3 years ago, I mused that, someday, A Level History would cover the rise of the Internet as a full-fledged topic. It’s an important historical event, after all. There’d be so many possible subtopics, and all the Gen Z kids would love it. Still waiting though.

Social Broadcasting: An Unfinished Communications Revolution. This is the theme of the symposium, and a phrase saturated with meaning. As quoted by Packer,

Gene Youngblood signals the need for “a communications revolution… an alternative social world” that decentralises the experience of the live broadcast through the creative work of collaborative communities’. (link)

And yet, this complete upheaval of the way we communicate is still “unfinished”. The symposium thus explores this notion of networked communication as a way to open the way to that new world order.

To understand how the social broadcast is revolutionary, we must first understand the live broadcast. Loosely, it is defined as media which is broadcast without a significant delay. The most primitive forms of broadcast would include one-way transmissions, such as with television. However, as Chatzichristodolou (note: will be referred to as Maria X for convenience) states in her keynote, there is another definition of “liveness”, that of something which is “infinitely open to interaction, transformation and connection”. This is a concept which has led the broadcast onto a completely new path, continuously reshaping the “broadcast” into something much more communal, allowing for communication between, than merely to, people.

Screenshot from Maria Chatzichristodoulou’s keynote.

As suggested above, Maria X, who spoke on the first day, provided a clear view of key definitions. A “performance scholar”, she also spoke at length on the historical context of networked art, and how that works together with internationalism. From Paik’s Global Groove, we see a statement on his envisioned future of the “phenomenal effect” of globalised dissemination. From Satellite Arts we see the “possibilities and limitations of new technologies… to create and augment a new context and environment” (Maria X, 2018). It is interesting to see that many of these artists work in groups, since networked art necessitates interaction with other humans.

Picking up after the keynote, Annie Abrahams expanded on this idea of the need for accompaniment, with the debut of Online Ensemble – Entanglement Training. As the name suggests, the performance was an ensemble, one which can only work with a group, one supported by the natural disadvantage of being unable to synchronise digitally.

Screenshot from Online Ensemble. Voices state numbers dispassionately at random intervals, and all of them show something white near them. By nature of being a culmination of different people, the message becomes an aggregation of inputs, than a single person’s.

In response to a remark that it was difficult to work together, Abrahams mentioned that one can be “not in the same time and same place, but can still play together… in this entanglement of people and machines”. This is rather in line with an earlier remark that “her artworks primarily tackle “communication and the difficulty with communicating at all”.

Screenshot from Online Ensemble. Together, the performers speak and place objects, at seemingly random intervals, with no seeming connection whatsoever.

It is evident that synchronisation is not particularly crucial since the artwork is essentially an improvised performance. The randomness of non-vetted phrases is important: phrases like “don’t ask for the truth if you can’t handle it”, “I’m sorry babe, I’m afraid I can’t do that”, “suddenly we become scared to change something” have no meaning on their own, only what we interpret on our own. As aptly put by Dixon, it is very much a fluxus work, where direction is not as important as non or omni-direction.

From LASALLE College of the Arts. Image of Steve Dixon, the current President, who gave the opening statement for the second day.

Dixon further elaborates on the nature of modern forms of art which come with new technologies on the second day. As previously asserted by Paik, the relationship between art and new technology is as old as art itself, from the Egyptians’ pyramids to satellite art. Relating the story of Henry Thoreau, who could not understand the purpose of the phone, Dixon explains that “although man talks to accomplish something, unawares, he soon begins to talk, simply, to talk”. It is rarely about whether there is a purpose, as to that it has come into existence, forming new relationships and new ways of thinking. Consequently, modern art emerges as a form of exploration into these “new processes in communicational processes”.

Another example he gives is that of Blast Theory, neatly tying into a quaint introduction for Matt Adams, its founder. Delving into the intricacies of simultaneously existing in reality and irreality, Blast Theory works with the idea of connecting people remotely, and the possibilities which come with that idea. It is perhaps even this which gives the theme of the day, of Networking the Real & the Fictional. In fact, it is almost a pity that Adams was not able to execute an interactive work with the audience on the spot, which may have brought the point across even more pertinently by nature of its interactivity, as opposed to speaking at length on past works and the intentions behind them.

