Monday, June 28, 2010

Brooklyn is Watching



The R2D2s Make a Break for It (photo by Sweetie)

 Written 28 June, 2010


Brooklyn is Watching

Following is a partial transcript of a podcast from Brooklyn is Watching. I limited myself to the part that concerns, ahem, me (and Sweetie, who is ever my muse).

Brooklyn is Watching is a collaborative project of New York-based Media company Popcha and Jack the Pelican presents, an art gallery in Brooklyn. It's a large space in Second Life at which any resident can leave any type of art piece(s) to be studied and evaluated. One night a week, customers at the gallery watch on a big screen TV and comment as avatars walk around the installation viewing and interacting with the art.

Over the past couple of years I've left occasional pieces on the land, but never listened to the BIW blog to hear what folks had to say about them. A month or so ago, however, I left the Robot Escape Attempts Walk of Shame from our Robot Sanatorium on their land.

That might have been that, but a week or so later I received an e-mail asking permission to use a photo I posted on this blog earlier, titled "Who Says Robots Can't Water Skin?" to illustrate Exploding Selavy, an audio blogpost by Amy Freelunch.

Of course I said yes.

And of course I immediately went to the site and downloaded the podcast.

I was staying with Sweetie, on her PC late at night with no headphones, so we listened to it the next morning.

She rolled on the floor laughing, saying Amy nailed me.

Here's my transcription of Amy's words about our robot rebellion:

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I wanted to conclude by talking about this piece by Cheyenne Palisades. It's got some hovertext floating over it that says very proudly, "Created by Cheyenne Palisades from found objects." As we start out we're confronted by a kind of crashed out-- it looks like a New York City taxicab-- filled with R2D2s, and there's R2D2s in the trunk, and like the whole car is just sort of like smoking, like the engine is just sort of blown up, and there's R2D2s everywhere. Like they're underneath the car, so it looks like he's hit an R2D2. There's one [R2D2] driving it, there's just lots of them. This piece-- in general, the piece goes on to have these different kind of tableaus that you look at, and that you kind of interact with. I'll describe them in just a minute.

This piece is obviously not the kind of dead serious transcendent art statement that normally is the kind of thing that I look to talk about-- but I like this piece a lot because it's just really funny. It's stupid, but in a good way. I say that very gingerly because I don't want the artist to misunderstand what I'm saying. I like that it is made from what the artist is referring to as found objects. I kind of question whether or not the term found object is actually appropriate in this way-- pre-existing objects, or whatever. I mean, I understand what the artist is trying to say. These are not objects the artist has actually made; the artist has simply assembled them and arranged them as such.

One of the things I like about it is it's got this really geeky humor that I often feel as though artists in Second Life and a lot of the people I hang out with in Second Life, we all try to sort of pretend we're not nerds. And this piece just sort of assumes that its audience is filled with nerds. And so I just kind of liked it for that.

And so what we're got here is, you've got these different-- sort of like those kind of backgrounds to a science fair kind of things, like you know when you were a kid and you had a science fair and you always had to have like this kind of background that explained like the evidence that you had. You'd have like a little kind of banner with the text above it that sort of explained what you're trying to go out and prove. So for instance, here's one that says, "The R2D2s make a break for it." And you go and you stand on the little star that's in front of it and it tells you a little story about these-- this is all about robots going crazy and trying to escape. And there are these different photographs of the R2s taken using these different sort of found objects or reappropriated objects, or however you want to call it. You know, these kind of tableaus the artist has made and set up and photographed with dramatic lighting and everything.

And then you kind of go through and let's see, there's R2D2s, there's "Gort's Anger Management Class Could Not Be Considered a Success," there's "Bender Incites His Fellows toiot." Bender is a character from _Futurama_. He's basically the only character here that I have any real first-hand sort of connection to. And then there's a display about Roombahs going crazy and, I don't know, rising up against their unholy masters or something. Roombahs are these little robot vacuum cleaners. These actually exist. Unlike the other robots that are referred to in this, Roombahs are real things. You can buy them at like Target or Wal-Mart, and they're like a hundred and fifty dollars, and they robotically clean, they just automatically dock in your apartment and (unintelligible). I never have any money. So, anyway. Why am I talking about this?

I am very impressed by the level of skill, the attention to detail, the unabashed sense of glee and just sort of joy that is exhibited in this piece. This is a piece that is probably set up here at Brooklyn is Watching to completely piss off any kind of conisseur of Second Life art, whatever that is. And yet this person has made this work that has got to be fairly labor intensive in terms of the amount of time and effort that, things that were probably like-- photographs that were taken and eliminated, and just the right ones picked out, and all that sort of thing. So you can't fault it in that it's not thrown together in a way that's like sloppy or shows lack of character-- totally the opposite. This is a very thoughtfully put-together piece, and I'd say that the photographs that are taken are beautifully taken and the arrangement that they have set up where you kind of go up to these little diorama kind of pieces, and then you're given this information about what's going on, and it kind of makes use of-- it doesn't just use the convention of flat artwork or flat photography; it's using something that's kind of in between flat and 3-D because you've got that kind of interactive sort of feel that Second Life has, and yet it's incorporating photography.

And so I think this is great. I think this is totally great, and I think that it's a completely smartass piece that makes me very very interested to see what else this artist has done. And I just think that it's uh-- apparently the theme for this week is major fuck yous to art people, which I'm always in favor of that. And so this is sort of on the other end of the spectrum where you have the big bang on one end, which I feel is sort of beating up on me and is trying to singlehandedly destroy my second life, and then on the other hand we have this piece with like these maurading robots just going crazy, and it's such a silly piece that brings in so much like popular culture silliness, but yet is so thoughtfully and carefully constructed that I think it just really-- it sits there sort of threatening to completely undermine Second Life art as we know it, basically.

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Hehe. I am undermining Second Life art as we know it. I love that.

To see Robot Escape Attempts, go to the Robot Sanatorium (see link above); you'll find it on the back wall of the main floor, toward the left.

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