Tuesday, May 22

Show and Tell: Web-based performance

A small Japanese girl in traditional kimono steps onto the stage and begins a countdown. 3....2....1, before executing a perfect backflip onto a white box. Another performer responds by repositioning a second box in front of her. The first performer is the Second Life avatar of Markus, an artist based in Munich, the second is Mark, a RL (real life) artist based in Auckland. While this scenario is currently fictional, it's a potential for a show at Window sometime this year.

Changing technology means it's actually relatively easy to create this type of scenario. The onstage performer can see the virtual performer projected behind him with a basic computer logged onto Second Life. The virtual performer can see the action in the gallery via a cheap webcam which streams video to a page online.

It's this augmented reality aspect of Second Life which is rich with possibilities. There are dedicated performance groups, like SecondFront, which stage recreations of fluxus actions, or flamboyant, over the top events: cars are lit on fire, screenshots get LOL captions, members fly around a tower shouting lines and lines of Babelised text chatter. But there's a certain lack of subtlety and awareness there, which becomes apparent when you look at more thoughtful alternatives like Eva and Franco Mattes re-enacting of Beuys, 7000 Oaks, or the quirky, slightly alienated video pieces by Markus Kleine-Vehn (mentioned above), both practicing in other disciplines.

Locally, Marcia Lyons of the Digital Media Design section of Victoria, has plans to launch their programme in-world sometime in the next few months. This should provide some opportunities for collaborations, either in performance, world or object building, or just experiments in this relatively recent space.

Also around town is UpStage, a "web-based venue for live performance" project co-ordinated by Helen Varley Jamieson. She's just announced a series of performances using the online framework, based on themes ranging from childrens stories to virtual sex, big brother paranoia to air guitar.

And while the lo-res avatars and bandwidth limitations mean the platform is literally a little jagged around the edges, UpStage seems to provide a good degree of freedom and personalisation. It also stresses openness - audience members ("chatter" in UpStage lingo) can easily watch and contribute live feedback, albeit in a less overt fashion that the speech of performers ("players").

I've invited Helen to the group and also asked about the regular viewing/participation times that UpStage sets up, every first Wednesday of the month. So if you're interested, there might be an opportunity shortly to get involved or experiment with the platform.


helen said...
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helen said...

thanks for inviting me to contribute luke : )

first up, i'd like to add to what you've got here about UpStage, that it isn't just me! UpStage has been built by the multi-talented programmer/digital artist Douglas Bagnall, and the project is being run by myself & unstoppable dynamo Vicki Smith; we've also got a team of final year software development students at AUT doing some work on the software. UpStage is the brain child of the globally dispersed cyberformance troupe Avatar Body Collision (www.avatarbodycollision.org), which is myself, Vicki, Karla Ptacek (London) and Leena Saarinen (Helsinki). As well as UpStage's openness & accessibility, another key word is collaboration; we operate in packs : )

right now we are pretty full-on in preparation for the 070707 festival, and will resume the monthly open sessions in august.

h : )