Screenshot of Matt Adams’ presentation on Blast Theory.


Regardless, the various works presented are interesting, showcasing what was then a brand new style of (mostly) game-based interaction based on an augmented reality of sorts. Uncle Roy All Around You, for example, asks questions without providing a frame, making it uncertain as to if it is something out of the game or in the game. Neither can work without the other, and yet the boundaries between “reality” and this second “reality but also not really” are blurred, creating a super reality. Many games nowadays attempt, in some way or another, to replicate that crossing of reality and the digital world.

As later addressed in the Q&A, the works are also curiously tied in with the idea of control. As stated by Packer, it is often about making people acutely aware of their given or taken control, such as in Kidnap (1998). “It shapes our lives that the media has control over us,” Packer suggested, and I am not inclined to disagree. For example, as previously studied in class, we see that it is often not about acting in the capacity of a president, than acting as a president. The media has a lot of control over the narrative, and can even affect crucial national decisions.

Screenshot from igaies. While the xxxtraprincesses read while being in the same space, Sifuentes is too there in the same space but in a different perspective. And yet, at the same time, Constantini is in Mexico performing another piece altogether at the same time.

The symposium ends off with the debut of igaies (intimate glitches across internet errors), a strangely neat summary of the topics of the previous days. Personally, it is fascinating that it is pronounced as “gaze”, perhaps leaving it as a statement on its online nature (iGaies), on the connection formed by eye contact (gaze).

Jon Cates and collaborators are currently developing a series of multifarious and differentiated performance works that coalesce into what Cates refers to as igaies (intimate glitches across internet errors) – small miraculous mistakes, moments of beautiful brokenness – all fused together as a single improvisatory, real-time sensory overload of noise, blood, hashtags, fetishism, sexuality, memes, and #cutestuff. (link)

As implied by the above quote, the key idea is of glitches. Even on a more “real” perspective, though, simultaneous perspectives and/or performances hint at some sort of “glitch”, where there logically shouldn’t be an overlap to allow proper focus on the appropriate artworks. These “multifarious” artworks even appear to clash, from the girlish xxxtraprincesses to the gory leeches. Despite this, it makes a strange sort of sense. Constantini brings to the table his works on petri dishes, the image of bacteria tying in with Sifuentes’ leeches. Cates drops a beat while Constantini’s electronic sound pervades the scene. The xxxtraprincesses bring to the table a tale of revolution, all while embracing internet culture. Memes, hashtags, digital avatars all find a place here, and Nacif herself identifies as a gURL, stating that she finds this typo-ed term to “have a multiplicity and simultaneity” which gIRL does not. Sifuentes, too, brings a tale of revolution, but gorier, in the form of exsanguination, defined as “a process of mourning and cleansing with leeches being ritualistically applied to his body” on the Third Space Network.

Screenshot from igaies. While Holloway performs on sexuality and objectification, Constantini has a strangely relevant drawing.

Something I was particularly struck by was the vibrancy of the chatroom, too. There could be the simplicity of one word reactions to which you’re obviously not meant to respond, to drawn out interpretations which can begin conversations on its own, to added insight on the artworks being presented. (See below for audience links which I spotted on Day 3.)

Abrahams said something to the same effect:

Sometimes I even think that the chatroom is more important than what is actually happening between the performers. Both complete each other. And I also try to have some people in the chatroom who know what it is all about, so they can mediate between people and create a live/nice atmosphere.

While I am uncertain as to if she said “nice” or “live”, I prefer to think of it as both. Niceness creates a welcoming community which connects the audience to each other; liveness brings forth the connection between the audience and the artist(s). Overall, though, it is beyond doubt that the medium truly brings out the theme: I could hardly imagine these artworks being presented traditionally. Though I believe that there are ways in which the symposium could have stretched the social broadcast medium even more to communicate even better, it is certainly remarkable, considering that the revolution has yet to be finished.


