The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive


SL, Silent fiLm, my softest repertoire


(modified from a response on Poetics)


Think of island-hopping, travel, between one and another place, from
moment to moment; think of islands as digital markers, the journey as
analogic?

Think of Second Life, where gesture is pre-programmed; where one can
construct both gait and flight, but the rest is already protocol. You can
add or transform gesture; as lived reality, they become tacit, ingrained.
And Second Life is so pure, so clean; one can always get away to the
unlittered bottom of the ocean uncannily devoid of life. Sooner or later
virtual ecosystems will be constructed.

And in Second Life, gesture is part and parcel of repertoire; one behaves
always within limits; there are barriers to travel, to height, to the
planiverse itself. Everything transforms into style; labor is external,
extra-curricular, just as this computer I am using was produced elsewhere
and elsewhen - more environmental depredation, more human despair, greater
and greater gaps between economic classes.

+++

I will move to Second Life; I don't get response in First Life anyway. I
will live anonymously in the maternal folds of continuous production. I
will take a new identity. I don't have a community in First Life. I'll
have a community in Second Life. I'll be different in Second Life, I'll
change personality, I'll be kinder, in fact, sharing software with anyone,
murmuring beautiful conversations, flying to unknown places, engaging in
literally inconceivable culture, sex, physical prowess, building schemes,
economies both real and virtual. I'll forget the difference between real
and virtual. I won't be noise as I am on these email lists for example or
blogs for example. I'll be someone who words carry performance, whose
words proffer beauty and communication. I will forget the power grid,
electric commons engaging all of us in whatever worlds we dream, inhabit,
construct, destroy. My gestures will be my manacles. My gestures will be
genre; with any luck, will be canonic. I will speak to myself and speak to
you from the softest of stages. I will be animal in Second Life.

=== http://www.asondheim.org/tabswish92.mp3

Using the model of silent film performance, the digital is not only the
series of islands, but the performance of the journey itself. The analogic
is the abject which cannot be contained, curtailed, the shores of the
islands, their sad susceptibility to global warming.

At this point, and it's my depression speaking, I can't help but fore-
ground everything cultural against the ravaging of the planet, the slaughter
of human and wild animal populations, the furious violence of our
government, governments everywhere. The silent films seem innocent but speak
otherwise of innocence; the seeds of destruction are already there.

Islands have moved to Second Life, and everyone and everything is buying an
island - universities, security agencies, art groups, cultural insti-
tutions of all sorts. It's this I'm thinking about at the moment, because
performance and gesture in SL parallels silent film in terms of phenom-
enology and histrionic. Sound in SL seems third-person, an add-on; later, it
will become more integrated of course, and the use of prosthetics will
eliminate the need for pre-programmed gestures - first-life and second- life
will appear equally analogic, equally 'smooth.' On one hand the rest of the
world (what passes past for the real) will seem distant and somehow safer;
on the other, the rest of the world, left to its own devices, will continue
the killing beyond any reason or proportion. We are living in massacre;
repertoire is symptom. What is the poetics of the dead poached elephant,
with its face cut off, whose photograph appears in the current National
Geographic? What is the poetics?

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