Identity Circus

By | Sunday, September 21, 2008 Leave a Comment
This afternoon, I attended the opening of Botgirl Questi's "Identity Circus" in Second Life. She's a digital artist and her exhibit was an exploration of what "identity" means in a virtual world. The notion of identity, of course, has been explored in various artistic ways over the years, and Botgirl acknowledged that by playing David Bowie's "Rebel Rebel" in the background. But her work here examined the notion strictly as it pertains to a virtual reality. Where does our identity end and our avatar's begin? Do we imbue our avatars with different personalities, based on their "physical" characteristics? Is cybersex with another person's avatar any different than cybersex with robot?

Botgirl had on display several short comics written that explore that topic, and each page was on display in sequence towering over most of the avatars. She also had, near the entrance, an avatar randomizer that would alter the appearance of anyone who stepped inside. She also proved a robotic cybersex partner that patrons could engage with, that appeared no different than any other avatar within Second Life. The cumulative effect was an impressive statement on our virtual identities. While each of the individual pieces was well done, they each only addressed part of her theme, and it really is their combined message that is most powerful.

That said, I think most people will need to take some time to reflect on it. The cybersex doll was, not surprisingly, popular and several attendees braved the Avatar Transformer to some rousing laughs. (Especially after two attendees came out virtually identical.) People seemed to generally be enjoying themselves and the attractions, and weren't as focused on the narrative pieces that tied the overall message together. But I think that's not uncommon in these types of exhibits and it was actually a smart and decidedly unpretentious move on Botgirl's part. She got people in the tent to have fun, and slid her message in while they were smiling and laughing. Furthermore, the interactive portions will draw people back for repeat visits and they can then spend more time on their own exploring the message laid out in the comics.

The comics themselves were well-written. Much of the art were screen shots from within Second Life, though earlier works were also created using Frameforge. While some might dismiss her use of screen shots as unartistic, using them well does require talent, and should not be dismissed. The comics aren't illustrative in the same way any given issue of Action Comics is, but they're at least as valid as fumetti. (There's a curious notion there -- is there a name for comics like this? It's somewhere between fumetti and machinima, but not really either.)

All in all, a it was a good event and definitely worth a trip the next time you log in to Second Life.

And, like any decent event report, I'll leave you with some pictures from the opening...
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