lotu5 on Sat, 16 Feb 2008 03:39:30 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Becoming Dragon, Performance in the Fall

I would like to announce this project I am beginning to work on. It is 
in a preliminary stage, as I am still seeking funding, but I do have 
early commitments from the Center for Research in Computing in the Arts 
(CRCA) and from two collaborators, Kael Greco and Christopher Head.

Becoming Dragon: Stage 1


I am interested in exploring the question of how technology can 
facilitate new somatic practices of gender and sexuality beyond male and 
female and even beyond the limitations of what we consider human. Using 
a conception of identity and a process of social interactions and 
feedback loops, I plan to use the online public space of Second Life as 
the site of my investigation.

While Marshall McLuhan said that “We shape our tools and afterwards our 
tools shape us,” I am interested in the time after that. What is the 
process by which we shape our avatars and then our avatars shape us and 
then we reshape our avatars and on and on? In the Lacanian Mirror Stage, 
an infant tries to achieve the image of themselves that they see in the 
mirror when they mistakenly think they are standing on their own. How 
does this process continue in a feedback loop and develop into new 
conceptions of self beyond our current conceptions of our own limits?

"The becoming-woman serves as a point of reference, and eventually as a 
screen for other types of becoming (example: becoming-child as in 
Schumann, becoming-animal as in Kafka, becoming-vegetable as in Novalis, 
becoming-mineral as in Beckett)... There is no such thing as woman per 
se! No maternal pole, no eternal feminine... The man/woman opposition 
serves to establish the social order before class and caste conflicts. 
Inversely, whatever shatters norms, whatever breaks from the established 
order, is related to homosexuality or a becoming-animal or a 

- Felix Guattari, Becoming-Woman

//The Performance//

I would like to experiment with long durational performances of 
non-human characters in Second Life. How much immersion is possible? 
Transsexual people are required to live for a year as their chosen 
gender before being allowed by their psychologist to get their Gender 
Confirmation Surgery. Could this be replaced by virtual living?

Many contemporary performance artists claim to be doing performances "in 
second life". I would like to try to get a little closer to this claim 
by waking up and falling asleep "in second life". My initial plan is to 
do up to 30 days "in second life", but I may have to scale back to 14 days.

There is a long history of durational performances in performance art, 
such as Teching Hsieh's One Year Performance 1980 - 1981 (Time Piece) 
[5], Marina Abramovic's "When Time Becomes Form" [6] and her series of 
durational works, Joseph Beuys "I Like America and America Likes Me", 
and Chris Burden's "White Light/White Heat" [7] where he lived in the 
gallery. How does the duration of the performance change its effect? Can 
the identification with an Avatar or a virtually constructed identity be 
pushed farther than it is with frequent users of these environments? Can 
one live "in second life"?

During the performance, I would be available to an audience both in 
Second Life and in the physical space of CRCA at Calit2. There are a 
number of interesting options for audience interaction such as the 
display wall, having multiple screens/computers in the performance space 
and even having an additional immersive environment where a viewer could 
participate. How can technology facilitate a powerful, interesting, 
compelling performance simultaneously in physical and virtual space?
[edit] Technical Approach - Augmented Reality

The goal here is to develop a working, immersive Augmented Reality 
system, to port a motion capture and head mounted display to control a 
character in Second Life, an Online Massively Multiplayer Online Role 
Playing Game (MMORPG).

[Some Second Lifers use the term "Metaverse" over MMORPG to emphasize 
SL's very different "Magic Circle". In SL, the game is a very different 
one, less an escapist fantasy world of play, or a more mature projection 
of identity in an economy with real currency and a capitalist business 
culture designed to soften the connotations of gameplay ... -BS] [8]

My initial conception of this project is to model my physical 
environment to enable me to live in the virtual environment for extended 
amounts of time. This is an approach of Augmented Reality, where the 
physical world is mapped into the virtual. Of course, Augmented Reality 
is a misnomer, because Reality itself is a mediated state, it seems a 
better term would be Augmented Bodies.

The plan would be to use the following components:

     * An immersive head mounted display (HMD) The display would allow 
me to move around in my physical environment within calit2 and still 
remain "in game". Head tracking would help to provide a realistic 
feeling of immersion and audio is built-in to the device as well.

     * A motion tracking system. The Performative computing lab at CRCA 
houses a Vicon motion capture system, which allows real-time motion 
tracking data to be sent to a windows pc. Using these signals, I would 
be able to map my physical motion in the real world back into game 
space, so that, for example, I could easily get to my food source or to 
the restroom.

     * A computer running second life, receiving the data back from my 
physical interface and sending them to my character "in game", allowing 
me to participate in social interactions.

//Limitations and Challenges//

A number of "fundamental" components of "virtual reality" are not met by 
Second Life, or are hard to meet.

     * One main issue is stereoscopic or true 3d vision. Can Second Life 
be augmented/configured to send out two video feeds for the same character?

     * Another issue is the question of the Second Life API's and how 
much interactivity they facilitate. How can we send the Vicon motion 
capture system signals to second life to map into "in game" gestures?

     * Another hardware issue is the HMD. Many HMD's are heavy and not 
designed for long term use. In addition, having screens so close to 
one's eyes for an extended period of time is very strenuous. I plan to 
discuss the possible stress effects with a doctor at UCSD.

//Timeline and Plan//

In the spring 2008 quarter, I will be teaching an advanced elective in 
the Visual Arts Department entitled "Collective Art Practice - Networked 
and Performative Approaches to Challenging Power" with final projects in 
Second Life. If there are students who are interested in collaborating 
with me, they may work with some of the above mentioned hardware and 
software, collaborating and working towards the technical solutions to 
the above problems. You can read more about the class here:

I plan to develop the technical components of the project between June 
and October, with a goal of doing the performance in November or December.

//Conceptual Background and Frame//

For more conceptual background and to see the other stages of my 
Becoming Dragon project, see Becoming Dragon:


5. http://www.medienkunstnetz.de/works/one-year-performance/video/1/

6. http://rhizome.org/discuss/view/28029

7. http://www.feldmangallery.com/pages/exhsolo/exhbur75.html

8. BS - contributions from Brett Stalbaum


blog: http://technotrannyslut.com

gpg:  0x5B77079C // encrypted email preferred
gaim/skype: djlotu5 // off the record messaging preferred

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