The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

August 20, 2010

The Sparse Dance at Humlab

Avatar Julu Dojoji performing Sparse Dance at Humlab. Of all the avatar
dance videos I've done in SL, this seems to me (at the moment) to be the
most interesting - certainly the dance makes sense. Some of the materials
are worn by Dojoji, some are activated by hir; the movement is fluid,
camera work extraordinary thanks to the Snowglobe 2 Viewer. I wish to
thank my entire production staff for this. If you have ONE avatar Dojoji
film to see this year, THIS IS IT!

Seriously, it's beautiful and close to the kind of hypostatization I've
wanted to work towards, in terms of solo performance/choreography. Not to
mention the sound finally comes together. The beginning and end of the
piece demonstrates the construction and deconstruction.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 20 Aug 2010 06:00:41
From: World Wildlife Fund <>
Subject: August E-news: Africa's Disappearing Forests

In this Issue: Waves of Deforestation | Major Victory for Arctic | Defend Conservation Funding | Shop Next Week to Help WWF


Waves of Deforestation Ripple Across East Africa

Imagine waves of forest degradation advancing like ripples in a pond; that's exactly what has happened across 75 miles in East Africa in just 14 years. Scientists from 12 organizations in Europe, Africa and the U.S. recently demonstrated that forest exploitation begins with the removal of the most valuable products first, such as timber for export, followed by the extraction of less valuable products, such as low value timber and charcoal. More findings from this report.

More on Forests
- Bio of the WWF scientist who cowrote the report
- Why forests are vital to life on Earth
- What you can do for forests
- The 2,900 miles of Coastal East Africa

Major Victory for Arctic

WWF's long campaign to protect Alaska's Arctic seas and coastlines from oil and gas development won a major victory at the end of July when a federal court put a hold on recent leases that would have opened up the Chukchi Sea to new drilling. Read more about this important win for the species and communities along Alaska's North Slope.

August Photo Caption Contest

You have a chance to win bragging rights! Enter the WWF Photo Caption Contest, and your creative caption could be featured in next month's e-newsletter.

"Boy, do I hate when school lets out."
Nick N., Glassport, Pa.
July's Caption Contest Winner

Bottlenose dolphin
Submit your clever caption for this photo!


Defend Conservation Funding for America's Farmers and Ranchers

As President Obama works to balance the federal budget, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is looking at cutting important conservation programs that farmers and ranchers rely upon to help them protect the natural resources of our lands and waters. These essential programs are already underfunded. If the proposed cuts go through, they will negatively impact America's wildlife habitats and the environmental quality of private lands. Send a message to Agriculture Secretary Vilsack and your members of Congress asking them to defend conservation funding for America's farmers and ranchers.

Shop Next Week to Help WWF

Gap Inc. invites you to "Give & Get"! When you shop at Gap, Gap Outlet, Old Navy, Banana Republic and Banana Republic Factory Stores August 26 - 29, you will receive 30 percent off your purchase and WWF will receive 5 percent.* Shoppers helped raise over $1.2 million total for WWF during four previous Give & Get events and you can help us receive even more this time. Get your special shopping pass.

*This event has a maximum donation of $1.5 million among all participating nonprofits. In the event the total donation to all nonprofits is greater than the maximum donation, Gap shall prorate the donation amount to be paid to each nonprofit proportionate to each nonprofit's respective contribution percentage to actual sales. Discount code not valid online.


Close-up Footage of a Critically Endangered Fish

Swimming with Whale Sharks in the Coral Triangle


Kingdom of the Monarchs
February 6 - 11, 2011

In the highlands of Mexico, millions of monarch butterflies cover oyamel fir trees in a quivering blanket of black and orange. Boughs bend, even though each winged nomad weighs less than a half-ounce. As the sun warms their parchment-thin wings, the butterflies ascend in a whirling cloud of color and sound. Join WWF on a tour through perhaps the only place in the world where you can actually hear butterflies' wings beating.


"It's your birthday!" Prairie Dog

Birthday e-cards from WWF are a fun and easy way to celebrate your loved ones' big day--and they show how much you care about wildlife and the environment!

Bank of America

Bank of America will contribute $10 to WWF for each new WWF checking account opened. Plus, you continue to help support WWF when you use your debit card to make a purchase. More details.

