Monday, 17 October 2011

A life large with Strangers ...

'... So we came to understand that small and important thing; that our lives could be large with interesting strangers who would pass us without any personal involvement ... '

Michael Ondaatje
The Cat`s Table 2011

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

(MUVE) Avatar - A New Companion Species? A Study of Privileging Human Companionship mediated through Spatial Reflexivity

Many thanks to all my camp-followers who have kept in touch through this Masters study. This last three years of work has been fascinating and engaging for me. I trust that certain aspects may have been interesting for you too. Clearly, there is much more to be done in many of the areas covered tentatively by my research-practice. At present, I am preparing application for a PhD proposal in new media and performance. I have found the generation and maintenance of my concepts and research incredibly useful in the form of an online blog, so (if my application is successful) I will be creating another one for my PhD research-practice. Please stay in touch and I will provide the address for the new blog in the New Year 2010.

Below are preliminary thoughts on concepts and content for my further research. The title is above:

This research will attempt to investigate and extend definitions of the notion of Companionship:
1) Companionship existing as a habitable place comprised of a number of properties; physical, spatial, anticipatory, psycho-emotional, telepresent, liminal. Companionship is a space, one among others, contained within the description of humans as 'mobile volumes' susceptible to, informed and mediated by both 'real' and virtual properties which impinge upon us as we inhabit our respective world locations. (Roger Caillois and Mimesis; Grosz, E. (1999). Space, Time and Bodies in Wolmark).

2) How can Avatars define spaces of opportunity in the field of human engagement?
Enquiry will be conducted into why and how for some, MUVE Avatars may enjoy the privileged status of 'Human Companion' afforded to pets such as dogs and cats; apes (particularly the Bonobo ape), cetaceans, (Dr Donna Haraway - A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology and Socialist Feminism in the late Twentieth Century in Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature and her more recent publication, When Species Meet) family, friends, imaginary friends, partners.

Key Questions:
Might Avatars be a New Companion Species? Why? How might this be defined? How might this be validated/quantified?

Why are MUVE Avatars currently relevant?

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Embedded Screens - Duet for 6

These images are stills from my latest video edit, Duet for 6, published in the last post. There are a number of moments-in-pause here, indicative of my focus in the video on embedding presence - in this case avatar personna, into the fabric of those surfaces or screens which comprise and form all our perceived spaces, in this instance, Second Life space.

Please see the Duet for 6 in the previous post.

These moments are representative of embodiment flowing onto and through the phantom screens in my Second Life railway station. Interactive inscriptions of the absent First Life body. Abstract (through their removal) representations of avatar activity. The performance here is mediated by connectivity, the video, the screens themselves, duration, the computer screen and removal of the original moment.

Avatars Rollo Kohime, Fionnbhar Kohime and Toddles Lightworker emerge, sink and re-emerge from an active skin or surface film - three descriptive inscriptions; avatar, video, screen - each mediating the other.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Duet for 6 - In the Company of Strangers

This is my latest dance and video work in Wellington Railway Station with Fiona Baker (aka Fionnbhar Kohime in SL) in First Life and Todd Cochrane aka Toddles Lightworker in Second Life, representing a further development in exploring the issue of Avatar Companionship and perhaps an extension of my Departed series; the footage is set, like Departed in the Wellington Railway Station entrance doors - in my Second Life station and with Todd Cochrane`s floating body, an inference of movement that is slightly unsettling - a departing soul? However, the study is an extension of Duet for Four, mainly for its investigation of movement in and out of screens/surfaces in and out of Second Life.

The title 'Duet' suggests a dance form usually identified with two people, yet with the composite layering of Real and Second Life, a movement dialogue exists here for Six; relational engagement between humans and avatars as well as that discrete conversation occurring between human to human and avatar to avatar. I intentionally selected Todd`s 'male' avatar to embed ambiguity in the shape and character of the personna present, rather than have an equal and predictable male/female avatar echo. This shift reflects the potential for exercising the unpredictable nature of gender selection in Second Life. The male avatar could easily belong to my wife, Fiona. Unless you know the person behind the avatar, there is no way of knowing their Real Life identity.

