Girl Next Door
I was invited by Esparanza Freese to create a performance work for a VR art exhibition her graduate students at Kansas State University were curating at the Vista Hermosa Art Center. That was my first Virtual Performance Art work in Second Life: VB01 – Girl Next Door, on 2009-4-22.
My first pieces were “living sculptures” or “tableau vivants”. Several of the first works featured naked avatars. The concept was that there is so much art that features avatars in photography, painting, and other media. But all of that art in SL, just like RL, is mediated work. It’s always the avatar, or the fleshvatar, as seen through the eye of the talented artist. As executed by the hand of the artist. My idea in these tableau vivant pieces was to consider, “what if we took the eye and hand of the artist out?” What if we simply presented unmediated avatar bodies as works of art for a public to consider?
A favorite moment back then was when I applied to do a performance in an SL art museum. The director’s reply to my proposal was,
I have asked several of my artists to look at your work and we all agree: your work is not art, it is only parading naked and then trying to call it art.
Back in 2009 I started a blog on Blogger to document my works. I also went on about Free Culture issues as I was learning more and more about the power of that space. I worshiped Eloh Eliot, SL’s legendary Open Source skin designer. Ze Moo asked me why, if I was such a Free Culture zealot, I used proprietary software like Blogger? He challenged me to put my documentation where my mouth was and use the Open Source WordPress platform instead. So, I moved my blog to WordPress. And then on 2011-6-4, I married him. Of course, it was a virtual performance art wedding: VB27 – Un/Wedding 2.0
Four years after VB01, on 2013-7-23, I produced my final work of Virtual Performance Art: VB50 – Farewell.
What I learned in those 50 performance works was that avatars were happy to wear my costumes and do my choreography. But, when the performance was over, it was interesting how quickly they wanted to change into clothes of their own choosing. I realized that something many avatars crave in this world is the chance to express their identity.
Virtual Public Art
I transitioned from Virtual Performance Art to Virtual Public Art and tried to remove my hand from the projects. Instead of costumes and choreography by me, I tried to focus on creating milieus that afforded avatar participants opportunities to explore their culture and express their identity.
2020 – 2021
After a couple year hiatus I returned in late May 2020 and have kept pretty busy since then. By June 2021 we’ll have organized a year of Saturday events for all avatars:
- 2020 July-August-September – Vanessa’s Place: coffee + conversation
- 2020 October-November-December – Weekly Identity Parade Series
- 2021 January-February – Flash Fiction Island at SLEA-2
- 2021 March-April – Vanessa’s Place: coffee + conversation
- 2021 May-June – Virtual World Nature Hikes
- All images on flickr are available for use: flickr.com/photos/vaneeesab/collections