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Thursday, August 25, 2005

I WANT MY SL-TV

Live from Stockholm and Second Life, it's...

It is, after all, altogether fitting that two of the first successful attempts to create Internet television programming from within Second Life would come from a government-funded Swedish conceptual art collective and a knee-high fox with a rocket launcher sitting on a cow with an electric guitar.

"We did a TV show from The Port that was broadcasted over Spain," Kapital Metropolitan tells me. In her first life, Kapital is an architect from Stockholm, working with fellow Swede artists Sorgaard Jacques and VoyeurOne Baron, building a communal art site funded by the Swedish state and universities. Their private Second Life island, The Port, has already functioned as a soundstage for clips featured on the International Festival Television Network, a TV program produced from the Tarifa region of Southern Spain. In the second episode, for example (downloadable here, ), VoyeurOne and his colleagues offer Derrida-esque observations on the nature of illusion in an online world. (Their clip begins at about 5:04, but don't miss what must be the strangest-- and coolest-- TV commercial associated with the Microsoft Corporation ever, at the very beginning.)

"A war of pictures and sounds is replacing the war of objects," VoyeurOne informs us in the Spanish broadcast, nodding sagely from The Port, "In a technician's version of an all-seeing Divinity ever ruling out accident and surprise."

As it happened, AsterixLe Gall's own venture into SL television began with a war of objects-- specifically, he says, over the explosive weaponry he'd test in the combat region of Jessie. After complaints from the neighbors, he hit on a project that wouldn't earn him accusations of griefing. Which is how he wound up last Wednesday on the Second Life homepage simulcast, interviewing controversial real estate tycoon Anshe Chung and fashion diva Aimee Weber from the top of a cow next to a giant chicken playing drums.

"Oh ahahahahaha you is talk 'bout chicken behind drums?" Gall inquires, when I ask about it afterward. "Is like set is just chucked out inventory. Just way it landed man. Is like is all fanz is who is guests is stuff. Like what come in on is show. Is like dun get stropped out yuh yuh. Like yesterday's guests. Is all FUUUUUNZ. All for muck about is no serious."

Fun of a sort is also on the agenda of VoyeurOne Baron, when they open The Port island tomorrow to the general Second Life public, with several jam sessions and a five-piece band, and somewhere in there, a native-to-SL interactive musical instrument created by Sorgaard and musician Alazarin Mondrian.

"It is loop-based music," Sorgaard Jacques tells me. "Very simple on/off buttons with volume control." Each button unleashes a short instrument sample-- horn, bass, and so on-- with the idea that every combination plays more or less in sync and in something resembling a melody.

"It will be a kind of free-form-rock experiment," Mr. Baron says approvingly. "Kind of Einstürzende Neubauten meets Pink Floyd in a super market in a German suburb."

"This sounds like a Grateful Dead concert suddenly intruded upon by a marching band," I say.

"Yeahhhh," Sorgaard drawls, agreeing. "Free form!!!"

AsterixLe Gall's Wednesday show garnered a live audience of at least a couple dozen, though he's not sure how many watch the stream from his website.

"More than is fox can is like counts," he tells me, laughing. "Is only is got like paws. And is like must be some. But like is errrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr... Three? Who cares. Is like for fun. Is like even if no audience I is still is would mucks 'bout."

The Port's grand opening won't be simulcast via the Web-- rather, it'll be shown to audiences in Berlin and the Swedish capital. "We are building a pavilion in the royal park in central Stockholm," Voyeur One Baron tells me, "and will be projecting the event on a big screen... We have collaboration with the royal library for Internet connections."

Dancing will also obtain. "Royal Metropolitan is the main choreographer here at The Port," Mr. Baron informs me, referring to the tiny man with an oblong head who just joined us.

"We hosted a workshop for Impulztanz Vienna," Ms. Metropolitan continues, "and Royal worked with the students in here for two days testing stuff out and discussing future possibilities for the dance to come."

I ask if this choreography will involve custom animations, but Royal's attention is focused on a higher plane. "It's interesting to consider what can happen with the economy of circulation and distribution when it comes to performance and spectacle," he tells me. "It's not so much about custom moves and animations yet but more about structural matters... That is then to not speak about what this can imply on the body and it's understandings and being in the world."

Having said that, the short man in tennis shoes and white tights under green shorts begins to writhe and twirl on the stage to a rhythym heard nowhere in the world.

"An important issue is to not educate people to what we know," Royal adds. "We have set up a research group here that rehearse together twice a month. With people from Europe, US, Australia, and Japan. We are not so many yet but first."

So they're bringing together Residents with outside creative forces, for projects that'll make their way to a larger audience beyond Second Life. (And more on those next week, hopefully.)

"It is important that we have recruited the performers in-world and that we are setting up a serious performance for them," says VoyeurOne Baron. "It's important for us to establish connections between Second Life and first life."

In his own way, AsterixLe Gall's Super Fox TV is driven by similar coming-together idealism.

"All gweefers in SL is likes, 'aaaaaaaaaaaaaahahahahahahahaha screw gweefing for 90 minutes. Let's all jets on down to Super Fox show and is watch Super Fox do stuff instead.' So every one happy," he concludes proudly. "Brinning the worlds into is one big unity mans. Like happy happy happy and is like nice and stuff. Lessenings like divide is between Residents and Lindens. Is whilst is still maintain is like authority status.

"Dun forget 'bout site and like is locations," the tiny fox in camouflage reminds me. "Yuh yuh."

The Port's in-world opening party launches tomorrow morning at 10am Second Life Time (website here; English and Swedish-language press release here.) AsterixLe Gall's Super Fox TV generally airs at 4:00PM Second Life Time, broadcast from his theater in the region of Guam-- check your local listings.

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