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.

Maxxo Klaar - artist

Maxxo Klaar

Based in Regensburg/Germany, Maxxo Klaar is an artist who is trying to connect Real Life and Second Life at large. However, we are talking mainly about the Avatar Orchestra Metaverse (AOM), an international performance group in Second Life who performs live music in Second Life. He is one of the oldest members of this group. Maxxo is telling us, how AOM started and what is so special about them playing live in Second Life. As we are talking about the history of AOM, Maxxo also tells us some details about Pomodoro Bolzano, the artist collective in Regensburg with her base art.think.box in Second Life. This place also was, as he calls it, "the cradle of AOM". It is here, where we meet and start our conversation.

The above image is taken during the celebration party of "Art's Birthday" at Simpli.Privacy courtesy Reda Ribble.

art.think.box– First day –
[11:07] Olga Wunderlich: Hey Maxxo
[11:10] Maxxo Klaar: How are you Olga?
[11:11] Olga: (smiles)
[11:17] Maxxo: This is the event platform. It serves sometimes for Avatar Orchestra Metaverse, for performances or for parties with live DJing. It’s from our group Pomodoro Bolzano - www.pbspace.de
[11:18] Olga: Okay, is Pomodoro Bolzano a person?
[11:18] Maxxo: No it’s the name of the group, media, art and networking + manoeuvre. It's basically Paco Mariani and me, the founding members - I think I told you, he is my partner since about 15 years. End of November, it’s almost a year, now that we arrived in SL. And we started with the art.think.box in December 2006.
art.think.box[11:20] Olga: Okay, now I have the disadvantage that I know you from AOM and I know very little what you do with your Pomodoro Bolzano group.
[11:21] Maxxo: No problem, we don't need to talk about PB, just generally to get you located and it’s the cradle of AOM (Avatar Orchestra Metaverse).
Here on the space deck, it looked very different in March 2007. We did the first ever AOM performance, still as a small group, but we already screened it live in Amsterdam.
[11:22] Olga: Whose brainchild is it?
[11:24] Maxxo: It’s the brainchild of Miulew Takahe aka Björn Eriksson from Sweden and Vit Latynina aka Eliane van Feinstem, the virtual assistant, who used to work for Pomodoro Bolzano. And then the brainchild was nurtured by the members of Pomodoro Bolzano, Paco Mariani and Bingo Onomatopoiea, who already, back then, worked on the first instruments for the orchestra.
[11:33] Olga: (Olga struggles to get seated right) Do you have any other seat?
[11:34] Maxxo: We could fly up to the office or down to the factory, but sometimes its laggy there. Ok, I will send you a teleport from the factory. …
[11:36] Olga: Thank you! (Olga looks around.)
[11:37] Maxxo: So I mentioned Miulew, Vit, Paco, Bingo, but I didn’t mention Hars Hefferman, better known as the composer Harold Shellinx, whose composition Vickys Moskitos actually was the subject, which made us think about doing something like this inworld. www.harsmedia.com/VickysMosquitos/
Maxxo and OlgaThe piece “Vickys Moskitos” is an open piece for computer voice (Vicky from Macintosh) reading a text of Harold Shellinx. And there is only 2 rules: Everybody may perform it - only the first sentence of the half hour Vicky voice needs to be in, at least, and Harold Shellinx needs to get a documentation. So Björn aka Miulew had done Vickys Moskitos #12 in Sweden in 2006. (http://miulew.podomatic.com/ …and scroll down for Vickys Moskitos # 13) That’s where it came from. And another detail to brew it up: We went to the first dorkbot** meeting happening in Odyssey in early march, Maxxo and Olgawhich was organised by Maximilian Nakamura aka Shintaro Miyazaki from Basel. Miulew and Vit had a talk to Maximilian, and he liked the idea, and wanted to join the project. At one of the next meetings he already came up with the name - Avatar Orchestra Metaverse, so he tends to keep up the version of being the founder, but really he is the name giver. The name is analogue to another orchestra Shintaro is playing in, the Laptop Orchestra Berlin. Don't want to forget to mention that Maxi had some building skills, which helped Bingo immensly to get started.
[11:49] Olga: What does Metaverse mean?
[11:50] Maxxo: Metaverse is the name for Second Life, like universe. The name is taken from the novel SNOW CRASH by Neil Stephenson. And the Lindens where impressed by that book. Personally I didn’t get very far in that book, maybe I am a Gibsonian (**William Gibson), and that’s about it.
[11:51] Olga: (smiles) Okay, and do all of the early members have a background in music?
[11:52] Maxxo: Some of us have, the others, like me, have a background in concept art and mixed media. Miulew (I just use the SL names to keep it simple) is very much a musician and an internet net worker especially for music since the 90s. Bingo used to play in a punk band and Maximilian is into computer music.
[11:53] Olga: Pomodoro Bolzano did already exist before that?
[11:54] Maxxo: Pomodoro did, yes, but that’s a very long going project. The Vickys Moskitos and then late AOM all started in SL and nobody joined SL to be in the orchestra. Nowadays it pretty much changed, there are more members from all over the world.
[11:55] Olga: So, would it be right to say, all of the members also have a "private life" in SL?
[11:56] Maxxo: Private might be the wrong word, or at least I don’t know. Most I know about their activities is somehow in different kinds of art, music or just investigating SL aspects.
[11:56] Olga: How about you?
[11:58] Maxxo: I just slipped into some kind of more private life, calling that investigations and performance. Going round art exhibitions, being pretty forward to meet other avatars preferably feminine because I thought there might be more inter-"human" forces. Sometimes I doubt it, but at the end of the day, I have to draw a line and ask myself questions.
[12:00] Olga: Like what kind of questions?
[12:00] Maxxo: …about my behaviour, about the others, about playing and being serious and lots of that stuff. It's hard to not think about the identities behind the avis, but sometimes it’s just cool not to think about it.
[12:11] Olga: Hey, Max Xico isn't your real name either is it?
[12:11] Maxxo: I have no real name
[12:11] (Olga winks)
[12:12] Maxxo: …even the name in my passport isn’t my birth name.