I have attempted to represent both, aspects of companionship in Second Life through intimacy of engagement in movement, while also further exploring the notion of embodying surfaces through avatar interaction - this video primarily seeks to explore the possibilities of our becoming embedded in our life-surfaces.

The work concentrates on avatar presence (itself, an inscription) sliding across and through, emerging and sinking into and being contained by the screens of which the space is comprised. In First Life this occurs constantly - we, as mobile volumes become alternately subsumed and rejected by our backgrounds and the spaces which hold us, yet, although we may be prepared to acknowledge that our spaces may shape our time and the ways in which we function in those spaces, we do not usually perceive our presence as actually co-habiting with the elements within our spaces. Here the dancers are defined by the spatial laws which support their digital existence and can penetrate and become an extension of the fabric of those surfaces which are phantom and ambiguous in nature.

We are not quite so fluent in this in First Life although there are moments where we can blend unobtrusively into our backgrounds and even embody/become our backgrounds, (football crowds, demonstrations, commuter crowds, where the spatial field is made up predominantly by human bodies). Once again, departure is experienced in both locations. The difference between these locations is that I orchestrated Toddles Lightworker`s process of departure, unlike the leaving in the duet in the First Life station, which was improvised. So avatars represent that potential constant (if so desired) for us in extra-terrestrial or telepresent companionship, which suggests that (allowing for the vagueries of the Internet) empathy, alignment, connection and even discord can be tailored in a mixed-reality environment, where we never have to be 'alone' for long.

I am indebted to Todd aka Toddles Lightworker, Clare aka Arwenna Stardust and Warren aka Ciderjack Applemore, for their assistance and support with servers and experimental dancing (using an animation devised by Isabel Valverde) in this work.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Duet for Five - In the Company of Strangers

Duet for Five

These images are taken from my latest dance and video work with Fiona Baker in First Life and Todd Cochrane aka Toddles Lightworker in Second Life, representing a further development in exploring the issue of Avatar Companionship and the embedding of our presence in the surfaces of our lives. The title 'Duet' suggests a dance form usually identified with two people, yet with the composite layering of First and Second Life, a movement dialogue exists here for Five; relational engagement between humans and avatars as well as that discrete conversation occurring between human to human and avatar to avatar. I intentionally selected a 'male' avatar to embed ambiguity in the shape and character of the personna present, rather than have an equal and predictable male/female avatar echo. This shift in gender reflects the potential for exercising the unpredictable nature of gender selection in Second Life. The male avatar could easily belong to my wife, Fiona. Unless you know the person behind the avatar, there is no way of knowing their First Life identity.

Once again, departure is experienced in both locations. The difference between these locations is that I orchestrated Toddles Lightworker`s process of departure, unlike the leaving in the duet in the First Life station, which was improvised. So avatars represent that potential constant (if so desired) for us in extra-terrestrial or telepresent companionship, which suggests that (allowing for the vagueries of the Internet) empathy, alignment, connection and even discord can be tailored in a mixed-reality environment, where we never have to be 'alone' for long.

Contact Improvisation Dance is by nature, an intimate, shared movement form and method of conversing somatically and I am interested in the ways this may be implied by avatar movements (which lack the capacity, as yet, to carry out shared, improvised movement) overlapping and running through one another, unfolding in ways that are similar to and in verbal communication.

This work also focusses upon juxtaposing the contrasting possibilities within movement which exist, currently, between First Life movement and Second Life animations. The impossible, horizontal floating and the somewhat grotesque movements (which can occur anomalously at any time) of Toddles Lightworker`s limbs are relevant to the description of uniqueness (and serendipity) in behaviour signatures which exists for entities in both of these different locations on our one world surface.

The Station entrance screens are deliberate points of focus in this work. I am particularly interested in the shadowed figures of the avatars moving and 'sinking' in and out of the screens while the video, 'not-hereReprise 2' is playing. Interacting with and becoming perhaps, a part of the dark spaces of interfaces.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Update on number of visitors to Wellington Railway Station in Second Life

A list of vistors to Rollo's build. In order of their arrival.
The total time for all visits by one AV and the last visit time stamp in GMT is shown.
688 visitors so far.

