Olga Wunderlich interviews people involved with art, and art-related politics in Second Life. The interviews have been slightly corrected for grammar, better reading and understanding. I hope you will get interesting infos and inspiration for your own actvities in Second Life.

Great Escape - artist



Great Escape is an artist both in SL and in RL. He is one of the early members of the SL performance group Second Front. The group focuses on collaborative performances in Second Life. And, I met Great Escape, who likes to be called GE, after I watched the Pizza Slut Performance on May 24 2007, or better saying, after I took part in it. The idea of the performance was basically to deliver pizza to people who like to order one, and then to make a party out of it, offering free pizza to everybody around. Performers would wear pizza as coats, or wear pizzas on their head, others would drive delivery vans. When I arrived to the home base of Second Front, Gazira Babeli, another member of Second Front, immediately asked me to join the performance and drive an UPS van, which was redecorated as a pizza delivery van. It was much fun to do that, but also made me vulnerable and put me on display, in such ways that in the two hot spots where the group got in trouble: at the SL Stock Exchange and at Cloud Lounge, I was not able to take pictures, as first, I was teleported in late and second, I was banned immediately after arrival. The issue of being banned as a performance artist thus also became an important point in our discussion.

However, in the interview we take the opportunity of the Pizza Slut performance to talk about larger issues of art and performance in Second Life. So, although this posting comes quite late (many appologies to everybody involved!), I think it is still worth posting and - for you – reading about the experiences of GE as artist in Second Life.

[0:03] Great Escape: hey Olga!
[0:03] Olga Wunderlich: Hey!! you are there! great! GE!
[0:03] GE: I'm an avatar of my word ;)
[0:11] Olga: Is this your own land?
[0:11] GE: Yea, this is my place. Remember when we got booted from the stock exchange? Well, my next door neighbors were on the board! Sheer coincidence.
[0:12] Olga: Ooh! did you have a talk about the performance?

[0:12] GE: They were pissed at me for a little bit and banned me from their land. Which was annoying. But when I explained what we were doing, they thought it was funny and all was resolved.
They thought I was deliberately harassing them!
[0:13] Olga: Great then, that you could talk with them
[0:14] GE: Glad it got resolved is all. For a while there, I was bummed out to have a barrier on the south side of my place.
[0:14] Olga: Did they recognize you?
[0:15] GE: They recognized my name at the performance...as one of their neighbors. They IM'd me at the time and I didn't know who they were and was a little unabashed.
So, do you want to finally do our official interview ;) Now that you've performed with us...
[0:19] Olga: Well, do you tell me first how long have you been in SL and for how long do you make art here?
[0:19] GE: Let me check my profile...It says July 21st, 2006.
[0:20] Olga: ;) Did you come to SL with the intension to make art?
[0:20] GE: SL began as a research project. I was in a residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts in a collaboration. With Victoria Scott, another artist. * incidentally, my RL name is public. We were looking at online relational spaces: MySpace, Friendster, FaceBook and also Second Life.

[0:22] Olga: Do you tell me shortly about the center and your research?
[0:22] GE: Sure thing. The Banff Centre for the Arts has thematic residencies. Ours was called the "Future of Idea Art" -- e.g. a conceptual art residency. The Banff Centre is in the Canadian Rockies, kind of near Alberta. Very isolated and very beautiful. Wonderful place. So, we got accepted in as a collaborative duo.
[0:24] Olga: And have you, together with Victoria, been the only one who were checking out SL?
[0:25] GE: Yes, we were the only ones looking at Second Life.
[0:25] Olga: (can we sit on the sofa? please? is that possible?)
[0:25] GE: (sure...the box is hurting my butt)
[0:26] GE: We look like little kids on our parents sofa!
[0:26] Olga: Right!
[0:29] GE: hehehe;
We were researching ways to build physical models of online relational spaces. Like MySpace & SL. Using common construction materials, and without technology. Psychological representations, that is.
SL posed difficulties. It was different than other spaces, because of the simulated physicality. I started spending more and more time exploring the geography there...but no real friends on SL.
[0:32] Olga: Was it difficult to make a physical abstraction, because it already has some kind of physical representation?
[0:33] GE: Yes, and also because we were looking for ways to model the psychology of the space. We came up with a project called 2x2. Its on my website (www.kildall.com). Also a smaller project called the "Tile Project" which I haven't finished documenting yet. So, it ended up being a productive period.
[0:35] Olga: And what made you stay in SL?
[0:36] GE: At the same time, during the residency, I started experimenting with large-sized prints. My avatar in various found geography. And then after the residency was over (early Nov, 2006), I began to work on some prints from SL. These are also on my site... ”Paradise Ahead” is the name of the series.
[0:38] Olga: ahh okay, those with geographical representation?

