Culture

Liz Solo: art on Second Life

Article published on Feb. 26, 2008
From the magazine
Article published on Feb. 26, 2008
Taunting performances and installations on the edge – in pixels. We meet the Canadian musician in the virtual 3D world

Second Life is the virtual world launched by the Californian Linden Labs in 2003. Its citizens build cities, develop their image, deal in Linden dollars, the local currency, establish communities and friendships. And they produce art, moving real art into synthetic worlds. Thanks to the tools on offer in the program, you can be faced with different types of 'creations', according to the level of the interaction and experimentation between the artist and the program.

Liz Solo: virtual versions of real events

In life, as in Second Life, Liz Solo is a mixture of many things: musician, singer, performer. She lives in St John’s (Newfoundland, Canada), an island north-east of the North American coast. She has recently inaugurated I AM COOP, where she presents virtual versions of local events, such as performances, exhibitions and installations. It can all be found on the island of Odyssey, a simulator which provides space, technical support and services for the artists who work on Second Life. Liz is friendly and helpful and she has kindly allowed me to witness the birth of her project. For the next few days, this character with long insect wings has been moving walls, planted and removed trees and tested videos in streaming.

(Photo: ©Marco Riciputi)

I am late on the day of the launch. I am sorry, but in Italy it’s almost dawn. Liz has already read from her work Revenge, and it’s now the turn of Anthony Brenton, poet, who is reading some verses from Daybreak Saint City, fresh off the press. In the hall, some avatars are sitting in front of his virtual alter ego, who is sitting behind a desk. Above his head, a video in streaming is showing Anthony as he is reading his poems.

'Second Life is only an extension of real life, two different places which represent the same reality,' claims Liz Solo. 'I like the idea of merging the two worlds, the real and the virtual.' The project I AM COOP has only just begun and regular monthly dates are envisaged. Liz has also presented her new solo album Alien on Second Life.

'Amazing', Liz Solo

Gazira Babeli: performance and programming codes

Take note of this name: Locusolus. It’s in this corner of the synthetic world where you will find the greater part of Gazira Babeli's work, an artist who has been active on Second Life since spring 2006. She produces what is called 'resident art', using the tools offered by the program. 'Performances use codes of conduct as the digital environment uses program codes,' explains Gazira. By using the codes, she not only measures the limits of the creative possibilities offered by Second Life, but also of human imagination on the inside of this synthetic world.

In Locusolus you can interact with the majority of her works. Your painstakingly built identity will be discussed by Come Together, where the avatars are all melted together in a single mass. Or if you see yourself on Avatar on Canvas, you will become a live surrealist sculpture, condemned to deformity until you quit the program. You shouldn’t trust the installation teletransporters of U are here either, because they completely change one of the givens in this world: the ability to jump from here to there in virtual worlds at the touch of a button. Whether you love or hate art, Locusolus is a special place.

'Come Together', Gazira Babeli

Second Front: synthetic superheroes

Gazira's pieces have featured in Liberazione, La Stampa, Spiegel On Line and El País. She has showcased her art at different festivals like the Dutch Electronic Art Festival in Rotterdam, the Venice Video and Art Fair and the Performa in New York, together with the group Second Front.

This latest manipulation of synthetic 'superheroes' completes the circle; it is a progressive group which experiments with the performing arts in the virtual world and which today includes eight members, including Gazira and Liz Solo. Making its first public appearance in November 2006 with an assault to the virtual headquarters of the news agency Reuters (the first to have established an editorial unit on Second Life, ed), it landed in New York for Performa07, the biennial festival of visual and performance arts. Here they battled with the gorilla Kong in a fun remake of King Kong, a challenge in the style of the unforgettable eighties videogame Donkey Kong.

But something could change even in Second Front; as announced on the official blog, team work may be reduced in the future. Many of the members are more and more involved with real world exhibitions of their virtual world art made in Second life. Things are getting more serious, and even this space, populated by codes and intelligence, has produced its bit of contemporary art.