Featured image from Adams’ presentation video on Uncle Roy All Around You.


Despite pursuing a career in art, Annie Abrahams’ training as a biologist shines through, where she engages “in research and reflection as an integral part of (her) practice” (Jamieson, 2008). Angry Women, in true scientific fashion, thus features a combination of a controlled space, controlled directives, and variable test subjects, with the objective of observing the nature of communication and collaboration through online means.

From the extract of Take 2. The participants and group size constantly changes, with variations in content between different takes.

It is intriguing that various iterations of Angry Women exist, with varying results based on the varying groups of people: there is an uncanny resemblance to scientific observation, in which a variable is changed, and the data is analysed to explain why the change in variable effects a change in result. In fact, this is often because of the ambiguity of said “directive”, where the style of communication can change easily from narcissistic, to back and forth, to simultaneous.

[in the first take] although we were together, we were not
together so to speak, and still there was interaction between us.
The second time there was interaction and communication but especially in the beginning
everyone focused in tremendous different ways.
The subject became “communication” more than being angry.
And in the end it went towards talking about the subject of our anger, for instance in politics.
That again is a totally different approach.

(Kastelein, 2012)

Nevertheless, all the iterations still have some level of “collaboration and group-dynamics”. As aptly summarised by Abrahams (2011), it situates “a condition of lonely togetherness, of life constructing a commonality, of being together and sharing this condition of co-responsibility, of scripted auto-organisation”. Sometimes there is the lone voice who suddenly screams by herself, to which others automatically join in (00:18). Sometimes there is the one who asks for some time/space to do a solo, only to be completely ignored (Take 1).

From Take 5. One by one, they react to each others’ screaming by joining in.

Sometimes, it is “a moment of nakedness within the performance” (Abrahams, 2010), leaving the participants vulnerable enough to observe what is true, than the image one might typically put up when broadcasting. The unpredictability of human behaviour is eerily similar to the unpredictability of the third space. As Packer states, “rather than fighting the glitches, errors and disruptions… she discovers the work through these networked ‘entanglements'”. Abrahams capitalises on technical difficulties, just as she does with what may be perceived as “mistakes” by the participants, like the “silent presence of the woman in pink” (Ruhsam, 2012).

This rawness of organic behaviour becomes “a beautiful moment” (Chatzichristodolou, 2010), one more beautiful than a curated act.

(Featured image from Angry Women Take 3.)

  • Abrahams, A. (2012-) “Angry Women Take 1”, “Take 2”, “Take 3”, “Take 4”, “Take 5”. (link)
  • Abrahams, A., Kastelein, I., Ruhsam, M., & co. (2012). “Angry Women – Reactions Analyses brut”. (link)
  • Chatzichristodoulou, M. & Abrahams, A. (2010). “Annie Abrahams. Allergic to Utopias”. on Digicult. (link)
  • Jamieson, H.V. (2008). “Adventures in Cyberperformance: experiments at the interface of theatre and the internet”. (link)
  • Packer, R. (N.A.) “Disentangling the Entanglements”. on Art of the Networked Practice Online Symposium Website. (link)


Boundary-Meeting Waves; or, the Identity as it meets the Edge of the Digital

In 2015, Carla Gannis released The Selfie Drawings, a set of digital drawings expressing “the self”. It was then expanded in 2017, forming the narrative basis for Gannis’ 2017 exhibition: Until the End of the World.

Electronic Graveyard No.2, The Upload (2015)
As seen in the HD 3D animated video (2017).

From the Origin to the year 10 000, the exhibitions shows an imagined evolution of humanity, a sort of apocalypse in which “you ain’t need no husband” because you can have virtual children, et cetera.

Courtesy of Carla Gannis. Titled Origins of the Universe, it is a 3D-printed re-interpretation of the Courbet’s 1866 painting. It implies that the cell(phone) is the origin, which is technically not wrong, in being the origin of your existence as a digital object.