[0:38] GE: geography plus recreated moments from art. 12 prints in total.
[0:39] Olga: Is “Leap into Space” one of those?
[0:39] GE: yes.
[0:39] Olga: And, each depicts moments of anticipation and excitement related to virtual worlds.
[0:40] Olga: That is a nice explanation, it really makes sense to me.
[0:40] GE: thanks.
[0:41] Olga: It is interesting to me, that you had this themed work and professional oriented view onto SL when you started to be here. Did that change over time?
[0:41] GE: It sure did. During the residency, I gave a talk on SL. I signed up about 6 people on the spot.
[0:42] Olga: Artist friends?
[0:42] GE: Yes, all artists that I knew in RL. Tran Spire from Second Front was one of them...a.k.a. Doug Jarvis. About 2 weeks after the residency, he emailed me about Second Front. I went online and met everyone and we did our first performance a couple days later.
[0:43] Olga: Wow, that was quick.
[0:44] GE: Things happen fast in SL.
[0:44] Olga: Do you also socialize with other people in SL?
[0:44] GE: I'm not as extroverted in SL as I am in RL! I meet a lot of people and end up making friends with people who are mostly other artists and are interested in what we do. I have a few other non-artist friends in SL.
[0:46] Olga: That is interesting - most people are the other way around. They use SL to explore there more communicative and extroverted side.
[0:46] GE: I think I use it to check out my introverted self. The first 3 months I was on, I didn't meet anyone.
I'd just teleport around and check out places. I was fascinated with what people were building. Notions of architecture were strangely boring. Lots of RL-looking condos. I think during the residency, there wasn't a lot of private space, so SL was my private zone.
Non-commercial areas give people the freedom to build all sorts of idealized visions of what they want. It can be factories, tract houses, space lounges, anything. It's fascinating to see what people come up with.
[0:59] Olga: What is a public space for you in SL? I mean everything is privately owned.
[0:59] GE: Good question! The line between public and private is ambiguous. Public is anything you can go into and feel like its yours and not someone elses. It can be gardens, parks. But also lounges and bars. What's weird about SL is that most places are empty - like a ghost town.
[1:02] Olga: I am very interested in the question of public and public space in SL, and I wonder what it does to a space, if it is: first of all privately owned, I mean there is no common grounds in SL , and second, as you say empty.
[1:03] GE: But also, as long as there are no barriers to entry (like most places), you can trespass and go into anyone's house. There isn't a lot of true 'private space' ... not like RL. Except maybe some of the specialty sims like Gorean or Furries.
[1:06] Olga: Okay, I would like to nail you down a bit more: firstly you were interested in these spaces as representative spaces for the people who built it. And now it seems you are mostly doing performances, which is a very social activity. Can you help me with how you bridge from one to the other?
[1:07] GE: Sure. I think they're tied together. The performances entail many things. But one that is important for me is about engaging the public in a way that challenges expected behavior. Like traditional performance, the boundaries between audience and performer become unclear. Like with AllenVest (His neighbour who is involved with the stock exchange). They became part of our performance (the Pizza Performance) because they had a hostile reaction. All the performances take place in the spaces of representation.
“Martyr Sauce” (a pacifist performance) was in the combat sim. People didn't expect a bunch of hippies to come there. AllenVest didn't expect Pizza deliveries. The performance are an active way to look at how the space can be used and not just what it looks like from an architectural standpoint. I think performance is important in this environment because social rules have yet to be defined. There's still a lot of openness here.