Many thanks to Todd Cochrane aka Toddles Lightworker for setting up and maintaining this diagnostic:

Isa Goodman00502008-07-29T09:41:19.433413Z
Toddles Lightworker10202009-06-19T05:28:26.553161Z
Rollo Kohime20759102009-09-07T06:49:04.223650Z
Edithzor Exonar132402009-02-10T09:15:36.347955Z
Eryr Llewellyn015102008-12-18T07:45:30.214027Z
Jeb Lanzius017402008-12-14T22:01:59.865796Z
Arwenna Stardust35502009-07-06T07:49:19.917666Z
SitDevelop Acker01002008-11-07T03:52:04.929504Z
Katipo Kirax31002009-07-01T03:43:07.415183Z
Tran Courtois06102009-05-07T04:41:04.952517Z
Kavisha Quan058202008-11-28T00:31:29.514090Z
LorenzoBuhne Zerbino0402009-02-21T05:54:08.356007Z
ugee Egoyan016502008-12-06T00:51:59.065579Z
Indygo Magic0102008-08-01T23:31:58.930020Z
Dependent Binder0402008-08-08T20:41:28.467404Z
CiderJack Applemoor13102009-07-01T03:43:28.378445Z
Dacary Dumpling06302008-09-05T21:35:04.127492Z
Professor Noarlunga0702009-02-01T08:08:28.262918Z
Steve Baroque02102008-08-01T11:05:52.164306Z
Ellie Dewoitine336202008-12-04T08:13:51.298830Z
SHAKIRA Skirr08202008-08-01T17:12:22.036566Z
Fionnbhar Kohime755302009-06-01T08:15:14.503469Z
Suteruni Susanto00502008-09-09T11:26:32.772152Z
SITLife Jefes03202009-07-24T04:22:45.715541Z
CT Vlodovic08502008-08-03T17:14:42.283931Z
Iphigenia Flores014502008-10-05T22:15:32.386007Z
Edasa Eales00402008-08-04T02:48:46.305091Z
Orwell Sorbet026202008-09-28T23:01:33.511958Z
Itchy Gamba00102008-08-04T06:02:52.527079Z
Mythical Destiny00402008-08-04T06:13:43.302277Z
Mikky Ling08402009-08-02T10:23:08.339794Z
Netpuppy Thespian06302008-08-28T21:29:06.634782Z


WhoHoursMinutesSeconds LastVisitTime
Linkley Flinders0002009-08-22T01:23:32.052845Z
Samea Saeed0002009-08-23T01:20:38.274126Z
Maryam Topaz06302009-08-24T10:45:28.258430Z
Taraketh Winterwolf00202009-08-24T23:10:26.961015Z
Marcelette Larimore01202009-08-24T23:12:52.598823Z
Kalquin Larimore0002009-08-24T23:11:18.608606Z
Coyote Potez010102009-08-25T00:36:48.362154Z
Pet Freenote03102009-08-25T00:36:16.858824Z
Cromnas Naidoo01202009-08-25T22:41:25.027694Z
KT Hawksby00202009-09-01T01:27:04.471544Z
Dexter Littlebird01102009-09-01T18:01:52.276341Z
Dahlia Orellana0002009-09-02T06:32:58.434532Z
Timothy Posthorn0002009-09-03T02:38:41.563339Z
Samuelx Tigerfish02202009-09-03T05:05:00.322986Z
Selina Lomu00302009-09-05T00:28:33.234874Z
aliya Fairlady01202009-09-07T10:34:14.618516Z

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

AUT Masters in Art and Design, majoring in dance and video; Aims and Conclusion

After three years of study, today I completed my Masters Exegesis. I used the following points in part as a critique to cross-reference my Conclusion:

Principal areas of Focus in my Masters work:

In this exegesis, I am investigating theories which I believe, indicate a relational dynamic between duration and social behaviours. These theories are formulated through my empirically-based research and suggest re-alignments of existing constructs with regard to the apparent stability of our condition as humans frequenting, as we must, durational spaces. My interdisciplinary performance-based research practice has sought to scrutinize and present the state of Indeterminacy as the prime mover and the Roaming Body as interlocutor and go-between for this discussion. I will attempt here, to define and give substance to the ministrations and movements of the Roaming Body and endeavour to demonstrate how the forces of indeterminacy are represented through this agent in my practice. My intention is to establish in this document, robust contexts in Real Life and the MUVE metaverse of Second Life for the enactment of the participants, Indeterminacy and the Roaming Body. The effects of their residency in us as humans will be questioned and examined together with the substance of their conjoined states-of-agency which I maintain is, as a single entity, responsible for the dynamic tensions which emerge in notions of Belonging, the Self and Identity. The discussion will progressively critique my performative research practice (and how this has sought to engage with these stated descriptors and their implications), as protagonist toward the recognition and establishment of a lived blended-reality, subject to and mediated by the affects of indeterminacy emerging through the event of departure.