As Wittkower aptly states, many things “might seem to mean nothing, and yet be taken to mean something”. Your virtual children are only real when you perceive them to be so. With this in mind, the seemingly surrealist images can be perceived as more than nothing, as a presentation of the self, albeit in a stranger form, but perhaps also truer in being able to manipulate new mediums to express yourself in different ways.

Related image
Interestingly, this Physics diagram, on different ways in which waves can meet boundaries, provides a strangely clear (and thought-provoking!) analogy on the different presentations of the self which can manifest when crossing from reality to the digital realm.
Courtesy of Carla Gannis. As aforementioned, the digital world allows for impossible portrayals of the self, from floating in the air to breathing fire. It could mean nothing but absolute insanity, or it could be a step into understanding yourself through the ability to portray yourself through other means.

However, there is a caveat in the overriding of the actual self.  “They made monsters of themselves which they could not tolerate nor do without,” says the voiceover of the 1991 movie of the same name. Without regard for the physical space they focus on the digital self, a somewhat revolting notion.

Nevertheless, as Deresiewicz suggests, it is not possible to “develop the capacity to have a sense of self separate from the community” without a certain level of isolation. This explains why we accept this form so readily: Though teeming with others, the digital realm can also be your own, allowing you to explore yourself, which is craved in a world where “you” are not important (Schopenhauer, 2014).

Red Samsonite by Carla Gannis, as presented in The Selfie Drawings in the exhibition. The depiction of the self can be easily changed and warped in the digital world, as one explores what it means to be “me”, away from the noise of society.

Certainly, Gannis’ work reflects the new forms of self available in the digital identity, and how we still engage in it because of its appeal, even if it may seem vaguely self-destructive.

(Featured image from 1991’s Until the End of the World. Claire’s psychedelic dream, which probably inspired the madness of Gannis’ portrayal, in that dreams are not unlike the unconscious mind.)

  • Deresiewicz, W. (2009). “The End of Solitude”. in The Chronicle of Higher Education. (link) (as referenced by Wittkower)
  • Gannis, C. (2015). “The Selfie Drawings”. on Carla Gannis. (link)
  • Gannis, C. (2017). “Until the End of the World”. on Carla Gannis. (link)
  • Gannis, C. (2017). “Until the End of the World”. on Vimeo. (link)
  • Schopenhauer, A. (2014). “On the Vanity of Existence.” in Studies in Pessimism. The University of Adelaide. (link) (as referenced by Wittkower)
  • Wenders, W. (1991). “Until the End of the World”. (around 0:50:00 to 0:53:00 of a certain kind-of-illegally uploaded Part 3, don’t sue me thank you)
  • Wittkower, D.E. (2010). “A Reply to Facebook Critics”. in Facebook & Philosophy: What’s on Your Mind?. Open Court. (link)


Television, cars, spaceflights  from 1968 to 1978, Ant Farm proved themselves to be distinctively “American”, capitalising on these objects which, even then, were cultural symbols of the USA. The Eternal Frame (1975) is no exception, though it takes things to a further extent. Rather than referring to merely objects which have become symbols, it refers to something more human: an event which has become a myth.

The title of this video itself is misleading: as a non-American millenial with little knowledge on this 1963 event on the other end of the world, it took me a while to realise this IS the artwork, and not the legitimate footage. For at least 90% of Americans at that time, though, it became a collective memory, in that it was heavily televised.

The Riderless Horse, Black Jack, at Kennedy’s funeral, which was also broadcast. It is now a key image representing Kennedy’s assassination, alongside other images like that of the Kennedys kneeling by the eternal flame, something which sounds almost ethereal.

In 1975, a previously-excised, now-infamous frame from the Zapruder Film was “shown for the first time” (Andrews, 2013). And the masses tore into that depiction of the exact moment of the shot.

