As an artist, like most I constantly strive to produce something ‘new’, ‘original’ and ‘authentic’ in order to captivate an audience that is becoming increasingly difficult to please. Artists have to do this without losing touch with the reasons that they make art in the first place and that is a very subjective reason. For me, personally, the audience is vital – I want to enter into a dialogue with the viewer and to create experiences that are not fleeting but permanent in their minds. The recent collaborative work with a sound artist was solely about the audience reaction to the work. In Second Life, the work was about collaborating across disciplines to seek out a new space that belonged to no one particular discipline. That project only made small steps into that but the virtual world was the ideal place in order to experiment with that idea.
There is a great deal of anxiety in modern culture about ‘authenticity’ most recently brought to us in the movie about the creation of Facebook ‘The Social Network’ . In our everyday lives as artists, musicians, designers, writers etc we continually come head to head with the issues of copyright and using ideas that are not claimed by others. But ideas come from interaction with others, from exposure through the media, film, books and TV. They come to us because we are passionate about something and because we want to enter into dialogue on that subject. Used in good faith, ideas should belong to everyone. The real question in ‘The Social Network’ was if those ideas were used in good faith.
The anxiety of the contemporary artist is less about authenticity and more about translating ideas through their own personal language. It’s their bid to engage with others in a unique and somewhat personal way. Authentic and unique are two very different contemporary issues.
Entering the world of gaming was a mysterious adventure into what Spacexcape thought, at the time, was a new world. Forever the explorer, she found herself in land of breathtaking graphics and visual stimulation with constant challenges and achievements. It was not difficult to see why gaming is addictive and why users would rather spend hours in front of a computer than with friends, playing sports or even just watching TV. But the consequences of that are already becoming evident. Research is showing us that gaming is contributing to obesity, depression and violence. Yet it is one of the largest growing activities western society has produced.
Spacexcape’s experiences in World of Warcraft were very different to those in Second Life. In SL, she quickly found like minded people to collaborate with in both the real and the virtual world. In WoW she works in isolation wondering how or if that world could ever be what she needed it to be. 3D animation is a complex and time consuming practice, not to mention expensive and finding a way to progress with the project has been slow. But the gaming experience is very much a part of that progression.
Communications Pod in the Spacexcape Project (Second Life)
There are over 10 million people subscribed to WoW. Gamers appear to fall into two categories – casual that play occasionally for fun and hard core who are totally immersed in the ‘life’. Spacexcape has met both. The hard core are ‘experts’ in their profession and life has to work around the game, rather than the game fitting into their life. This is the excessive, compulsive and addictive nature of the game. But at what price? Is gaming changing the way that people behave?
I recently posted a link to a short video that I had made of my mage gnome reading Sartre’s 1945 speech on existentialism, on the WoW forum – part of a piece I am working on at the moment but was intended as a piece of fun. I emerged with only some small pieces of flesh hanging from my skeleton! Gamers are a hard audience to address. Gamers like to be in control. One poster – Santea (in a guild called ‘My little Pwny’ on the Twilight Hammer server) posted a long, long diatribe about the lack of merit in my work and that it was not worthy of discussion … and yet had spent probably 20 minutes doing exactly that! There were other similar posts. One poster wrote “If you want to be an artist give up your dreams because you are terrible.” and another “If it IS serious however, god I do pity upon you.”
I found these remarks to be very insightful and exposing the type of attitude that is prevalent in game. Ask any gamer and they will tell you that the open channels in virtual worlds are swamped with users who seek attention through insult. As a player myself, I have become accustomed to being belittled by the hard core gamers – or those who strive to be. World of Warcraft breeds anger – and it is projected into forums, chat rooms and the world through violence, abuse, and prejudices.
Gaming is a dangerous and yet delicious exercise.