In this new urban Myth I maintain that all our exchanges, whether they be either apparently resolved engagements, casual encounters or missed conversations with people and places, are subject to the presence and affects of indeterminacy, evidenced in us as an ongoing state of departure through the agency of the Roaming Body.

What are Indeterminacy and the Roaming Body? How might Indeterminacy be active as a force sufficiently potent to affect our lives? What are the constituents of Indeterminacy? How might these constituents be evidenced in everyday human behaviours to extend the description of Indeterminacy beyond the theoretical? How is the existence of Myth a coherent and recognisable possibility in our lives?

The Roaming Body I suggest, is responsible in our behaviours for pre-emptive departure and the involuntary pursuit of the next moment.

Within the parameters of this urban myth, the manifestation of indeterminacy suggests that ‘Leaving’ is a universal state over which we have no conscious control. Departure is that paradoxical frame of reference for us as humans which both, frees us from the constraints of our previous engagement in time while instilling perhaps, trace echoes of what has been left behind. For me, this creates poignancy - a pathos evident in the most mundane of departures, humanity-wide, a sense which has been the principal informant of my dance and video work over the past three years of my Masters study. Whether it be recognisably profound and measurably life-altering, or apparently occurring within the humdrum of the everyday, departures and the act of leaving people and places of significance constantly colours our lives. Could it be that this unconscious facility that we unknowingly possess, the ability to live with indeterminacy as an ongoing, involuntary occurrence, is actually responsible for our departures, regardless of our own diagnostic sensing within a meeting or engagement with someone? Perhaps departure itself is the indeterminant driving factor here. A condition which affects us all, impinging upon and mediating our behaviour while for the most part, we remain in ignorance of its existence. To us, usually we are simply involved in 'going' somewhere else.

Principal areas of focus seek to create an environment which enables me to explore the potential for embodiment and transfluency between real and virtual surfaces or screens, based on my concepts of engagements mediated by departure through the indeterminate Roaming Body.

It is a concern for the possible descriptions of the screens around us which define a dual representation of deep space and how 'removal' or departure of our 'self' from these screens or surfaces may generate dualities which hold a genuine potential for mixed-realities, which is currently holding my attention in my exploration of surfaces.

My intention has been to explore how dual manifestations of the same identity, (when crossing over or through a MUVE interface), which are still defined through these interstices as 'different', may evolve into a single, blended reality using my intent through my avatar, Rollo Kohime and my Real Life video footage manifesting in my Second Life station.


Over the last 200 years, Western Thought has created a dialectic (Martin-Alcoff, 2005) which, I believe, impacts upon certain concepts concerned with the acquisition of autonomy within personal identity - that debate which seeks to synthesize the self and the ‘other’, the implications of which can adversely affect our ability to fit, to customise our belonging in the here and now and consequently, to question a sense of lasting allegiance to any one place. Recent social research (Belonging - Social Issues Research Centre 2007) suggests that traditional categories of belonging are now less easily defined in relation to distinct groups into which people may adroitly insert themselves. As our social interactions become more complex we are increasingly obliged to select our host groups. These groups are now encountered in all aspects of our lives. Through the internet, we have the potential to be members of communities not just locally, but in Cape Town, Archangel, Buenos Aires or in mixed-reality locations in Second Life, like New Philadelphia, New London, Ohio University or Amsterdam. But has this increase in choice diluted or made more tenuous our commitment or ability to experience that sense-of-place which ultimately is our own?

