[-empyre-] setting fire to avatars, collapsing realities

Johannes Birringer Johannes.Birringer at brunel.ac.uk
Mon Jan 6 13:20:50 EST 2014

happy new year to you all.

Alan posted an interesting series of opening comments, and if it were possible and if we had time
to look at details in the posting, I would ask  you, Alan, whether you are sure that the "virtual is always real
(the rest is undifferentiated/differentiated substance) "  -  and how am I  to understand this, if the rest
is what you say it is?   I guess I tend to go for the differentiated substance. 

It seems that there is no clarity in virtual worlds, to my mind, and  certainly I think that the dancer you mentioned who might
work/dance to/with a projection is not in the projected space. An image, data, or avatars and animated objects
might be in that other space that does not affect the dancer (well, here we would have to start examining the affect
that Patrick posited, and also the "new media" discourses on so-called interactivity  which Patrick mentioned (Manovich, and others)
which may or may not be as institutionalized as you assume, surely not in the performance and music communities. Manovich
does not mention performance or live art as far as I can remember, and Kwastek I have not read (her only performance examples
seem to be Blast Theory?).  Interactivity is not very relevant these days for dance; at the recent "Motionbank" workshop in Frankfurt (Forsythe Company)
it was not part of the conversation or the choreographic processes even though plenty of digital data were captured and archived to help understand
better some of the physical choreographic principles and vectors of movement (this tends to relate to dance that is motion-oriented rather than
narrative-gestural, conceptual or hypertheatrical).

[Alan you play music with other musicians in real space, not in interactive computational space, right? do you capture your gestures at the instruments?]

And Patrick set fire to Stelarc's 'avatar body'!  which  took me by surprise [ as I never heard him mention it].
Interestingly, Stelarc has recently returned to suspension performances (as in his early work), the real body
hanging from hooks and floating right there in front of you.  

Alan, you mention examples of the "smearing of boundaries" and hope or strive for "physical collapse " - but what collapses, what physical reality, or do you only mean
the "gamespace" (online worlds? SL?)?  The manipulation of the physical body is limited , clearly differentiated from avatar matter, would you agree?
There are only so many games you can play.

Of course I grant you that it's all entangled, and politically dangerously so.

Admittedly also, I am writing from the distance (in the west Texas hill countries, near the desert, so signal available, thus no social media either),
and am enjoying a few days having escaped the virtuality you posit, Alan, which has little currency here. Up where you are, the ice storms?

with regards
Johannes Birringer

[Alan Sondheim schreibt]

... I want
to talk a bit about my experiences in virtual world performance, which
emphasize several things - that the virtual is always with us, and
predates/presages the currency of digital virtuality today; that
performance work in virtual worlds is fully entangled with the "real";
that the virtual is always real, and the real is always virtual (the rest
is undifferentiated/differentiated substance) - 

and that, as Heinz von
Foerster would have it decades ago, the determinative of culture and
organism might be formal negation, a turning-away. All my performance work
is interactive, online often with Sandy Baldwin, and with audience as
well, both within and without the gamespace. I'm fascinated with the
ability to create physical collapse - very often near the end of a
performance I'll destroy the sly-platform, and all of us, including
audience, will fall a kilometer or so, to the ground. Language entangles
all of this activity - to the extent of occluding the screen at times, so
what is going on can only be inferred.

I find the apparent clarity of virtual worlds disturbing; everything of
course is defined by protocols, scripts, and the digital in general, so
that everything exists as if it were in a "clean and proper room," to
borrow from Kristeva. My avatars and environments attempt to contradict
this as much as possible, "smearing" boundary and object, so that what's
present relates more to Lynn Margulis' superorganism, than to a body
composed of articulations, parts, and well-defined flows. The world as I
see it is a melange of affect and effect, analog and digital. There are so
many ways everything entangles:

through the use of dancers simultaneously presenting in front of the
screen and within the virtual world;
through performances described and embedded in real-world behaviors or
mixed realities;
through the use of multiple live video projections in relation to the
virtual worlds;
through the presence of horrific or distorted images in virtual worlds
that clearly "originate" in real-world scenes, bodies, deaths;
and so forth.


More information about the empyre mailing list