--second day--
[11:34] Maxxo: For you I aimed (Maxxo winks.) So, any relaxed place you'd propose for a chilled conversation?
[11:36] Olga: Well how about the place in Odyssey, the fake market, I have some questions for that.
[11:36] Maxxo: Virtual Haidplatz? (*img no.7) Okay, I’ll send you a teleport. …
I forwarded our interview from yesterday night to Miulew. He was pretty touched. He couldn’t believe how fast our lifetime travels with those inworld projects.
[11:51] Olga: Well that, I can believe, I mean you are doing A LOT.
[11:52] Maxxo: Yes, its like a rodeo on light beams. Travelling fast: I wonder if that may have an effect on our real lives.
[11:52] Olga: So is this place made for AOM?
[11:52] Maxxo: No. Here we are back to Pomodoro Bolzano, I am afraid. Our first big mixed reality project: “Mobility.” The designer of the square was J0ri Tokyo after our vision of getting it caligarisized. J0ri Tokyo is brilliant and fast on anything digital, a genius. We didn’t work so much together recently. J0ri used to be a member of Pomodoro Bolzano since 2000.
[11:57] Olga: And what does it mean with Caligari, I don't get that one.
[11:58] Maxxo: There's this 20s silent movie where they coined that very special architectural look. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, great movie.
[12:00] Olga: So it was your idea, and what was it build for?
[12:02] Maxxo: It was a RL event, we were invited for doing performance - all Real Life. It was called MOBILITY and the idea was, to put six containers on that square in the middle of Regensburg, and to get 3 Bavarian and 3 Bohemian artists to exhibit in them. So we thought, we add some mobility to that MOBILITY, and build it into Second Life. That was quite an encounter for the people coming from the RL exhibition finding the same scenario there but in SL on two projections mounted to the wall.
In one aspect it was a strange experience. The other artists working on the RL Containers weren't really interested in the virtual representation of their work. Some didn’t even come into the projection room to have a look at it. The virtual opening happened two days later. The Bavarian artists didn’t know about SL, in contrary some of the Czech artists did even have avatars, but having been already back to Czech Republic they never used the chance to show up in SL.
I think that’s a lesson about the gap between RL and SL on one side, and the even bigger gap between artists from different fields. Media art usually is time-based, and many people, especially fine artists aren’t really interested and don’t think much of it.
[12:08] Olga: Interesting, so it was basically already a mock-up.
[12:08] Maxxo: It was wonderful and the key to lots of more stuff into that direction
[12:09] Olga: And the Original is Regensburg?
[12:10] Maxxo: I am actually sitting about 100 metres from here - now in RL. It’s the Haidplatz, here known as Virtual Haidplatz, now.
Virtual Haidplatz proofed to be quite a success, and magnet for all kind of artists. The avatar orchestra took it for rehearsal ground. There were also guests and visitors, and just a lot of gathering and movement. It was a great spirit from the start, so Sugar (**Sugar Seville, the owner) offered us to stay here, if we stay active, which is our middle name, haha.
[12:15] Olga: You know, for me this place has a very special double meaning. I was just talking with Juria (**Juria Yoshikawa) about the fact that there is no real public space in SL. And she thinks one of the tasks for art is to build these places.
[12:16] Maxxo: Yes, Juria understands that wonderfully.
[12:17] Olga: For me it is kind of a strange mockery, because this is still an art place, so not a place where ordinary people go. And instead of playing in a real public place, or in an art house, you are playing in a made up mockery of an old market place..
[12:18] Maxxo: Is mockery good or bad?
[12:19] Olga: I think it contains irony, and it depends, where this irony is targeted. Maybe it depends on the reading.
AOM performance[12:19] Maxxo: We like the place in RL, its very important for Regensburg and we basically did it this way on virtual cardboard to save prims for action and artefacts. And of course, that way we protected ourselves against the people criticizing that something would be wrong compared to the original. And we are artists and maybe its a bit of irony involved as the town of Regensburg is just now a world heritage place, and they wouldn’t even get the idea about presenting it in a virtual world - its another huge gap.
