Second Front – Research Critique

In research I did recently for a presentation of Performance Art, I read that some performance artists consider re-performances of their work to be entirely different pieces apart from the original. In utilizing previous works by different artists and by bringing them into the virtual world of Second Life, I do believe that Second Front has indeed made the works their own.

But firstly I think the distinction they drew is important.

some people in Second Life might confuse us with a “performing arts” group rather than a “performance arts” group.

I’d say that Performance Art is closer linked to the Conceptual Art movement, where the idea/concept are the focus rather than the “traditional aesthetic, technical, and material concerns”, as opposed to the Performing arts (Not to say that the performing arts doesn’t have those elements occasionally as well).

And it’s easy to see these ties when as stated by Randall Packer

Grand Theft Avatar is a critical challenge to Second Life, questioning the authenticity of its currency, rules, and “lifestyle”

Which goes to show the thought provoking effect of their performances. Ideas sparked in the virtual world are ideas sparked in the real world.

THE ABSOLUTELY LAST (AND FINAL) SUPPER by Second Front + Link to the Vid

There’s also a certain beauty in what they’ve done to Second Life. As they said, most of what goes on in there is “shop, make friends online and participate in a virtual economy.” With the creators not setting a goal or end game, it ended up being a replication of the consumerist side of real life. But Second Front questions the “underlying assumptions of Second Life and what it means to be a virtual being in that space”. which I quote because I think it encapsulates the idea very well. So it’s kind of funny that while Second Life doesn’t have hard set rules and goals, they still broke the mould.

It made me wonder if what they do could be done in other online communities such as MMORPGS (Massively multiplayer online role-playing games). But I kept running into the limits of the world set by the game, whereas Second Life allows users to create and sell and spawn in their own virtual items which opens up so much more possibilities. However, this does not mean that it cannot be done in other programs/games.

NPC on the left, Real player on the right

MMORPGs such as World of Warcraft (WOW) have servers dedicated to Role-playing, where the people playing are “in-character” so to speak. They talk like their character would and not only that, but some people imitate the Non-player Characters (NPCs) such as imitating the guards that patrol the city; even getting the look down to the armour pieces.

2 Mins onward is where you can see them in-action. + another example

While seemingly odd at first, perhaps it’s not so different from Second Life. Virtual spaces and especially games are known for their use as an escape from the real world, and yet, Second Life predominantly appears to be a replication of the world outside. But it of course, has the draw of having no real world repercussions, and this has allowed Second Front to carry out a “bank robbery” something I don’t think a real world performance artist would be easily be able to even have the opportunity to do. But now from concept to execution, it can be done to even the most ordinary individual. Other issues that plague the real world artist such as location, space and budget constraints are also cast aside.

Second Life seems to be the prime virtual location for Performance Art in it’s flexibility and ability to replicate real world situations and happenings.

And sometimes, perhaps a little too much.


1 comment

  1. Excellent. And thanks for making the comparison to MMORPGs. I thought your comment about breaking the rules of Second LIfe was interesting, in a space where rules are not even imposed. But in fact, many of the rules, norms, experiences are self-imposed by people who approach Second Life with a certain degree of consistency. This is the nature of any world, real or virtual. The idea that Second Front is deconstructing the nature of Second Life, which in many ways as  you point out, becomes a replication of the real world. I think the Second Front approach is to find what you can do in the virtual space that you can’t do in the real world, and then use this capability for narrative construction and live performance. 

    Excellent piece.

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