Lance Winn, an award-winning professor of fine arts and MFA coordinator at the University of Delaware, entered Second Life Friday October 23 from 11:30a-1:30p as â€œLawrence Winmoreâ€ to give a lecture on â€œOutsider Artâ€ at the in-World UD site.
The event kicked off an exhibition, organized by Firery Broome, of works of art by notable second life artists. Â Winnâ€™s topic attracted about 30 avatars to the sim, was viewed live by about forty students and colleagues at his
university, and for those who could not be available for the virtual experience or found the technical problems insurmountable, it has been recorded and available for viewing --crashes included.
An amiable, eloquent speaker with a contagious sense of humor, Winn
began by stating that he
was no expert on either â€œvirtualityâ€ or Outsider art.
But the topic is a timely one that examines the evaporating boundaries between â€œrealâ€ and â€œSecond Lifeâ€ artwork; it promises to redefine our concept of artwork in the (perceived) â€œunderworldâ€ of this rapidly growing global virtual reality and its relationship to what has been called â€œinsider artâ€: that which is established within culturally acceptable, trained methods, and has an impact on lived experience.
The sense of our own â€œoutsiderâ€ status inside Second Life
was ironically reinforced by the fact that discussion occurred in voice and typed chat simultaneously, while the simulation crashed repeatedlyâ€"thus creating that distraction and dispersal of attention so well-known to residents of Second Life
and so confusing to non-residents.
During the Q&A, Winn
protested good-naturedly that the typed questions were leaving him far behind, driving home how differently we filter our commentary in Second Life
stood at the UD speakerâ€™s stadium wherein the viewer saw on the main screen the faces of Winnâ€™s students and technicians watching Winnâ€™s avatar.
On a side screen, Winn
projected examples of â€œOutsider Art,â€ which included, for instance, etchings by William Blake: a famous nineteenth-century â€œoutsider.â€ For those who found the resolution slow and the lag unbearable, the event is covered by the ustream posted above, where the media still reflects the instability that residents wish to see resolved: Winnâ€™s voice comes across excellently, but the visuals are spotty, the chat, of course, unreadable, and the stream affected by the repeated crashes.
As such, however, it offers a splendid example of the mechanical reproducibility and fragility of digital experience and expression that became the focus of the discussion.
How Fast We Fly by AM Radio
â€œOutsider Artâ€ is â€œa term coined by art critic Roger Cardinal in 1972 as an English synonym for art brut, a label created by French artist Jean Dubuffet to describe art created outside the boundaries of official cultureâ€ ( Thinkerer Melvilleâ€™s blog). Â Art brut, â€œsavage art,â€ described that which was produced by the institutionalizedâ€"the criminal, the mentally ill and interesting only to psychological study. Â Although the term eventually shed its pathological connotations and came to refer to naÃ¯ve or untrained art, Winn noted that it is â€œa contentious term for many.â€ Â So he brought this question to the residents of Second Life: â€œis there an insider art world in Second Life?â€ [nicely skirting the issue of whether we are all â€œoutsidersâ€ in here and as pathological as much Real Life opinion believes us to be.]
While a YouTube
may receive two million hits, Winn
remarked, sheer number may mislead an audience into thinking that quantity is quality.
Winn saw Benjaminâ€™s concernsâ€"that notions of success were moving â€œfrom a model of notions of quality to ideas of success based on quantityâ€"to be present today as we make another major technical shift.
What happens to the aura in virtual space? â€œIs there a way one could be bodily and sensorily in a work of art?â€ he
asked. Â â€œThere exists the idea of the body,â€ but the artwork is still primarily visual. Â There is no way for it to be tactile or olfactory he
noted, although one could introduce motion and flight into it, and reward the careful viewer with hidden secrets. Â Were there any Second Life artists who challenged the â€œfetishization of controlâ€ that mechanical reproductive art enables, he
asked, a question which we found fairly opaque (how does one do that in a medium so driven by controlling technology?), further ironized when the entire sim went down. Â When it was up and running, one resident remarked wryly that â€œitâ€™s hard to define outsider art when weâ€™re being tossed outside the sim all the time,â€ to Wynnâ€™s delighted laughter. â€œYes!
Absolutely! Â A lot of media artists,â€ he
replied, â€œare often testing the boundaries where representation fails to deliver.â€ Â Waiting for things to rez for instance, accustoms us to â€œthe blur.â€ Referring to the lack of olfactory sensation, another resident quipped: â€œif there was smell and if the sim crashed, would it smell like farts?â€ Â The repartee, even though it was at lagging distance with Winnâ€™s talk, was witty and delightful.
Nashaba by Filthy Fluno
was firm, but without condescension, in the stance he
took with regard to seeking quality and cultural impact at the same time that he
recognized and applauded this â€œunique time in the creative realmâ€ where â€œmany boundaries are being challengedâ€â€"as long, he
said â€œas the artist did not exploit outsider status out of â€œsome kind of ...position of â€œsafety.â€ Â â€œTerms like â€˜Outsider,â€™â€ he
reminded us, â€œare often used to forego criticality and questions of quality, as has the Internet in general. Â So at times itâ€™s easier to say the workâ€™s not having impact because itâ€™s outside rather than deciding how to make the work have impact.â€ Such an event like this one takes us one step closer to bringing the inside art world of Second Life
to the outsider majority.