Tuesday, 25 December 2007

Musings on Touch and Sight

As I ponder how to make performance and sound installation works as an 'avatar', I am exploring places of touch and visualization ...

Touch, vision, feeling, sound, excitement, action … what is the relationship between how they exist in our minds and their manifestation in body? That we can experience a sense of touch through digital sound, idea, typing words, being in the same thought process at the same time with others in another time zone … how real is it? Is it touch? If the shared experience compels higher adrenaline levels, more fluids to run through the body, the heat of performance, laughter, inspiration, excitement … what is the difference between experiencing these things in the same location, and far apart? Is there a difference?

I want to get to a better truth about this, and not get sidetracked by the 'virtual' aspects of the Second Life World ... the way places, objects and avatars 'look'.

I have started to make a 'shell', currently resembling a large water drop, to encase performing avatars as I develop a potential work for Avatar Orchestra Metaverse, partly as a process of trying to answer a question about avatar function. Avatar arms, legs, feet, hands, fingers, eyes, ears ... have no functional purpose in making movements or sounds, or determining how we ... people ... move through and act in the Second Life world. The controls available to us do not depend in any way on the avatar having specific body parts, or any body parts, for that matter. The arms do not bring, the hands to not touch, the legs do not propel the avatar, the eyes do not see, the ears do not hear. All of these things are accomplished with our mice and keyboards signaling the SL platform controls, positioning the camera and microphones. So why not lose the arms and legs, the eyes and ears?

I wonder about the extent of the limitations I might impose on myself as a creator if I become mesmerized by the fiction of the 'humanness' of the avatar beings. I wonder if I can access new places of touch in the mind that are more authentic to the virtual world by loosening the parameters of physical human likeness, and physical human limitation.

I don't know.

So I make these shells to cover the obvious virtual body and its human-copying parts; to free myself to conceive of movements, relationships, touches, colours that have some authenticity and relationship to the technical and imaginative realities of the simulated spaces I am working in, and offer some frameworks for group interactions and improvisations. It would of course be simpler to be able to create totally free form and amorphous avatars to begin with, but that is another story ...

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