Obviously, The Eternal Frame (1975) is a response: as stated by Uthco & Ant Farm, it is “simultaneously a live performance spectacle, a taped re-enactment of the assassination, a mock documentary, and… a simulation of the Zapruder film”. In fact, it’s likely a response to the whole nature of the televised tragedy:

“While we didn’t see the assassination live, the television show about the assassination was a four-day long drama that played on national television.” (Robert Thompson)

It was never about the substance: when the presidential campaigns came around, it didn’t matter that Kennedy was a philanderer or a druggie. It was the “power of the image” (Lord, 2017), the charismatic television facade which won the hearts of the people.

Everyone claims that “it” was “gut-wrenching“, “haunting“, “powerful“, but the “it” they refer to is merely the image curated for mass media. Not the 1963 assassination of the person named Kennedy, but the 1975 film about the character named Kennedy. They will never feel the same as true witnesses like Zapruder did, so utterly traumatised that he had nightmares.

Image result for dumbledore death gif
It is perhaps akin to the pain you might feel when you see a beloved character like Dumbledore die in a television show: you hurt, but do not perceive the loss as “real”.

At some point, this reality became nothing more than a “drama” to be viewed on television. It became something which had fantastical motifs, sensational twists; something for the entertainment of the masses who eagerly tear into that one frame, who squint at the image of his head exploding, who try to solve the murder mystery: who killed him?


Frame 313 captured everyone’s eyes, which remains eternally in their thoughts. The frame, and nothing more.


Featured image courtesy of Diane Andrew Hall, retrieved from here.

  • Andrews, E. (2013). “What happened to the Zapruder film?”. History.com. (link)
  • Lewallen, C. (N.A.). “Still Subversive After All These Years.” Stretcher. (link)
  • Loughlin, W.S. (2013). “Modern Mythology: Fifty Years Later, JFK Still Resonates.” Syracuse University. (link)
  • McGuire, K. (2013). “The Kennedy Assassination, boomers, and TV journalism.” The Chicago Blog. (link)
  • Packer, R. & Lord, Chip. (2018). “Chip Lord live from the NMC Media Lounge.” (link)
  • Rosenbaum, R. (2013). “What Does the Zapruder Film Really Tell Us?.” Smithsonian. (link)
  • Simon, R. (2017). “How Kennedy Created a Presidency for a TV Age.” Time. (link)
  • Sneed, T. (2013). “How John F. Kennedy’s Assassination Changed Television Forever.” US News. (link)
  • Testimony of Kenneth P O’Donnell (link)
  • Uthco, T.R. & Ant Farm. (N.A.) “The Eternal Frame.” Electronic Arts Intermix. (link)

(Also, vaguely relevant things from 2017 regarding the declassification of JFK files.)

truly, Interaction in its most Experimental form

Do It With Others—The name says it all. To give due credit, DIWO is essentially the overarching theme guiding our lesson objectives. It makes sense: with a title like Experimental Interaction, it’s certainly most important to focus on, you guessed it! Interaction, especially those experimental in nature, which is what DIWO is really all about.

Image courtesy of Ruth Catlow, of the DIWO graphic.
Logo courtesy of Furtherfield.

Furtherfield, an art community, is the proponent of this collaborative approach. It is in itself a revolutionary organisation heavily concerned with “collaboration and experimentation”, contrasting traditional perspectives of the artist as an individual, of art as the product than the process1. While still maintaining a physical gallery in Finsbury Park, London, Furtherfield also makes full use of online platforms and technology.

Many of its projects fall into the social practice art category2, including DIWO, which focuses on engaging “with social issues while reshaping art and wider culture through shared critical approaches and shared perspectives” (Catlow & Garrett, 2007). Simply put, it’s about working together to create something great, perhaps even greater than if we all worked individually to make our own individual things.

As aforementioned, the importance of different people coming together to create something, is in the myriad of ideas which can be derived from a database larger than your own head3.

On a more logistical level, it might even simply just be that there are some things you can literally only do with others, like creating a gigantic cross across multiple screens.