[12:21] Olga: I know only two other "public places" in SL so far, there is a New Berlin and there is Paris with the Eiffel Tower, but both try to be serious about the reconstruction (within the limits of SL).
[12:22] Maxxo: …and Amsterdam, you got me there the other night. And Frankfurt, Munich and Vienna, and there is hundreds more. But, you are right, this place is very special.
[12:23] Olga: This place here still looks amazingly realistic on a first look! Okay, and do you play on those other places also? Those "non-art" public places? Is that interesting for you?
[12:24] Maxxo: We started to do the Orchestral Investigations with AOM initiated by Gumnosophistai Nurmi. We did Amsterdam, which was great with lots of people coming along.
[12:26] Olga: How does it work in such kind of places? Do you ask for permission? Do you need to ask permission? Do you even need to pay? (Those are still privately owned.)
[12:27] Maxxo: No. We just did it.
[12:28] Olga: Wait, you went to Amsterdam and played there and advertised it, without asking the owner for permission?
Virtual Haidplatz[12:29] Maxxo: It’s a bit like Second Front does it - we go there before checking on laggyness and if we can rez our instruments. If its ok, we do it. We don't announce it, we just send teleports to our friends, and while testing and checking we told the passers-by about it. It was as if we came here and just did it.
[12:30] Olga: Interesting, and did you do that with other places as well?
[12:30] Maxxo: Actually, we wanted to do at least one investigation per month, but the Orchestra seems to have a bit of a burnout effect these days. Hard long rehearsals and a tough concert schedule. But I guess, us, the performing artists, will have a go soon, and the concept is not to have a fixed concept.
[12:35] Olga: Being at that point, I might as well just ask a few technical questions.
[12:36] Maxxo: I am not so good in technical terms, but feel welcome to ask.
[12:37] Olga: The "special thing" about AOM is that you play your "instruments" live inworld. But what do you actually do as a single player?
[12:38] Maxxo: In some compositions we have our HUDs and we just use them the way the composition offers us to do. So may I play my HUD (instrument) here for you?
Maxxo Klaar[12:39] Olga: A HUD is a 2-D object on your screen, which is invisible for others.
[12:40] Maxxo: Yes, but it’s not really meant for solos or at least I never tried that.
[12:40] Olga: Well let’s try, it is interesting to hear it as a solo instrument.
[12:41] Maxxo: It’s like a keyboard with numbers or names on, often there are 2 of it, which makes it easier to switch between groups. And the conductor says things like “S2 + L2+4” or “some Figs and Saws”.
[12:42] Olga: Yes, I saw the instructions while you were playing.
[12:43] Maxxo: Here, this is from Rue Blanche - there are about 2 dozens of choices.
It's inworld sounds. But Rue Blanche for instance works very much with the Doppler effect, so if we move or fly, it starts to get the quality we like it to be.
[12:46] Olga: Do you have different HUDs for different concerts?
[12:47] Maxxo: Yes - each composition has a unique HUD and a unique kind of performative description.
[12:48] Olga: So what is the pumping ball you are wearing for, then?
[12:48] Maxxo: It’s the receiver.
AOM performance[12:52] Olga: The sounds, are they pre-recorded sounds, small bits that loop? Or is there any other manipulation, or even generic sound produced?
[12:52] Maxxo: They are still samples, but in SLippery SLope, Wirxli introduced the hypercellos for the first time. But please do ask Wirxli or Miulew about them, or some of the members called Classicists.
[12:54] Olga: Ok
[12:54] Maxxo: I only know they are made by Robbie Dingo. And that you seem to need to know about some score reading while us, the Modernists, we act out more the performative side of the score.
[12:55] Olga: What I understand is that, as a member of the audience, I am getting different impressions depending on where I am and if the players move towards me or away from me.
