment, a
metaphorical landscape that explores media scapegoating of ethnic
populations in times of crisis and invokes the human spirit that creates
beauty under adverse conditions.
The work is a collaboration between Tamiko Thiel, a Japanese American
media artist, and Zara Houshmand, an Iranian American poet and theater
director. The mechanisms of scapegoating are universal and can occur in
any country, but to focus the universal into the personal the authors
have created a visual dialog based on the experiences of their own two
ethnic groups. The historic experiences of Japanese Americans in World
War II and the more contemporary experiences of Iranian Americans form
the basis for a surreal and poetic work contrasting immigrant attempts
to achieve the American Dream with mass media demonization of entire
groups as the ?face of the enemy.?
The genius loci of Manzanar Internment Camp in Eastern California is
used to focus the stories of these two diverse groups into a single
dialog. Manzanar was the first of over 10 internment camps erected to
incarcerate Japanese Americans families during World War II under a
false charge of military necessity. In the 1980s the American courts
declared this internment to have been ?not justified,? but the principle
of mass internment of an entire ethnic group on the grounds of military
necessity still stands. During the Iranian hostage crisis in 1979 ­1980
and with every subsequent fear of middle-eastern terrorism there are
verbal, physical and legal attacks on Iranian Americans and calls to
intern them ?like we interned the Japanese.?
Ironically, Manzanar?s high desert oasis strongly resembles the austere
landscapes of Iran. Even the grid-like traces of the army camp evoke the
geometric order of Iranian gardens, representations of the cosmic order
of paradise. Irony indeed, because the Japanese American internees did
in fact build gardens within Manzanar?s barbed wire fence ­ depictions
of the sacred islands and ponds of the Buddhist Western Paradise.
Beyond Manzanar uses the unique spacial characteristics of navigable 3D
virtual reality to kinesthetically locate you inside the Manzanar
Internment Camp. As you explore the camp your kinesthetic sense is
engaged to underscore the emotional impact of confinement. Your eyes see
the passes that lead out of the valley, but you stand at the fence and
can go no further. Confined within the camp, you have nowhere to go but
inwards, into the refuge of memory and fantasy. At the heart of the
piece lies a vision of the garden as an ancient form of virtual reality,
an image of paradise created as a refuge from the outside world.
An edition of Beyond Manzanar is in the permanent collection of the San
Jose Museum of Art, San Jose, CA, USA.
empyre forum

 Tamiko Thiel       Media Artist


empyre forum

________________________________ Adam Nash 1/360 Carlisle St, Balaclava, Vic, 3183 0412185008

This archive was generated by a fusion of Pipermail 0.09 (Mailman edition) and MHonArc 2.6.8.