November 16, 2006

Field report: "13 Most Beautiful Avatars" at Ars Virtua

(Click on a thumbnail to see a larger version.)

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Hey, so what do you know -- I actually made it through an entire event in the grid last night without my computer crashing! Oh, and it was a pretty great event, too -- the opening reception for a new photography show called "13 Most Beautiful Avatars," the latest project by the populist conceptual artists Eva and Franco Mattes, known collectively as 0100101110101101. (Yeah, and you thought your avatar's name was hard to spell.) For those who don't know, the Mattes specialize in playful, sneakily subversive public projects, that often masquerade as legitimate corporate marketing campaigns; among other wonderfully twisted things, they've erected fake architectural heritage signs, run press campaigns for non-existent action movies, and even convinced the entire populace of Vienna that Nike had purchased the city's historic Karlsplatz and was about to rename it "Nikeplatz."

For their first project in Second Life, then, the Mattes have taken a cue off Andy Warhol's infamous "13" exhibitions in the 1960s, and have fashioned a series of high-quality oversized portraits of some of the grid's most intriguing avatars; much like the original projects that inspired them, "13 Most Beautiful Avatars" actually consists of hundreds of portraits, with none of the public exhibitions actually displaying the full thirteen that the title promises. What's even more intriguing, though, is that this is merely one half of the finished exhibition; along with the virtual canvases I saw last night, the Mattes have printed many of these photos on actual oversized canvases in the real world, and will be displaying them next month at the Italian Academy at New York's Columbia University. The entire project is being co-sponsored by the New Museum of Contemporary Art and the online organization Rhizome; the grid version is being hosted by the popular Ars Virtua gallery (Dowden 42/59/52).

Perhaps what's most intriguing about the online version of the exhibition, though, is its layout; it is in fact an exact foot-by-foot replica of the RL gallery at Columbia University, all the way down to photographs of the building's hallways superimposed on transparent doorway prims. (See the third photo above for a less confusing example of what I'm talking about.) This is admittedly a fascination of mine right now -- so-called 'mesh' events, which combine the grid and real life in intriguing ways -- and is something I think you're going to start seeing a lot more of in SL in the near future. Anyway, the reception ended up being a blast, and I met just a ton of really intriguing people while there, including Marco Manray of Internet Landscape, Joe11 Lustre of Delappe.net, Ono Noh of Interacting Arts and the infamously bitchy Rik Riel of whom I'm a huge fan. I highly recommend stopping by the exhibition if you have a chance, and especially making the RL show in New York if you're in a position to do so.

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Filed at 4:06 PM, November 16, 2006. Filed under: Arts | Galleries |

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