Screenshot courtesy of Randall Packer, from the Telematic Embrace micro-project. Certainly, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to do this alone.

As established by Randall Packer before, too, this form of creation will definitely require “negotiation”. This was also reiterated during the lecture, where Marc Garrett remarked that individuality should be kept, but also challenged4. Furtherfield’s own projects are certainly no exception. VoiceOver Finsbury Park, for example, relies on the willingness of the participant to give up a degree of privacy, so as to benefit the future of London5.

Image courtesy of the Museum of London.

One of the most unique things about the DIWO approach, though, is that much of it is heavily based around technology, and experimentation with it. Blockchain6, as mentioned by Garrett in the lecture, is an example, where the algorithms of the decentralised database allows for mechanised security.

Photo courtesy of the Institute of Network Cultures, displaying the blockchain-based Terra0 project7.

To end off, a key feature of DIWO is merely that “the process is as important as the outcome”8. Perhaps even more so, in that the artwork is often not the end result, but the process through which it is made. Sometimes, the artist is nothing more than an engineer who creates the platform, while the actions of the audience is the art itself.

Galloway, Kit; Rabinowitz, Sherrie «Hole in Space»
Photo from Medien Kunst Netz, of the 1980 artwork, Hole in Space. A classic example of the artist as the engineer, and the audience as the true artwork.

Due to the word count, I’ve placed footnotes on everything which had supplementary, interesting information. Additionally, references are also listed where appropriate.

1 From Furtherfield’s About Us page (link). It is also stated that, apart from various indie movements in Britain, their main inspiration was that of the open source structure.

2 Previously mentioned in my post on Open Source. As I’ve mentioned before, ‘social interaction is often an important way to express those messages [of social activism]’.

3 Previously mentioned in my post on the Telematic Embrace. The significance is that ‘the panel discussion involves 60 participants from over 30 countries answering in real time, bringing a myriad of opinions, shaped by each individual’s experiences in their various cultures, to the table’, a prime example of how collaborative work can lead to a much more interesting result.

4 From Marc Garrett’s DIWO Lecture (link), 00:14:25 to 00:14:32.

5 From a review on the Museum of London. VoiceOver Finsbury Park is described as a “hyper-local social radio project, allowing instant, open conversation between people who live in the same building”. The objective is to improve the quality of life in the city through creating connections between people who may have otherwise shunned each other.

6 Blockchains are defined as “a decentralised database cryptographically secured by a network of computers” (00:32:27 of Garrett’s lecture). Furtherfield, being an organisation interested in the use of technology in conjunction with art, works a fair bit with them, such as in their Blockchain Imaginaries Spring Editorial. While blockchains started out as a form of mathematical technology for things like secure finance, they have increasingly become a medium through which artworks can be produced, especially artworks associated with automation, such as terra0 (detailed below).

7 Terra0 is an example of an artwork powered by a blockchain system. How it functions is that the forest, in a sense, governs itself through the use of algorithms (i.e. decentralised autonomous organisation). Key themes involve “ownership, personhood and autonomy” (Ueberschlag, 2016)

8 Quoted in Packer’s article on Open Source Studio, but originally from Marc Garrett. As mentioned at the start, a prominent idea in the modern style of “experimentation”, subverting traditional notions of the product as the art. Interestingly, we learn in another class that this is an idea which is closely associated with modern graphic design too, where the concept is more important than the product.

