Wherever we go, something would crash!

On the 28th of October 28th at 11pm, we had the chance to finally meet the creators of “Grand Theft Avatar,” the Second Front. The interview was a rather refreshing and interesting one.  The members were all rather laid-back and I could tell that they were passionate in what they were doing as they did their own personal explanations.

It was intriguing to learn that they were not exceptions to backlashes from the public. When asked about this particular topic, Jeremy Turner actually brought up an incident where a guy was  able to “see his IP address” and in turn knows where he lives and threatened that he was going to come and kill him. While this may be sounded scary, I guess its a part and parcel for all artists. As had the virtual space made the Second Front free-er and more daring in what they could do, so did the public. Perhaps it was more easier to make such threats with the internet allowing for one to be anonymous and mysterious. This could be tied in with the abundance of cyber-bullying cases as well in our current times. The internet had not only allowed for artist to push boundaries but also for its audience as well, I found this rather interesting.

Identity was a big topic during the interview and it was interesting to learn about the backstories and inspirations that allowed for them to later form their avatars. Overall, their identities seem to be an alter ego and a blend of their favourite characters. When asked if it was easy for them to differentiate who is the “real me”, whether it was the self in real world or the second life self, almost everyone said they tend to be thrown into confusion all the time. Is this virtual leakage happening? With games like Second Life allowing for easy access to take over someone’s else appearance and identity, one could easily switch their identities around easily. They had the freedom of expression too.

Grand Theft Avatar was a live performance where Second Front attempted a local bank heist, where the Linden Treasury was robbed. The robbers then flew off in helicopters, freeing the loot from the sky in the process. In this performance, members of the Second Front started off with their usual virtual identities, and then changed their avatars to impersonate the members of the panel, before embarking on the bank heist. Aside from the inspiration from trying to replicate an actual event, was changing their avatars part of an attempt to disguise their “real” self? Just like robbers in the real world, they would tend to cover up or disguise themselves before attempting their heist in prevention of being caught or recognised. I think it was interesting as to the self in second life is technically not real yet with more and more time and effort invested into it, this “real self” becomes more “real”, sometimes even more real than the real life one. I felt that their was a blur and leakage  in how actions and behaviour is been carried out in both in the virtual and real. Also with the title of their work to be Grand Theft Avatar, it had a lot of resemblance to the game, Grand Theft Auto where players can just steal other’s cars. With it being Grand Theft Avatar, was the emphasis more on robbing identities instead of a bank heist of Lindens?

Second Front is an international performance art group who utilises a online world platform, Second Life as their main choice of medium. The group are made up of performance art (not performing arts) artists from around the world. They aim to explore new and different environments in the virtual world, like the game Second Life. In a way they are exploring how the third space can create a “alter self”.

In their work, Grand Theft Avatar, it is a live performance created in  Second Life. Like any other virtual world game, Second Life has its own currency,  laws, rules and regulations. They wanted to challenge the authenticity and embodiment of virtual identities by assuming avatar identities including those of Camille Utterback, Char Davies, Howard Rheingold and Christiane Paul to commit a parodied staging of a bank hold-up of the Linden treasury.

GREAT ESCAPE: One thing I think we’re looking to do is to question the underlying assumptions of Second Life and what it means to be a virtual being in that space. A dominant trend in Second Life is to shop, make friends online and participate in a virtual economy. The possibilities for the space haven’t been fully explored as of yet and so I think people are much more receptive to performances that they might be in real life. Because it is so new, we can have a huge affect on people’s thinking.

I think raises the question of authenticity and identity. Can anyone easily just “take over” or steal someone else in the virtual world? Also, how real is the virtual self in comparison to the real one? In a virtual world where anything and everything that is possible I think it is easy for identities to be “stolen” or “faked”. I think using Second Life as a platform allows for more unrestricted, creative, crazy ideas and experiments as compared to having to carry out in real life that is full of restrictions and limitations. It might not even be possible to carry this out in real life. Another aspect is that I believe that the virtual world makes us much bolder and daring. What we would do, interact or behave in real world might be a different reality when changed to something virtual. In this work, it raises the question of whether we trust and believe in everything we see in the virtual world?

