Cycles and Viractuality

With each successive technology I learn, or master it changes how I view the past, present, and the future.

Experiencing virtual 3D space can transcend the material world but it is very much a material experience. Through Alternate Futures I am exploring Afrofuturism and viractuality — a term coined by Joseph Nechtaval who I recently befriended on Facebook after I bought his book, Towards an Immersive Intelligence. This exploration is beyond my imagination.  Lisa Yazsek has been researching Afrofuturism in literature.  She writes,

As an international aesthetic movement concerned with the relations of science, technology, and race, Afrofuturism appropriates the narrative techniques of science fiction to put a black face on the future.

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From the Steampunk Dream installation in Second Life.

Alternate Futures aims to place visitors within a perceptually immersive 3D Afrofuturist construction in Second Life, then subsequently asks them to consider the future of black history and culture. Visitors experience fragments of history, culture, and myth as they explore the simulation. I’ve come to my own realization as I add to this work that my sense of space and time changes. I recognize close connections between form and meaning (in art), as well as history and virtuality or viractuality.

The concept of viractuality begins with the realization that every new technology disrupts previous rhythms of consciousness. Every period in time has it’s own reality — it’s own integrity and uniqueness. ~ Joseph Nechvatal

Having practiced and mastered the art of collage in material space (to some degree) I am discovering that collage in immersive 3D space is entirely unique. A collage (from the word coller, to glue) is a work of visual art made from an assemblage of different forms, thus creating a new whole. In Second Life collage integrates two, three, and four dimensional forms of art. I am experiencing the overlapping of the visual elements with sound, animation and video in new and exciting ways.

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A work in progress in the Steampunk Dream build.

On a different level I am finding new meaning and connections between the virtual art and existing narratives. Steampunk Dream is my short story about time travel and reconnecting with the past. I am making the story real through the creation of an immersive 3D space that makes it possible to create links to external content such as web sites, online videos and streaming media (radio). For example, visitors can click an image or object to launch a web browser and view segments from LaLee’s Kin: The Legacy of Cotton, a documentary that draws the connection — a vicious cycle — between poverty and the lack of education opportunity for black people living in the Mississippi Delta, over 150 years after the abolition of slavery.

As I was constructing this part of the installation I remembered this film. It’s another way of looking at Afrofuturism by making reference to how a family tries to end a cycle through self-actualization. Younger members imagine a future where they are no longer tied to their reality. Steampunk Dream is as much about time travel as it is about being virtual as an aspect of reality that is not material, but which is nonetheless real.

[Giles] Deleuze’s concept of the virtual has two aspects: first, we could say that the virtual is a kind of surface effect produced by the actual causal interactions which occur at the material level. When one uses a computer, an image is projected on the monitor screen which depends upon physical interactions going on at the level of hardware. The window is nowhere in actuality, but is nonetheless real and can be interacted with. This example actually leads to the other aspect of the virtual which Deleuze insists upon, which is its generative nature. The virtual is here conceived as a kind of potentiality that becomes fulfilled in the actual. It is still not material, but it is real. ~ wikipedia

As I add to the virtual 3D collage in Steampunk Dream numerous connections are being made visually (ex. clouds are visually similar to cotton), virtually, and socially which is how I was able to make the link to LaLee’s Kin. How I come to the subject and content today is very different than how I might have explored it before I got into the IBM exhibition space in Second Life.

…the opening and closing scenes of Invisible Man hold forth the possibility of a different relationship between technology, race, and art: by hiding out under New York City and stealing electricity to power his turntables, Ellison’s protagonist creates a space outside linear time where he can begin to rewire the relations between past and present and art and technology. In doing so, he becomes, however tentatively, the figurehead for a hopeful new Afrofuture. ~ An Afrofuturist Reading of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man by Lisa Yazsek.

In Ellison’s novel the narrator introduces himself as an invisible man. He explains that his invisibility owes not to some biochemical accident or supernatural cause but rather to the unwillingness of other people to notice him, as he is black. It is as though other people are sleepwalkers moving through a dream in which he doesn’t appear. Being invisible sometimes makes him doubt whether he really exists. Alternate Futures and more specifically Steampunk Dream make real the reality of worlds (histories, narratives) that often exist in the margins of the mainstream, using new forms of art and technology.

Note: This work is part of my current art exhibition, Alternate Futures, on the IBM exhibition simulation in Second Life.

OPENING: Monday June 21, 6pm SLT (9pm EST)

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