  • Catlow, R. & Garrett, M. (2007). “Do it With Others (DIWO): Participatory Media in the Furtherfield Neighborhood”. (link)
  • Furtherfield official website. (link)
  • Garrett, M. (2017). “DIWO Lecture.” on Vimeo. (link)
  • Packer, R. (2015). “Open Source Studio.” in IEEE Spectrum. (link)
  • Parker, L. (2017). “VoiceOver Finsbury Park: an Idea for a Future London.” on Museum of London. (link)
  • Terra0 official archive. (link)
  • Ueberschlag, L. (2016). “Terra0: The Self-Owning Augmented Forest.” on Institute of Network Cultures. (link)
  • Catlow, R. & Garrett, M. (2007). “Do it With Others (DIWO): Participatory Media in the Furtherfield Neighborhood”. (link)
  • Furtherfield official website. (link)
  • Garrett, M. (2017). “DIWO Lecture.” on Vimeo. (link)
  • Packer, R. (2015). “Open Source Studio.” in IEEE Spectrum. (link)
  • Parker, L. (2017). “VoiceOver Finsbury Park: an Idea for a Future London.” on Museum of London. (link)
  • Terra0 official archive. (link)
  • Ueberschlag, L. (2016). “Terra0: The Self-Owning Augmented Forest.” on Institute of Network Cultures. (link)

Featured image courtesy of Packer’s recording of the DIWO Lecture.

PLEASE clap if you BELIEFS

The truth is malleable: this is a statement brazenly declared by Jenny Holzer’s work, Please Change Beliefs. In this artwork, Holzer provides a list of truisms on a website, where anyone may access and modify as many truisms as they’d like to. These edited truisms are then permanently added to an online database, creating an extensive list of various versions from various individuals.

From Please Change Beliefs. Clear instructions are given, along with a list of truisms.

That anyone can change these absolute truths is a testament to the power each individual holds, especially in an online world where their words can reach far and wide. Like in the artwork, we all have the freedom to type whatever we like on various mediums like social medias and blogs. Case in point: Trump’s claims that global warming is a scam by the Chinese (which some people apparently do believe).

At the time, it draws attention to the overwhelming nature of innumerable truths floating around the internet. How do we determine what is true and what isn’t, in a space which can be simultaneously trustworthy and untrustworthy? On one end can be proper advice from certified professionals, another, scams by internet trolls, and yet there is no way to distinguish nor ascertain the truth. While Wikipedia is mostly reliable, it’s easy to see why we’re told not to use it when internet vandals often mess it up.

A classic example of why you do not blindly trust information on the internet. (I happened to be doing research for an academic essay back then, and chanced upon this.)

Even in this artwork, we can see the influence of those who don’t take it seriously.

Despite the possibility of being played with, we cannot forget that there will be people who legitimately contribute properly, a reminder that the internet is not all about lies and untrue truths.

From the Please Change Beliefs online database. These variations vary from the obvious to the profound, showing that we can’t just disregard everything.

Featured image from the Please Change Beliefs online database.

Legal Lawbreaking

To understand Grand Theft Avatar, we must first understand its medium, the online 3D virtual world, Second Life. While it has a virtual currency, it is technically not a game in that there “is no manufactured conflict, no set objective” (Catherine Smith). It is, however, similar to what we know as sandbox games, and massive multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs). As one of the oldest online multi-user virtual worlds, it became popular as a non-traditional medium for arts exploration.

An example of Second Life as a medium. Chouchou, a Japanese music group, builds custom maps where they perform their music live. This allows them to imagine and create their own stage, than having to pay a substantial amount to find a real place which may not suit them entirely. Additionally, it lets their music reach a wider audience.

Grand Theft Avatar, as presented by Second Front, hence shows a (now) common scene among any sort of multiplayer virtual world with enough freedom to mess around: that of freely doing what they wish, simply because there are no limitations in a virtual world. In this specific case, the performance group performs identity theft, “liberates” currency (through what is essentially a robbery), and escapes by flying on h-bombs.

The artwork in question. A classic case of people collaborating online to enact the random, for no reason other than that they can. This, in a sense, shows the innate desire within humans to live freely, where we are obligated to abide by society’s rules in reality, but not so in a virtual world.

This would be absolutely illogical and illegal in physical reality, but shows the simultaneous virtual reality of what is coined as the third space: a “fluid matrix of potentiality and realisable connections to the most far-reaching remoteness” (Randall Packer, 2014). Anything can happen, simply because the virtual world does not have the limitations of the real world, such as physics or law enforcement. Anything can happen, even the eponymous theft, or even creation, of a completely different avatar. Anything can happen, even across nations, as implied by Second Front’s team, which comprises of members from Scotland to Canada: it is not impossible to perform together even while apart.