To end off, I think this particular sentence stuck me a lot and it holds so much truth for the people of this century:

ALISE IBORG: While we as Second Life avatars become more real in the virtual world, so too, that we as human inhabitants of the real world become more virtual.


Her first supposedly captured image on Jennicam.

In 1996, Jennifer Ringley, a junior at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania stumbled upon a new piece of technology at her college bookstore – a webcam – and came up with this radical idea to broadcast how she lived her life for seven years which updates an image every 15 minutes on a website. She shared every uncensored detail of her life, in what she called a “virtual human zoo”. As the project flourished, she also added more webcams and charging for access to her site, allowing both paid and free access with the paid access updating the images more frequently than the free access. (wait but I thought she didn’t originally want to charge viewers according to “Jennicam’s Jenni on Letterman’s Late Show“?)

Then it all went downhill when she stolen the fiancé of a friend, Pamela Courtney who was a fellow cam-girl as well. The drama continued with bouts of “love” and sex on Jenni’s side and bouts of depression on Courtney’s site. Fans eventually stopped supporting Jenni and some people even judged her harshly. In 2013, she went completely off the grid since then.

In my opinion, Jennicam seems to be a curious and innocent experiment that went wrong. Also, what started as a purposeful even somewhat turned contradictory?

But first of all, why/how did she manage to do it for so long, over a span of 7 years? What are the appeals?

“I keep JenniCam alive not because I want to be watched, but because I simply don’t mind being watched. It is more than a bit fascinating to me as an experiment. So feel free to watch, or not, as you so desire. I am not here to be loved or hated, I am here simply to be me.”

She aims to portray only the real life, uncensored and unedited, even if that means giving up all of her personal privacy.

Mundanity/ Relatability

She carried out her life, from the mundane to more exciting ones, over a span of seven years entirely and wholly broadcasted for all the world to view as they please. I guess this appealed to large masses of people because of how relatable it could be and it was almost like viewing humanness into the computer age. This helped with people who were lonely and desperate for a form of companionship where on one Saturday night while she was doing laundry at home, she got an email saying it had made someone feel like less of a “loser”. She could connect with viewers because it was relatable and humans somehow just thrives in trying to find like-minded people. Its similar to how celebrities, especially in the case of Korean pop idols to be keep their fans in the loop by broadcasting their mundane activities too. Humans in generally are just inclined to learn about others, their stories and their lives. There is just a unexplainable attraction.


At that time, it was a radically new idea. Something people have never heard, seen before ever on the internet. Humans being curious beings as well might have been swayed to check what all the hype for this was about.

Voyeurism/Sex Appeal

I think this was one of the elements that played a large part. Aside from her daily chores she can also be shown nude or engaging in sexual behaviour, including sexual intercourse and masturbation. People was anticipating what would happen next. I guess it was also human nature to tend to be voyeuristic. I won’t say all the viewers that tune in are anticipating for this kind of action but i think its mainly a split between this and people trying to find connection with others who relates to their life.

Two-way communication 

A strong community grew in the chatroom on her site, where she also hung out. She was accessible, part of the gang, a friend. How surprising for her audience of new web recruits, who had probably never experienced this kind of connection with someone they’d only ever met online. And probably for Jennifer herself, too.

As the saying goes, communication is key, humans bond and thrive only with communication. I think with the chatroom is kinda reduces a layer of wall between her and everyone else. Even in our current times, many people can be great friends or even “soulmates” just be talking to each other virtually without having to meet up.

Through this project, she opened up discussions as to what is privacy and what it encompasses, a question that we are still asking ourselves till this day. What can be defined as privacy? In our day and age, we’re all similarly surrendering our personal life and details both voluntarily and involuntarily. I found it interesting how Jenni herself was aware that she would never be able to completely remove herself from the web even if she wanted to but still proceeded on with this project head-on.

This also raises the question what can is considered suitable or acceptable content? Also another question that we are still debated ourselves. From nudity to sex to publicly humiliating and betraying a friend, do we have to be mindful of the message that we are disseminating to others and how our attentions would affect others?