WWF Gear by New Headings

New Headings, an online apparel retailer that features gear with the WWF panda logo, has added new items. The online store now offers performance wear for swimming and snorkeling, apparel for kids in the new Cub's Corner, and a "Year of the Tiger" embroidered, full-zip, hoodie sweatshirt. New Headings donates 20 percent of all sales to WWF in support of our global conservation efforts.


Tiger habitat gets a boost with protection of trees

Tiger slideshows (contains graphic images)

Text TIGERS to 20222 to donate $10 to WWF


Gal?pagos Wallpaper: Sally lightfoot crab

You may not have visited the Gal?pagos this summer, but you can still enjoy photos of these islands on your computer! Visit our wallpaper gallery for six vibrant Gal?pagos images.


Whale Shark!

Whale sharks are found in nearly all temperate and tropical oceans around the world. Symbolically adopt this magnificent cetacean--or one of 100 other species--in support of WWF's global conservation work. Choose your favorite species.


In 2005, a colossal 9-foot, 645-pound, car-sized fish was caught in northern Thailand and was recorded as the largest-ever freshwater catch. What was it?

a. Dog-eating catfish

b. Giant barb

c. Giant freshwater stingray

d. Mekong giant catfish

Click on one of the answers above to see if you know.


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Introductory Essay to the Humlab Artist-in-Residency Project in
Second Life

( Created for an installation at Humlab, Umea University, Sweden. )

I begin with the original project description. Notes are bracketed.

Project name - either Well or Brane -

The first refers to something that is low/beneath the surface - but
reflects the sky; it also taps into something hidden.

The second references a dimensional object in string theory that may or
may not exist. From Wikipedia:

"Originally string theory was a theory of 1-branes called strings. By the
mid-1990s it became apparent that the theory could be extended to also
include higher dimensional objects. Typically these objects are
non-perturbative features of the theory (meaning they do not appear in
perturbation theory)."

Think impossible or inconceivable objects, objects nonetheless that may be
fundamental to the cosmos - think fundamental ontology.

Avatar names:

My first avatar is Alan Dojoji.
My second avatar is Julu Twine.

[ Originally, Julu Twine was simpler in appearance and accouterments and
was used for building and everyday tasks. Then for a reason I no longer
remember, Alan Dojoji took up the role, and Julu Twine was outfitted for
complex movement, self-installation, and performance. Now both perform;
Alan Dojoji is the everyday avatar as well, and for the most part is

Even with avatars, there are bandwidth issues; the more complex the
avatar, and the greater number of particles s/he emits - the more
bandwidth is taken up, which affects slower machines and the Second Life
parcel in general.

The avatars go in and out, taking their self-installations all about. ]

Description of installation:

Well/Brane is both installation and performance space. with the former, I
want to extend the idea of "negotiated space," a space in SL that is
inherently uncomfortable, impossible to move through. Negotiated space,
which is also a supple and continuously-changing architecture, first
appeared in my Odyssey installation, "The Accidental Artist" (also the
name of a publish-on-demand book produced by Fort/Da Press). The basic
concept is that, within the space, one is utterly lost, among the 'alien.'

[ The concept changed; I was less interested in negotiated architecture
than negotiated performance, and what I've termed "ontological mashup."
Negotiated performance references inordinately complex movements and
costuming - which is activated (i.e. moves on its own, has scripts
attached. I wanted to explore not only inconceivable movement, but a kind
of inconceivable movement that might reference our own condition in the
world - what happens when we carry destructive ecologies with us. A series
of oil and "oilamina" videos and still images resulted; the avatar became
hir own ecological catastrophe. I related this to the odd and abject
sexuality and fluidity of the BP oil spill videos, creating "spills" and
spews in the Humlab space seemed to wash away landscape, consciousness,
and intentionality. There's a buried politics at work here, based on the
majesty of large-scale environmental catastrophe and the horror that
ensues. ]

The space Well/Brane is narratological, since objects will possess labels
or signs appearing in the vicinity of avatars. It will also be aural, and
in this sense more complex than the space in the first installation. Using
the Beta 2.01 viewer (and its successors), I should be able to directly
add webpages and videos to objects - videos that are differentiated from
each other (in the first viewer, "media" allowed objects in a region to
play only one video at a time). This gives me the opportunity to develop a
narratology from within, based on differences among videos - not just, in
other words, what occurs in a specific video, but what occurs as a result
of difference among them. The same should hold true for audio.