Some other fun videos in the same vein:


Roblox: The Dark Truth about a Pizza Place

Roblox is a game creation platform, where assets are freely provided to users who can opt to find user-made games to play, or try their hand at making their own game. This clip shows… A rather quirky roleplay between strangers.

Garry’s Mod is similar to Roblox: however, it has a “base area” which is purely a sandbox, where people can interact freely without any sort of objective. Like Grand Theft Avatar, they can even come up with their own “stories” if so desired… Or just screw everything up.

Grand Theft Auto, a classic game to mess around with, exacerbated by that you ARE supposed to be playing as a criminal. GTAuto and GTAvatar certainly have similar names for reasons: the lawless freedom of doing whatever you want, and absolute insanity of it all at the very end.

(Featured image from here.)

    • Packer, R. (2014). “The Third Space.” Reportage from the Aesthetic Edge. (link)
    • Watson, J. (2008). “Media Communication: An Introduction to Theory and Process.” pp281-5. (link)
    • “About Second Front.” Second Front. (link)
    • 6ruy7n. (2017). “Duntoria.” Second Front Performance Arts. (link)


W1 Summary & Artwork Spam Research

The term “open-source” is used to describe software, of which its source code is available for perusal and modification. This is in direct opposition of proprietary software, which restricts access to its source code. Predictably enough, however, the concept of proprietary software became pervasive once the profitability of software as a commodity was established.

A timeline of the history of copyright. It is not unusual for something profitable to be commodified, where closed source is a byproduct of that.

Essentially, the harshness of the closed source model resulted in

  1. The awareness that the “copyright” is not a singular, rigid right
  2. The rise of the hacker culture, and
  3. The rise of the open source model

As a software and creative model, it can be more beneficial to the creator to not completely control their work, especially if they have non-profit motivations, such as that of the desire for “a phenomenal effect on education and entertainment” (Paik, 1973). This encourages interaction between peers to improve upon each other’s contributions.

It also leads to a form of “living art”, where said art is dependent on real-time social interaction than prepared beforehand like traditional art. This places emphasis on the process than the result, where the meaning of the artwork is emphasised through how it is made than how it looks in the end. Artists can also further define “their autonomy against the dominance of mainstream culture” through this modern style (Garrett, 2014). By extension, it also has a profound effect on various forms of art, like performance art, social practice art and internet art.

For reference, attached are links to various artworks which rely on the unpredictable nature of social interaction, albeit with varying restrictions. A closely linked idea is that of social practice, incidentally, where social interaction is often an important way to express those messages.

The Second Woman (performance art) by Nat Randall, 2017 (1) (2)

Project Row Houses (social sculpture) by Rick Lowe (1) (2)

Permanent Redirect (internet art) by Donald Hanson, 2018 (1) (2)


(Featured image: Sunflower Seeds by Ai Weiwei, 2010.)

  • Garrett, M. (2014). “DIWO (Do-It-With-Others): Artistic Co-Creation as a Decentralized Method of Peer Empowerment in Today’s Multitude.” Marc Garrett. (link)
  • Packer, R. “Open Source Studio.” IEEE Potentials 34, no. 6 (2015): 31-38. doi:10.1109/mpot.2015.2443899. (link)
  • Vaidhyanathan, S. (2012). “Open Source as Culture/Culture as Open Source “ in Mandiberg, M. (Ed.). The Social Media Reader. NY: New York University Press. (link)
  • (2005). “Proprietary Software Definition.” The Linux Information Project. (link)
  • P., Natalie. (2006). “Who Are the Key Figures in Socially Engaged Art Today?.” Widewalls. (link)
  • Davis, B. (2013). “A critique of social practice art.” International Socialist Review 90. (link)
  • Meyer, H. (2009). “Audience as participant in Performance Art.” Inter Act Actuel. (link)
  • “Socially engaged practice.” Tate. (link)