The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

April 9, 2012

Omaha talk, (with examples shown) - this is an accounting for
undergraduates with little or no experience with virtual
worlds. This might be of interest to you as well, even though
it covers familiar ground.

Why this focus on the body?

We're increasingly living in virtual social worlds, without
face-to-face encounters.

I'm playing with the body in those spaces.

I'm interested in the sexual or the wounded or the pained body
in those spaces - how are these things represented?

Along with this - how can we extend dance and performance and
the still image through manipulation of virtual bodies?

And how can virtual bodies be returned to the real world?

Bear in mind that the body is always inscribed, always partly
virtual - we carry the signs of our own histories and
affiliations with us.

So I began to work with virtual characters in text-based virtual

And then I switched over to images of virtual characters in
visual virtual worlds, which are in the process of becoming all
encompassing, 3-d - in two ways at least - augmented reality,
embedding the virtual in the real, and Second Life, embedding
the real in the virtual.

I started to work with mocap - motion capture - in West Virginia
when I had access to the equipment. Everything depends on access.
I had further and more sophisticated access in Chicago, at
Columbia College. Between these two places, I was able to work
with modified motion capture files that would allow me to represent
sexuality, wounding, and pain in ways that involved distorting the
avatar body itself.

What I'm showing here, today, are these distortions, as well as
some of the products that come from these distortions.

The products include dance and choreography, as well as 3-d print-
ing of avatars, resulting in small sculptures.

The dance and choreography result in on-line performances in
virtual worlds, which may be projected in rooms like this one, or
may be visited directly by other avatars in the virtual worlds.

All of this is also turned around: virtual world performance can
be transformed and used by dancers and performers in the real
world as well. We have some examples to show you.

Finally, there are mixed-reality performances, which occur between
real and virtual worlds, involving all sorts of embeddings.

What is the result of all of this?

Perhaps a better understanding of what it means to be human, to
'be' our bodies as well as to 'occupy' our bodies.

And this might lead to a more humane future, where we're more
aware of what it means to be alive - really and virtually - in a
world of diminished resources.

It might also lead to an understanding of the politics of living
in such a world, and our duty to nourish it.

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