Monday, March 15, 2010

James Deavin: Artist Statement

Yeah, it's a lot to read (for this blog) but it's fascinating. More of James' work on Jen Bekman Gallery's site.

"Second Life is wrongly named. Rather than a pale imitation of “first” or “real” life, Second Life is best understood as a new extension of the human senses, and a tool used in different ways by different people for different things. When some people encounter Second Life, they think it’s a game to be played in isolation; when others arrive, they see it as a community for chat, education, sex, commerce, gambling or other sorts of human interaction. In truth, Second Life is neither just a game nor just a community, but something much more complex.

In technical terms, Second Life is best understood as a three dimensional virtual interface through which to create and explore visual and sonic information. In layperson’s terms, Second Life is an interface with which to explore a new world. What interests me as an artist is how this new world — which could conceivably be filled with any object, perspective or conceptual model — remains dominated by metaphors from one of the oldest worlds in art history: Dutch still life painting.

This exhibition is heavily influenced by two books: Steven Johnson’s Interface Culture: How Technology Changes the Way we Create and Communicate & Hanneke Grootenboer’s The Rhetoric of Perspective: Realism and Illusionism in 17th Century Dutch Still Life Painting. Johnson teaches that people cannot help but conceptualize new media using metaphors of the old. Grootenboer analyzes particular metaphors that dominated the Renaissance, and continue to structure our purportedly more “advanced”, capitalist millennium: abundance, collecting, nature, culture, illumination, perspective, domesticity, domestication, and decay.

This exhibit is designed to allow viewers to establish their own dialogue with each of these themes. Second Life is “infinity made imaginable” (Coleridge) but it contains the same metaphors as those that have been around for hundreds of years. Unlike the real world, the only way to approach Second Life is through the medium of the camera. What this means is that our perception of this online world will always be mediated through visual perspective.

Marshall McLuhan once famously opined that the message of any medium wasn’t its content, but rather its influence over culture. Second Life programmers believe that most users don’t yet understand the full potential of the environment in which they are currently gaming, chatting, shagging and so forth. As a result, the way most of us use and think about Second Life is “a little like renting out the London Symphony orchestra to play a few bars of happy birthday” (to quote Steven Johnson on a different topic). This will change over time, and perhaps one way to understand these photographs is as a piece of Second Life history, markers of a time when people were still viewing the new world through the eyes of the old."

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