We have all experienced the sometimes strange and mind-bending intersection of real and virtual in Second Life. Just before Thanksgiving I had the opportunity to attend an exhibit at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, which features a build in Second Life called Dante Hotel on an island known as Hotwire.
The SFMOMA exhibit intends to “examine how artists have engaged members of the public as essential collaborators in the art-making process”. The corresponding exhibit in Second Life displays the archives of a remarkable artist and film maker, Lynn Hershman Leeson.
Lynn rezzed in Second Life in 2005 when Henry Lowood and others at the Stanford Humanities Lab suggested Second Life as an appropriate place to migrate some of her archived projects which were housed at the Stanford Library. Her goal was to make her history accessible digitally, and the project came into being as Life Squared.
Maybe because it felt so familiar to my experience as an avatar, I found the Roberta Breitmore story, showcased in its own room at the Hotel, to be especially intriguing. For years Roberta Breitmore was a “private performance of a simulated person”; a fascinating exploration of what it’s like to express yourself, even partially, through another personality. You can meet the latest incarnation of Roberta at the Dante Hotel in Second Life, where she is currently serving as a guide for the SFMOMA museum attendees.
Roberta Breitmore 1974-1978
For a performance artist such as Lynn, Second Life adds a new dimension to the original exploration of the work. As she describes it, “By putting the archive of my work in Second Life, I was able to transcend the original essence of the piece into a new, hybrid interactive and participatory structure. “
As a backdrop for her digital archive, Lynn and the team from Stanford (Michael Shanks, Henry Lowood, Jeffrey Schnapp, Henrik Bennetson, Henry Segerman and Jeff Aldrich) decided to recreate the Dante Hotel in Second Life. The Dante Hotel was the real-life scene of one of her earliest works, a living piece of art that she implemented in collaboration with Eleanor Coppola. Today the Dante Hotel in Second Life serves as both a re-creation of the original piece, and as the gallery for a series of other exhibits of Hershman’s work, including the current SFMOMA show.
Comments? Thoughts? See you in the forums.