Monday, 30 August 2010

Rotating Brains / Beating Heart and Vulnerability

The Avatar Orchestra's collaboration with Stelarc, Franziska Schroeder and others continues. This is a large collaboration with people on three continents and in at least six time zones contributing expertise, inspiration, technical skill, ideas and ... loving attention.

There is a fragile beauty at work in the mind spaces we inhabit in this work.

Each element that is created seems to embody a sense of vulnerability, softness, emergent being-ness.

We are but witnesses.

Friday, 6 August 2010

Is the body obsolete? Pondering AOM's Stelarc Collaboration

One Heart, Four Brains Installation in Second Life

The Avatar Orchestra Metaverse was invited a few weeks ago by Franziska Schroeder to participate in a collaborative performance with the Australian performance artist Stelarc. This mixed reality performance will take place at the Digital Resources for the Humanities and the Arts Conference at Brunel University in the UK on September 5, 2010, with the Orchestra projected from Second Life.

Stelarc's views are compelling and provocative. "The body is obsolete", spoken by a Stelarc-voice robot in various realities and performances, has been running through my head as we work out the details of the collaboration. 

Today, I watched a video of a TED talk by Aimee Mullins, a young woman with an amazing spirit, and without biological lower legs. Like Stelarc, she talks about how altered we already are, with replaced hips, eyeglasses, hearing aids, blood transfusions, enhanced breasts and lips. We are already hybrids, we are already part machine, part biology. "The only disability is a crushed spirit", says Aimee. 

Stelarc has used, tested, experimented with and enhanced his physical body in so many ways. He has fused it with mechanical and organic devices. I find myself wondering what is physical about working in the virtual world, without a clear and direct physical sense of presence or connection to the living body in the intention of the practice. The Avatar Orchestra tends toward a cerebral focus. Mental tele-presence, with resulting beautiful yet elusive worlds. Disembodied.

One Heart, Four Brains Installation with particle emissions (particles by Bingo Onomatopeia)

How is it that we feel our real hearts beating while playing with virtual sounds and images? Does our heart change from this work, this experiment? Does our skin change, do our eyes change, does our brain change?

Pauline Oliveros, also involved in this collaboration, maintains that yes, our brains are evolving and changing rapidly with our use of technology. I agree with her.

I also believe that there is no such thing as a distinction between "natural" and "synthetic". Unless we have been beamed in from some other planet, some other world, it is true to say that machines come from the same place we do, the same place radishes and granite and gray wolves do. And our creations are changing us.