Identity and belonging. I suggest that our basic needs to be a part of something greater than ourselves are still intact. The idea of belonging is central to our existence and to our understanding of how we and others give meaning to our lives, yet it seems that these cornerstones of our sense of self are truly at risk from the ministrations of that thief of our stable moments; indeterminacy, emerging through the Roaming Body,
this purveyor of intimate-distance within the self, unapproachable, enjoying stranger status, yet strangely familiar. Our sense of identity is founded in our ability to not only connect with our self, but to maintain
a meaningful connection with others, to adhere to those places and people in our world which bring a sense of worth into our lives; founded too, upon our social interactions which are indicators of our allegiance to particular communities or groups through shared beliefs, values or practices. However, is it possible to exercise a balanced control over our facility to belong? At which point does an autonomous estate stand
so resolved, itself independent and immune from the need to be a part of something greater? That late 17th and 18th Centuries set of collective Western values emerging through The Enlightenment, called upon individuals to think for themselves, (Martin-Alcoff, 2005). In embracing this, we have since held that independence and thus the capacity for reason (which apparently, enables one to successfully stand alone) were to be our exemplars. This has necessitated that the individual be able to separate from all that is externally imposed on them in order to evaluate and consider rationally, their ongoing condition: that of a sentient being, with the capacity to act autonomously. Yet it can be seen that perhaps self-autonomy is divided.

Since Hegel, (1770-1831) major psychological accounts of the self have placed its dependence on the ‘other’ at the centre of formation and maintenance of the self. For Hegel, (Martin-Alcoff, 2005) one needs the ‘other’ to recognize one's status as a self-directing subject in order to create the conditions for the self-directing activity; one's self image is mediated through the ‘self-other’ relation, not only in terms of its substantive or evidential content but also in terms of the self in its base capacity. The self is completed by the active existence - and adherence to its potential other. Thus, on the one hand freedom and independence requires reason, which requires the ability to separate from the ‘other’, while at the same time, the self is ineluctably dependent on the other's interruptions and influence. If both of these philosophical traditions are broadly correct, it would seem that we are doomed to a lack of freedom through autonomy, because undivided autonomy is doubtful. Consequently, freedom through independence is defined as precisely that which we cannot attain and the consequences of our preoccupation with this pursuit may be placing at hazard our paradoxical need to find a place to stand which supports equally, our sense-of-place in the world.

In the Social Psychology of Experience: Studies in Remembering and Forgetting, the authors, David Middleton and Steven Brown suggest that Bergson`s view of the world is a process which embraces a, ‘fluid continuity of the real’, (2005). There is no doubt that for us time is at first identical with the continuity of our inner life. What is this continuity? That of a flow or passage, but a self-sufficient flow or passage, the flow not implying a thing that flows, and the passing not presupposing states through which we pass; the thing and the state are only artificially chosen snapshots of the transition, all that is naturally experienced is duration itself' (Bergson quoted in Middleton & Brown, 2005: 61).

Among my tasks in this Masterate was to demonstrate if possible, that our behaviours are mediated through the processes of indeterminacy experienced in duration. That we are receptacles susceptible to the minstrations of entities within our becoming amid this duration ; uncertainty through change. Indeterminacy is just one of those visitations that mediates our transformative existence in our 'becoming human', (Bergson, 2005) yet I perceive this entity as lying beneath and mediating any others which may emerge. It is this presence which ensures that we are never quite whole or complete because we can never be fully present - in the present. The Roaming Body as a, '... fellow-travelling identity ...', (Massumi, 2002) is the vehicle which articulates the properties and causality of indeterminacy. As vitally as food, we record through traces on the surfaces of our lives such insubstantial yet potent ephemera as habits, memories and tropisms - movement in response to a stimulus - all occurrences mediated by the passage of ongoing moments. Could it be that this unconscious skillset - the active processes of our leaving - processes of which we are largely unaware exercised through the event of departure, is that stimulus? Our Roaming Body becomes the functionary of our departures, itself gripped by indeterminacy and while drawing us away, also supports in us a certain fluency in managing this wayward feature.