[1:12] Olga: I think we should talk a bit more about the Pizza Delivery performance, would you shortly describe what you did and where the idea came from?
[1:12] GE: the idea originally came from reports that Dominos Pizza was opening a branch in SL. Dominos is a huge pizza chain in RL in the U.S. We decided to get involved in doing pizza deliveries to Dominos and did some research. I think you can order a RL pizza through SL. It’s a way for Dominos to sell more pizzas in RL. An advertising gimmick.
[1:17] GE: There is another pizzeria called Pizza Sublimi that delivers pizzas in SL, for 75 lindens each.
[1:17] Olga: oohh wow, that is quite a price!
[1:18] GE: 75 Lindens...only 25 cents in RL. Not much to pay for artwork.
I got one of their delivery people to join us for the performance. I would ask her to give pizzas to different people.
[1:19] Olga: Okay, and you had people ordering pizza? or did you deliver just to the places who called at Dominos?

[1:19] GE: Well, turns out Dominos wasn't yet on SL. So we improvised the performance. We went to Pizza Meister which looks like a pizza place. And then started delivering pizzas to friends of ours as a surprise.
[1:20] Olga: Ahh, okay, now it becomes more clear to me. We also went to the stock exchange did you have a friend there as well?
[1:21] GE: We delivered pizza first to Rubaiyat Shatner, a friend, and then to In Kenzo, someone else I know. Then, Wirxli IM'd a reporter friend of his. And she said she'd like a pizza from Second Front. But was at Allen Vest at a big stock meeting. We didn't know where we were going and then TP'd into the meeting. Well, you saw what happened from there.
[1:23] Olga: Well, I did not see much, when I arrived I was expelled right away, I only lasted a couple of.
[1:24] GE: The next place was a cloud lounge that Aliselborg TP'd us to. It was a place for couples.
[1:25] Olga: There I could at least take two pictures, but then I was not only expelled but also banned.
[1:25] GE: ):

[1:26] Olga: Did you expect the kind of strong reaction? I mean banning people is quite a strong reaction, almost the strongest you can have.
[1:27] GE: I didn't expect the reaction at all from Allen Vest. I mean, we were invited after all. But, the cloud lounge doesn't surprise me.
[1:28] Olga: Why is that?
[1:29] GE: When you get to the Cloud Lounge, there tell you what is the purpose of the place...for relaxation and basically nothing weird.
[1:31] Olga: I know that Gazira like to provoke and she thinks a ban is a cool reaction from the people. I would like to know, what you feel is the difference to acts from griefers who basically also just like to provoke and have reactions form people
[1:32] GE: I can't really speak for Gazira's motivations.
[1:32] Olga: no. talk about yours
[1:32] GE: ok. I think griefing is a really general and subjective term. In an extreme form, it can be a way to make someone feel violated or threatened. I don't consider myself a griefer.
[1:34] Olga: Well, I guess the stock market people felt violated, you can feel that out of the reactions they told to your friend from the press.

[1:35] GE: I'm not interested in provoking people for the sake of provocation. But, select the ways in which we do performances and the places. With Allen Vest, we did not have intention to go and harass them. But, thought we were delivering pizzas to a colleague.
[1:37] Olga: I like to know more about your aims for performances.
[1:37] GE: I think for the performances, there are many goals.
For me... One is like I said to make people question social rules. Is it okay to have a band of people delivering pizzas in Second Life? Most people think about SL as a place for selling things, meeting people, sexual relations, gambling. I think there's a lot more activity that can be incredibly creative.
Second goal: to open up art practices in virtual worlds. Lots of questions here: what does it mean to have networked performance with anonymous people. It's a huge field of exploration and I find it incredibly exciting to be at the front of it.
Third: to see what we are capable of as a group.
[1:41] Olga: with networked performance you mean something like I came to your performance and immediately got invited to drive a van?
[1:42] GE: Yes, that's part of it. The viewer becomes performer.
[1:43] Olga: Is it important for you that people know that it is art what you are doing?

