Micheál O’Connell Performance in SL and at the Lighthouse

Our resident Micheál O’Connell has been working at a breakneck pace preparing for the performance on Thursday March 6 at 11:15 am (or so) SLT.

I am including his original proposal here with the hopes that we will be able to add to the documentation as time passes including video and other excerpts form the performance.

Concepts relating to simulation, gaming and performance formed a significant part of my focus during the completion of a Masters Degree in Fine Art last year. I run a course in Games Development and teach post-graduate Digital Media Art students also. In addition I have been actively developing my own artistic practice, exhibiting work and acting upon ideas.

I am interested in the play between real and virtual and in an old-fashioned idea: the pursuit of truth. Susan Sontag’s criticisms of Baudrillard and Debord when she wrote for example that “to speak of reality becoming a spectacle is a breathtaking provincialism. It universalises the viewing habits of a small, educated population living in the rich part of the world, where news has been converted into entertainment” deserve attention. Is all truth relative? Individuals appear happy to theorise that we know nothing about what is separate from us while acting as if those perceptions do represent a real world which can be understood. It is curious for example that despite years of accepting post-modern relativism, the suggestion that the end of history has been reached and that we should not make assumptions about what other’s perceive that governments, religious and political groups still find it necessary to engage in very real conflict.

In recent years I have worked with a professional clown, directed him as he participated in (usually repetitious) invented processes (for example at the Whitechapel Gallery in London: http://www.mocksim.org/wormhole.htm). These scenarios are often acted out in proximity to some virtual representation: a video of the same clown, a simulation or 3D animation. Historically the clown plays a role which includes moving between audience and stage, breaking the fourth wall of theatre, undermining illusion and trickery while participating in it. At a recent seminar with a group of post-graduate Digital Media Arts students on Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulation I invited the same clown (having not informed the students in advance) to participate in the session. The awkward situation and lack of clarity regarding his role provoked an interesting debate about what was real, whether his character was real for instance and what that question meant, whether the clown was upset, happy or neutral in the environment.

My proposal is to create a performance in Second Life based on one of these directed pieces I have developed in the past, modelling the clown character into Second Life in order to achieve this. The performance would take place while (for periods) the real clown either looks on or acts simultaneously or controls the character representing him while being directed by me. In turn that piece might be videoed and the video also projected in Second Life creating new arguably real or virtual layers. Feedback from the virtual performance to the real clown would also be a factor. Part of the objective here would be to undermine illusion. Part of the objective might be to accept or surrender to it. The development ought to explore questions and invent new ones around the theme. “Sticks and Stones will Break My Bones” is a preliminary title.

You’ll find examples of my work, a biog and imagery from events and exhibitions at a deliberately low-tech site: www.mocksim.org.

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