[ The narrative elements I used were based on several sources. Aurally,
I've worked with music, spoken narrative (both my own), and natural sounds
recorded in Colorado; these sounds have been remapped into the Humlab
space, creating interlocking realms. Visually, I've worked with language
and signing texture-mapped on objects - the language constantly changing
(it's imported from external directories). With all of this, the
"ontological mashup" described above becomes evident - it's hard to tell
what the _origin_ of speaking or writing is in the space - i.e. _who_ is
speaking, and to _whom._ Offline and online worlds are deeply entangled -
which is to say that inert and idiotic (Rosset) physical reality becomes
deeply entangled with online abstract and completely constructed virtual

A visitor to the site - or someone watching a performance with this
material - follows a complex diegesis which stumbles and backtracks upon
itself. The nature of language and communication are called into question
as signs appear and disappear at high speed, the avatar's gestures seem
corrupted, and the negotiated performances seem completely out of hand,
certainly out of touch.

All of this is also connected to issues of body and sexuality; with
texture-mapping, I was able to create reference points, intensifications,
Barthes' puncta, as a kind of seduction. So whatever happened in the chaos
sometimes seemed to resolve around sex, around flesh or meat, around
bodily contortions reminiscent of everything from torture to sexual
ecstasy. But these resolutions never held; what's visible is always in the
midst of a turn towards an other (Other) that remains both internal and
external, as if there were a coherence - where in fact there isn't any,
and as if there were inhering - whereas things tend to disperse, fall
apart, turn out not to be things at all. ]

This work will continue to use modified bvh animation files; at this point
I want to use both older ones, and newer ones created directly in Poser. I
want to explore "behavior collision" more systematically: an avatar
following more than one animation structure at a time.

[ I stayed with the older files; I was more concerned with audio, with
video texturing, with interspersed texts, with the problem of narrative -
the imaginary of narrative - within virtual worlds. All of this adds up to
a phenomenology based on relevance theory and attention economy.

Relevance theory is concerned with the hermeneutics of an environment -
how are complex spaces interpreted, and what is relevant within the
interpretation. Relevance is related to action and function: How one
behaves in a space is connected to how the space is read.

Attention economy references the "bandwidth" of attention - one might say
the political economy of attention - of the performer or online/offline
spectator. (The online spectator may be _within_ Second Life, or observing
Second Life in a public demonstration, i.e. on-screen.)

One only has a limited time to do anything, see anything, exist; the
attention economy considers how this time is deployed, actively or
passively. Within the Humlab installations, videos, and graphics, the
issue is connected with negotiation - is it worth moving through an
overly-busy space? What are the rewards? How does one _feel_ moving this
way? What are the detriments? What is the politics of what might be read
as overcrowding and ideological confusion? ]

I envision several public performances, with Foofwa d'Imobilite and Sandy
Baldwin; the results will be documented in video, audio, and stills.

[ These performances were carried out at Humlab and in a space in East of
Odyssey, with great success. Foofwa d'Imobilite performed in front of a
screen projecting videos from the Humlab space; Sandy Baldwin worked with
me "in world" - in other words, within Second Life. ]

The points of all of this:

1. To further explore dance/choreographic/behavioral issues in SL.
2. To further explore these within complex negotiated environments.
3. To explore media-modified environments with contradictory video/audio
4. To explore narratologies and performances in these environments.
5. To relate all of this to a developing philosophy of difference and

[ This was done. I feel like a pioneer in virtual worlds, creating utterly
"alien" performances, spaces, and avatars - i.e. without reference in our
real, physical reality. Second Life gives me the opportunity to create, in
a sense, ab nihilo; by doing this, I feel I can return to the older
phenomenological states of bracketing - not taking the world for granted,
but exploring all manner of other worlds. We are so used to considering
avatar and virtual worlds as mockups of our own, emphasizing surrealism
and fantasy - here, I explore worlds and states that aren't mockups, that
are something other, something unaccountable. This is exciting research /
work / art, and as far as I'm concerned, on the forefront of exploration
into virtual spaces. It's filled with wonder for me. It draws me in, and I
hope, draws you in as well. ]

- August 20, 2010

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