December 4, 2008
Second life re-enactments and recreations

I’ve been lucky enough to get some new networked performance work entitled Between Saying and Doing (which will be online soon) into an exhibition, Devenir-écran (Becoming Screen), in France during December. The performance occurs in Second Life and is documented through video and images so I’m keen to see any art in Second Life at the moment, if it’s performance based and related to how the network affects context then that’s a bonus. The following two series of works are Second Life performances dealing with similar ideas of re-enactment / recreation but for different contexts.

This was going to be a post entirely about Scott Kildall’s Paradise Ahead (image above of Void a recreation of Yves Klein’s Leap into the Void) performances in Second Life which were performed between 2006 and 2007 but I noticed striking similarities with Synthetic Performances which started in 2007 and continued throughout 2008. I’m not the only only one who has noticed this similarity. I’ve been chatting to Scott via email who noticed it as well and he pointed me to a post on Spawn of the Surreal which comments directly on the similarity while the article Why art in virtual worlds? E-Happenings, Relational Milieux & “Second Sculpture” in issue 31 of CIAC also discusses the two series of works together.

Scott’s work (the first series) seems genuinely playful with ideas of physicality, risk etc. e.g. somebody pointing a gun at me in ‘real’ life and firing in my direction could result in actual injury (Shoot by Chris Burden) but re-enacting it in a ‘virtual’ space (Shoot by Scott Kildall) entails no physical risk. Other re-enactments twist this even more e.g. jumping off that building (Leap into the Void by Yves Klein, inset above) will entail a risk of injury in ‘real’ life which does not exist in ‘virtual’ life (Void by Scott Kildall, main image above) but of course the twist is that Klein faked his leap, it already was ‘virtual’ or a simulation of reality so Kildall’s in turn becomes a simulation of a simulation (and then we get into quite sophisticated ideas). The comment on Spawn of the Surreal sums up what seems to be the focus of Kildall’s performances:

his message is, I think, that in Second Life reality becomes powerless, ineffective, fake. Even the most emotional, dramatic event, when re-staged in Second Life, becomes a parody of itself. Kildall’s prints are more similar to comics than to the source images he used for his remediation. In other words, the medium is stronger than the reality it tries to emulate.’s Synthetic Performances on the other hand are a little bit of a mystery to me. In interviews they seem uninterested in playing with or questioning the nature of the original performances they are re-enacting. It seems they simply want to understand motivations behind performance and focus on re-enacting the original performances as closely as possible to understand the function of each. This seems difficult to believe as the performances chosen to re-enact all seem heavily focused on ideas of identity, physicality, materiality etc. Surely to understand performance the act of re-enacting it is not sufficient, doesn’t it require investment in the idea itself to fully understand the motivations to create a performance? Given’s history of work I’m certain there is (or should be at least) more to these performances than meets the eye, another hidden layer of ideas they have yet to divulge. Perhaps the artists are very conscious of the existence of works such as Scott Kildall’s and this is deliberately a series of performances twice removed, similar to the Walker Evans, Sherrie Levine, Michael Mandiberg (see here and here) lineage of works.

One last point to note is that Scott Kildall calls his performances “recreations” and not “reenactments” as do. The distinction is important as he goes to great length to make the performance instantly recognisable as part of the culture of Second Life, the elaborate clothing, the mixture of identity, the ambiguity of sex etc. so these are employing the original performance ideas to create whole new works.

    Posted by: Garrett @ 11:18 pm

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