The fragility of life
When I set out to create a work of art, whether a performance or installation, a painting or collage, I normally don’t have any plans. I might have some thoughts and ideas written out but I do this particular project because it is something I have to express – an idea I have to communicate, some dialogue I have to start, a notion that I have to challenge.
The last few projects/performances I have done have been dramatic and extreme: I shaved my head; I did a photography project of 2000 Avatars; I built a huge immersive installation for people to float around inside; I became my Avatar for my Masters thesis and I turned an L.A. Gallery into a 1920s dining room – even the curator called that one ambitious.
I have to be ambitious. I am a new artist to the LA scene as well as the digital art world and I am a woman artist. I have to compete to get noticed. This is what I do, so I have to do whatever it takes.
But as I do more and more art projects, I find myself becoming braver. I am actually planning to do a nude performance. How much more brave can I get??
When I started thinking about doing “Binge and Purge” my newest project, I had a few thoughts. If you haven’t had a chance to read the last post on my blog, in this performance/installation I am going to rez my whole inventory (virtual closet) onto a sim and delete all its contents over a five month period.
My thinking is: What if I left Second Life? What would happen to all of my stuff – all that artwork, clothing, furniture, books, houses, toys, etc.? It’s a virtual lifetime collection of stuff. (I’ve been in SL for seven years.) But it’s a collection of what?
Of course, I love everything I have acquired in Second Life. Of course, I value the art and clothes and furniture, the amazing trees and buildings, the gifts from friends. These items are very dear to me. Plus they are valuable in their own right. The original, limited edition, one of a kind art in Second Life IS valuable. For the owner as well as the creator. It can have the same financial and sentimental value as any object in the physical world.
I did consider all of the above while thinking about this project. I wondered what it would mean to destroy/delete so many one-of-a-kind items: clothes from stores that are no longer around, art that is limited edition, furniture and gifts that were given to me and only me and buildings that are one-of-a-kind.
While I was rezzing some items today, I came across a Japanese Armoire that was given to me by my friend Greg who passed away a few years ago. While a few friends may have this same piece, he never sold it. It was just for us. Yes I am very sad. But how long was that in my inventory before I found it buried under some furniture folder? Years — I had forgotten about it.
I was also thinking about reality TV. I don’t watch it but constantly hear people talking about Honey Booboo, or the Housewives of this place or that, or Big Brother. People watch these shows for entertainment yes, but they are also voyeuristic moments in peoples lives. Why are they so popular? What is the appeal of wanting to look into somebodies closet? Warhol started this conversation in his art many years ago when he screenprinted car accidents. People slow down to look? The society of spectacle?
This project is also about the fragility of life. I work in an Emergency Room as my full time job. I see life come and go and everything in between on a daily basis. I see minutes; hours; days; weeks; months and years pass by in the blink of an eye. Do you think the patients I see are thinking about their cars, their art, their clothes, and their money in the bank? No. No, they’re not.
I want to touch on some of the comments/critique I have received about the project. I have the utmost respect for every single artist and creator in Second Life. There are some wonderfully talented, brilliant people doing high quality work. Second Life is ripe for this creativity.
When well-known artist Robert Rauschenberg erased a Willem de Kooning drawing, it wasn’t about de Kooning. It was about the boundaries and definition of art. Ziki Questi used a Marcel Duchamp quote in her blog post about my project, “destruction is also creation.”
Yes, this is an extreme act. No, I can’t sell the important pieces. Yes, it is emotional for me and many others who look in their inventories and can’t imagine in a million years doing this. While I rezzed the objects yesterday and ooohhhed and ahhhhed over the long lost items, I didn’t cry. Well, ok I cried once, but that was only when I opened a folder and wore it, inevitably leaving me standing nude in front of 20-30 people. I was crying because I was laughing so hard. I expect it will be more emotional when I actually delete these items in 3 weeks.
When I talk about mixing realities, bringing the virtual into the physical world, I consider how to make the art of the internet, of 3D worlds such as Second Life accessible to the real art world. This was never the sole intention of this project. It is always on my mind as I am an artist in both realities. I use Second Life as a real world tool to expand and communicate my ideas. I am a performance artist following in the footsteps of Marina Abramovic, Chris Burden, Vito Acconci, Vanessa Beecroft, Coco Fusco, Cheri Gaulke, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Suzanne Lacy and Yoko Ono, these artists are provocative. They are bold, brave and committed.
I understand, Angel Kingmaker’s comment on Ziki’s blog about comparing this performance of “Binge and Purge” literally to an eating disorder. I never really thought about it until now, but my art has never been literal. My work, my performances are continuously made up of instances, a multitude of concepts, ideas, thoughts, layers and especially meanings. They are very multivalent. My eating disorder is only a small part of this performance/installation = project.
I am neither anorexic nor bulimic. I know many people who are. I am a medically diagnosed binge eater. I may eat a couple half gallons of ice cream in a day or two. I purge in other ways. I may clean excessively, organizing and simplifying to extremes. Or purging my wallet by spending money that I shouldn’t. (I am getting much better thankfully and working my way towards recovery.)
As I said above, my life is about extremes. I don’t go half way. What’s the point? To make an important statement, I have to put myself out there and go for it. Wasn’t the slogan in the 90’s, “No fear?”
I have always had fear and worry in my life, more so the last few years after having a panic attack and realizing I had an eating disorder. I worry every day that I may have a heart attack like my dad who passed away at 50 years old. I am 40.
When I plan a project, I try to think about logistics. What will make the biggest impact, the biggest statement? What will get people to think, talk, act? If I had just deleted my own artworks, how would people know? What proof do they have? I didn’t want this project to be about me. Of course, it is about me, but I didn’t want people to think it was about me. I DID want people to consider their own lives, their own inventories, their own memories.
This is a VERY personal project where I am facing a huge fear of loss and the unknown; death and deletion; memory and emotion. It is, about the fragility of life, whether virtual or real.
Thank you very much for your love and support.
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