[12:56] Maxxo: Yes, even just by moving the camera (your view) in and out changes all. For us it’s the same. We hear ourselves the loudest, if we haven’t changed to some orbit view.
[12:59] Olga: Do you play on rhythms, counts or some other signs of a "conductor?"
[13:00] Maxxo: Actually, rhythms not so much. An exception is WEE.NO.KRESH because that’s already very rhythmic, like the old Miles Davis' BITCHES BREW – I don’t know if you are old enough for that one, Olga. So we just go into dance mode with our avatar and then we let go: pling plong plong bambamabambam and so on - in brief, FUN!
[13:02] Olga gives Maxxo a big smile: Okay, I think I got a picture of how it works, really interesting!
What is it that keeps you going with it as an artist? You are not a musician as far as I understand?
[13:04] Maxxo: I never worked too much for myself, I always loved working together as it proofed to be a great possibility to learn more, have kicks and of course insights and such. Now working inworld, it’s even a step further. I can work with artists from far away, and I don’t need to work with my local people only, or travel a lot in order to join up with people whom I am interested in. Meeting artists we probably would have only heard from, and now we work together and do a tremendous exchange. I have to admit, in a way, we were very lucky by hitting the early Odyssey.
[13:07] Olga: Are you doing more art inworld these days, than in RL?
[13:08] Maxxo: No, we have so much to do in RL, but it’s often somehow connected. It’s a bit like in the middle ages when the nobles used to run “Wunderkammern,”
wonder chambers, I actually don’t know if there is a particular English term for it. However, what we experience here now is so pioneer-like, and so far away for 99,9% of other people that they quite like to hear about it or even have a peep.
[13:13] Olga: So, most people you work with, they also know your real name? And collaborations go across RL and SL?
Maxxo Klaar[13:13] Maxxo: Yes of course, all people know my real person, in SL, the AOM members, and who ever wants to know knows. There’s no enigma, as Maxxo is representing Max D. Well here. This is my main artist name since 1984. But I always worked with multiple names. Before that it was even worse because in the end none was known. That was good in regard of people not having prejudices. But bad, as there was no real continuity or body of work.
[13:16] Olga: I understand, you did play a lot with artist's pseudonyms, back then.
[13:16] Maxxo: Yes - I thought that would be good. As I say, no prejudice, no drawer opened yet, always a fresh horse - sigh, it didn’t work for me. Since 1984, I was living in London. From that point, I worked at least with that stable name of Max D. Well, and since 1992 under Pomodoro Bolzano as an umbrella and cooperative unit. This way it’s easier to fit in works under different names...
AOM performance[13:20] Olga: But it was difficult for me to get a picture of what you are "actually" doing. And it was funny to find RL images of you but no name.
[13:26] Maxxo: For 3 years we used to research on Pomodoro Bolzano in the lab (**Trendlabor), Jori, Max and Chris (Paco in SL) . And we worked hard. We did work very fast and switched topics fast and there is no logbook, but it’s all out there and it’s a lot of nonsense. Haha- aaaahaah ;)
[13:28] Olga: Going back to SL, what is it that is most interesting, or intriguing to be here, and to work here?
AOM performance[13:28] Maxxo: That’s really hard to say. There must be a lot of experiences and things I even haven’t dreamt of yet. All these creative people here, who are non-stop inventing what they always wanted to have or to do in SL, which is a representation of VR. At least for me, I have never been much into this kind of stuff, never been into science fiction or computer. I mean an easy example is you, meeting you. You are an interesting avatar that means there is an interesting navigator behind you.
[13:31] Olga: The commercial side doesn't bother you at all?
[13:32] Maxxo: I will join everybody on No Shopping Day as I actually do every second day of my life. And I got Google Mail, I am clean and being checked down to the syllable by the CIA and whoever you want to mention from the commercial side. I am commercial goof. All my mails to you and photos go via Google US and they will dearly be checked.
