I have a few notes regarding Soror Nishi’s post regarding the opening of the Linden Endowment for the Arts opening, the expulsion of SaveMe Oh, and the protest by Dancoyote Antonelli regarding Rhett Linden’s statement that art is such great free advertising. As one of the leading members of one of the world’s foremost virtual performance art groups, Second Front, I would like to say that in regards to Linden Labs’ form of support for the arts through the LEA, etc. I don’t really care.
That’s not true. I think that a more accurate statement is that I really don’t think it matters. Why?
First, I’m not performing the usual trumped-up promotion of one’s own group one finds in Second Life. There are plenty of other very respected “Real Life” artists, such as Scott Kildall, Joseph DeLappe, Micha Cardenas, Stephanie Rothenberg, and Cao Fei who use SL as a medium who will probably never bee promoted by Linden Labs, with the probable exception of Cao Fei. Why?
Because the paradigm of Second Life is a solipsism, pure and simple. The problem with SL Art is that it focuses on SL as a paradigm that rotates around Linden Labs, and not as a medium. It focuses on the residents that are trying from within SL to get respect for it by the exterior world, rather than working with respected artists period who merely use SL as a medium.
The issue is that artists who wish that Linden Labs would act as an advocate for them are looking in the wrong direction, not only because of LL’s mindset that the Residents are assets for free marketing, but that Linden Labs itself has lost a great deal of its ability to leverage credible PR for its content in the past years.
Second Life has lost much of its lustre, but the reasons why are not important. What is important is that at the LEA kickoff, we had artists actually engaging with LL’s policies and culture as if they were relevant, which it is not. Why?
Because most of the more greatly recognized artists mentioned above, showing in venues such as the Performa Performance Art Bienniale in NYC, the Moscow Museum of Contemporary Art, the Donaufestival Krems, the Sundance New Horizons Festival, the Australian national Portrait Gallery, the Yokohama Trienniale, Ars Electronica, and so on simply aren’t on the radar in SL because of this cognitive dissonance. Period.
The paradigm of trying to promote SL Art through LL as a revolutionary new form that the world has to come into to see simply _does_not_work_. Many of the leading artists using SL are not the most visible names in the community, and that’s another disconnect, and many of them have moved on by now.
It’s a problem. SL has had its prime and now it is a mature platform with artists who use it without relying on its “sex” factor, and the Linden Endowment for the Arts providing servers is a good start, but will not really leverage the artists without proper PR and contextual framing.
As for the rest of us who do our SL work for RL and don’t really engage much with the LL culture, we’re doing fine. It’s not that we’re against Linden Labs; far from it. It’s that we understand that they don’t understand the art and festival world because they’re a software company, and high artists are a) not amateur assets, and b) don’t really care if they’re famous in Second Life. Don’t gvet me wrong, no one’s looking down on the SL community, again – far from it, they’re a great bunch of people, but SL’s myopia serves the needs of Linden labs and its promotion of SL, and That’s just not relevant to an artist’s practice. It’s like voluntarily promoting a type of oil paint because you use it, and only associate with the artists who use that oil paint. It’s just not relevant.
So going back to the Linden Endowment for the Arts opening, Dancoyote’s protest of Linden’s leveraging its artist for PR, and the expulsion of the avatar SaveMe Oh for creating her signature visual noise – in art world terms, it was nonexistent. Why that is important is as long as Second Life seeks normal credibility, it has to think in terms of partnerships with the contemporary art world, and not just trying to create new promotional plans for its community. And, until LL understands its role as a platform rather than paradigm again, it will continue on its road of solipsistic cheerleading into an uncertain future.
As for the rest of us, we will be diligently doing our work, appreciatively working in SL, but all the while knowing that it is the larger frame of reference that serves our work, not the frame of Linden Labs.
Patrick Lichty/Man Michinaga