[1:44] GE: In my profile, I state what I am doing and I have a link to the blog. Also I always have the "Second Front" title above my head.
[1:44] GE: (just fixed that)
[1:44] Olga: He he he - in a way is it also a goal to reach new and different people with art?
[1:46] GE: For certain. It's so hard to tell how people will be reached. We're operating in unknown channels. SL has a lot of potential. I think this is only the beginning of what people will be doing in SL.
[1:48] Olga: I understand the enthousiasm of the new possibilties, (like physically impossible things you can do in SL) and the openness of people, which makes them more receptive for interaction. But I also wonder a bit that you seem to have no problems with the whole commercial aspect of SL, of its non-democratic foundation.
1. that every space is privatley owned, there are no public commons
[1:50] GE: heh using my words ;)

[1:50] Olga: 2. the whole set of SL is a private setting, we are part of a commercail game. There is not even a right for me, very few public laws applicate, we are under the private rules of a cooperation. Not under law.
[1:52] GE: I agree, this is problematic.
[1:52] Olga: To me it seemed that it is not bothering you, or at least it does not play a role in your performances?
[1:52] GE: If Linden Labs doesn't approve of what we're doing here, they can terminate my account. So, there's not that much security in SL since there is no accountablity. So far, this has only played a small role in the performances. Well, maybe it will play a bigger and bigger one.
[1:54] Olga: in which ways do you think it plays a role for you?
[1:54] GE: Lately, I've been re-thinking the structure of SL. Ever since the Pizza SLut performance, I feel like I have to consider my actions more thoughtfully. Allen Vest threatened to report us to Linden Labs for griefing and threatened Gazira with blocking her IP. I thought about what happens if everything in SL goes away for me.

[1:56] GE: A lesson in non-attachment forms of Buddhism ;)
[1:56] Olga: ?? i don't understand this sentence
[1:57] GE: Ah. Lessons in non-attachment...i.e. not worrying about losing something too much.
[1:57] GE: I think for me, my artistic practice is not tied to SL.
[1:58] GE: If SL suddenly dies or I can't get on, then no more Second Front for me.
[1:58] GE: And I move onto other media.
[2:01] Olga: But, I was going to ask another question. How important is your art practise in SL for you in comparison with yor RL art practise?
[2:02] GE: k.
[2:02] GE: Art practice in SL is just part of my RL practice. I have a couple projects in SL but a number more in RL.
[2:04] Olga: Well, but that means it is more important to have it publicly reviewed in RL then it is for you in SL?

[2:04] GE: For me, it's important to bring SL work into RL. Otherwise, the audience is really limited. SL reviews are good; so are RL reviews. But my prints are for RL galleries, not for SL galleries. Second Front is developing more of an RL presence. I have had shows in RL galleries twice now.
[2:05] Olga: ooh okay, that is interesting for me - that was an important point for me.
Okay, I guess I should leave you although I still have one provocative statement/question
[2:08] GE: ok, one more ;)
[2:09] Olga: If I would be harsh on you, I could say, that in certain ways you are still looking a lot from the outside, from a RL point of view onto SL. Still a bit like looking at an exotic place. Is that true?
[2:11] GE: It is hard to say. RL and SL are confusing boundaries. They're different for each person.
[2:12] Olga: is it maybe important for you to have a kind of outside view, to be more like an observer, in order to make art?














Links:
Great Escape aka Scott Kildall:
http://www.kildall.com/
Second Front blog:
http://slfront.blogspot.com/
Pizza Slut Performance
http://slfront.blogspot.com/2007/05/intermezzo-di-pazzo.html
http://slfront.blogspot.com/2007/05/pizza-slut-liz-solos-pov.html
http://slfront.blogspot.com/2007/05/pizza-sluts-snapshots-from-wirxli.html
Pizza Slut on the front page of SL Enquirer
http://slfront.blogspot.com/2007/05/pizza-sluts-on-front-page-of-slenquirer.html

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