[13:36] Olga: (Now I know why you talk so carefully about politics) My opening question for that: You guys seem to be politically pretty unaware in relation to what you are doing in your work!?
[13:46] Maxxo: We don’t do politics. We are aware about a lot of stuff, but we don’t put all the energy in fighting it. We work for sustainability, it needs a while to make people open up and change their minds.
[13:48] Olga: I think all art is politics, and I do not mean the "activist" craziness in the US.
…but SL has some special issues, money and place politics are pretty precarious, also that you do not have any rights as user.
[13:50] Maxxo: We can go and demonstrate against nuclear power, against data sniffing of commercials and secret securities, proof solidarity with the Butan monks, but what is it you would think artists should do? Just using all the free stuff in the internet, what everybody loves, is paid for by somebody.
[13:51] Olga: As an artist you are very much dependent on being accepted, there is no first amendment or anything like that here. For people like Second Front it could be anytime that they are just banned forever.
[13:52] Maxxo: I agree, but then they will start somewhere else. They will come up with some new place where they can do their work.
For me that is not a big difference, the whole US seem like a family company. Only that it’s not such a small family, haha!
I lost an avatar with some fame and money. This was really baaaaaad.
AOM[13:57] Olga: Is that why you are so YOUNG?
[14:03] Maxxo: Mine got closed in late mid April I think. No explanation, no sorry, no news about the whole dis- and enabling again. And I guess lots of people didn’t get their avis back.
There was a change of email and then not enough proof that it was me behind it, as I didn’t remember all the data I had filled in. …And you know, here I find things I probably can’t even think of in SL - for instance I don’t have a partner. So there are worlds in here, which I am just touching as a Peeping Tom, a voyeur, and an artist with all Henri Rousseau naivety.
[14:12] Olga: But: What scares me most is the concept of place. It’s this realization of an American dream, where everything is private property, no public commons, no public property. It’s like miniature LA including all the gated communities. And that is not what I envision as the virtual world I would dream of.
[14:14] Maxxo: Interesting, that’s why you asked about us playing Amsterdam without asking permission?
[14:14] Olga: Yep.
AOM[14:15] Maxxo: It never appealed to me that there would be somebody chasing us off because it’s his or her property. So then in a way, it’s even more important that there are more and more artist-run-spaces like Odyssey, or here our art.think.box!
[14:21] Olga: I think it is important to do art things in non-art places, and to show people how important public space is.
[14:21] Maxxo: I agree 100%. I admire SF for what they do and agree on that importance.
And I love the idea that we'll go investigating with AOM.
…but if it comes to it, I am very much centred around all that many works and thinking how to use it as mixed reality tool. And I quite like to go dancing and chatting with beautiful avatars, and I think about the insufficiency, but...
Well, you said you will get tired after 2 hours, so I am really pleased, I could hold you for so long.
[14:43] Olga: Hehehe, how about finishing the evening with a dance? You've been challenging in some ways of being resistant to give me the answers I was looking for, hehehe. That kept me alive.
[14:45] Maxxo: Okay, what about an hour of distraction?
(They go off finishing the night with dancing in a club.)
The interview was held end of the year 2007, and only published by now.

Pomodoro Bolzano http://www.pbspace.de

Vickys Mosquitos http://www.harsmedia.com/VickysMosquitos/

Vickys Moskitos #12 http://miulew.podomatic.com/

Avatar Orchestra Metaverse http://avatarorchestra.blogspot.com/

Avatar Orchestra Metaverse http://www.avatarorchestra.org/

AOM on myspace http://www.myspace.com/avatarorchestra

AOM Riesenrad performance on youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=onklE0eqnfI&feature=related

AOM Fadheit on youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sl279WLmdYk

Odyssey http://odysseyart.ning.com/

**William Gibson, author of Neuromancer