Despite our apparent inability to 'stay put' and recognising intimations that our present is continually under threat, rather than find this depressing I find it persuasive, capable of propelling me into re-evaluations of how, where and when I can be who I am. Perhaps, as I have endeavoured to demonstrate, how, as a sentient being, I may conduct my life through a perceptual reality composite, ('The Human Analogue in Mixed-Reality', p. 25) caught up, despite myself in a perpetual state of change which is centred ultimately, in a compelling, involuntary movement away from what appears to be the prevailing moment. Indeterminacy affecting us all, is here inscribed upon the surfaces of our every cell through the unconscious transgressions of the Roaming Body, a time-bandit which steals away not our possessions, but our presence; a hijacker of our on-task moments and our efforts to stay grounded in any given manifestation of 'now'. These misdemeanours are largely invisible to us, yet they shape all of our dealings, our movements and apparent stillness in time and spaces. Through the event of departure, our body`s inclination to stray precludes any hope for us of lasting stability or stasis. Perhaps today, as never before, is this predilection to locate ourselves in the onward surge of movement away from that previous moment so instrumental in thwarting our search for both, our collective and individual sense of belonging ... as if we had a choice and were not swept away, regardless ...

In this Urban Myth the interconnections which exist between indeterminacy manifesting through lived departures, ensures that there is no surcease for the body, roaming in this blended continuity of the world surface we call the Real. No secure position to be attained and held indefinitely. In this context we may find that we are interconnected through our mutual estrangement and that our engagements, conversations and connections will always be at hazard. I suspect from my observations that ultimately as indeterminants, we are always ‘Leaving’ and that this is a true descriptor of our condition in that business of being human. There is real pathos to be found in a lifetime of leaving engagements in the Real, whether these lie across interface moments from person to person in Wellington City centre or avatar to avatar, prosthetic constructs in metaverse environments and this state will keep us forever defined by some, if not ourselves, as strangers. In my videoed dance work, I have been concerned with the investigation of what I will call the spaces between recognized content in our lived experience. Intersticial spaces dominated by duration itself. In exploring what may comprise engagement and conversation on the street, my interest has been held not so much by what is being communicated, as what is being left out, due to what I have identified as interpersonal terrain dominated by indeterminacy manifesting through that durational process. It appears that this uncertainty located within movement/change may indeed influence or to a significant extent, govern the nature of dialogue in urban contexts. The paragraph under Belonging, Identity and the Roaming Body (p.12) introduces the notion that, 'Indeterminacy has always dominated the terrain which we have had to negotiate, evident still, in the ways in which our choices may be mediated, in our actions which only appear to prevail, in our inter and intra-relations with ourselves and others, in the spaces we impinge upon and in the times which we traverse'. In the end, despite the apparent efficacy of our acts, the transfluency of our movements and transformative embodiments across a broad range of interfaces, our relations with and through avatar companions in various descriptions of the Real, only serve to bear witness to temporary points of purchase within the durational register of our lives. Perhaps the only actions which truly prevail are those which keep drawing us away. Leaving.

My last reference is a quotation from Buddha for the summary insight it possesses in posing the questions which will continue to haunt us in our everyday engagements: 'What is the appropriate behaviour for a man or a woman in the midst of this world, where each person is clinging to his piece of debris? What`s the proper salutation between people as they pass each other in this flood?' Buddha, (2008).



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Tuesday, 6 October 2009

not-here Reprise2

If we take the premise that inherent in the process of abstraction is a removal of information, then this study represents an abstraction of 'Leaving'. This is the onward movement away from the present moment, the catalyst of the Roaming Body which both, binds us, yet also severs us durationally from our presence in the present. All extraneous visual, auditory and contextual information has been striipped away, leaving a small world which looks inward, reducing the content to a window on barely discernible motion in a passage of time.

'When a body is in motion, it does not coincide with itself. It coincides with its own transition ... In motion, a body is in an immediate, unfolding relation to its own nonpresent potential to vary. That relation, to borrow a phrase from Deleuze, is real but abstract … This is an abstractness pertaining to the transitional immediacy of a real relation – that of a body to its own indeterminacy (its openness to an elsewhere and otherwise that it is, in any here and now.'

Massumi, B. (2002). Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation Duke University Press, Durham & London, (p.5).

Focus emerges to inscribe detail upon us as a mobile volume and sinks again into a grey field of duration itself. There is no sound in this territory. It lies beneath our usual sense of self and where we locate ourselves on our world surface in time and place.