I also found it interesting how Jenni felt the weight of responsibility for her to try harder and she felt that she had to really go out of her way to make it happen so she’s not just going to give up. Was a need for recognition?

The internet can be a wonderful place but also a scary one. People might find solace but also harsh backlash and judgements. In the case of Jennicam, she experienced both the joy of fame and recognition but also the wrath when a line was crossed. For example, she was called a “homewrecker”, a self-obsessed “vixen” and a “phoney”. Even the The Washington Post called her an “amoral man trapper”.

Another interesting point was how she stopped performing stripteases for the webcam after she was discovered by a group of hackers on Efnet who teased her for their own amusement. After she reacted humorously to their taunts, she was hacked and even received death threats. The hackers turned out to be approximately 100 people including a handful of teen pranksters, but Ringley did no more stripteases after that.

In conclusion, her personal experiment inspired the first conversations about the things we’re still talking about now: digital over-sharing, the value of online expression, and the meaning of online community.

It’s interesting how after years of living publicly, she wanted to reclaim her life as a private person, especially after she got an onslaught of criticism for an on-screen affair.

 “Life started slowing down for me,” she says now. “You get into a routine. I’m not 21, I’m not flailing, I’m not making laughable mistakes every five minutes like you do when you’re younger. It’s a little more boring.”

But then I thought the whole purpose was to portray REAL life or was it all for the fame and drama?












Each pair of artist-broadcasters will run a technical test between laptop and mobile phone, or between laptop and laptop, finding locations in ADM where there is no bandwidth lag so that the transmission is a success. Then take the archived broadcasts, embed them in the OSS posts of each member, and describe the results of the technical experiment.


Desktop: https://www.facebook.com/xiuys/videos/10210112291543247/

Mobile: https://www.facebook.com/wrongval/videos/10155175012893208/


Initially, everything was running generally smoothly aside of some audio issues and image resizing in OBS to fit the green screen overlay.

“The World’s Longest Collaborative Sentence” by Douglas Davis is a project he began in 1994 at the art gallery at Lehman College, where he invited people to contribute in the forms of words, photographs, video, graphics, WWW links, and sound via the Internet, the World Wide Web, email, regular mail, and personal visit.

The huge difference between broadcast TV and the Web is the keyboard. With that people can say anything; they have full expressive capacity. This means a more intense and personal link could occur between me and the audience.

The quote is rather applicable then and even more so now, what with almost everybody having a part of themselves on the net now. With a simple device like the keyboard, it can generate so many diverse, unscripted and unexpected outcomes. This is quite evident in this work where you can easily see how different individuals type a sentence differently. They could write about basically anything and everything they wanted. It was total freedom where there was going to be nobody who could stop them physically. It was also interesting to see how some people interacted with each other even though they are all strangers to each other but they talked as if they weren’t.

Our relationships and interactions are increasingly mediated through social media, leading to hyper-energetic participation in networks here referred to as super-participation. In the intensity of social networking, collaboration, tagging, sharing, and viral distribution, we become an open system of media redirection, flows of activity in and out of the collective, third space.

With it being in the web means its easily accessible to others from other parts of the world. This further amplifies the work where anyone could read and add in their own words anytime anywhere. I think it is this element that brings closer to the topic of super participation. Everyone in one way or another are all connected, thanks to the advancement in the internet as well as how everyone is so readily to share and take content from there as well.

Overall, this work reflects the world we live in now where everybody is constantly adding in their own comments or opinions onto a posts by someone else or themselves. The cycle is endless and if people are interested enough in the topic, the post can go viral with the endless commenting, sharing and tagging.






This video piece depicts in an interesting way how Jon Cates uses glitch to broadcast realtime across international timezones.

Rendering Time in fragments, errors and overlaps, jonCates plays with recursivities. These feedback loops merge personal data and swim in associations from Chicago to Taipei to Boulder and back again. Realtime: Reflections and Render-times by jonCates (2012) was performed live via Skype for MediaLive 2012 at Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, July 14 2012. BOLD3RRR… Realtime: Reflections and Render-times by jonCates (2012) is a processed document, screen recorded in realtime and camera viewed forward in reverse by jonCates (2012).

The recording showed him fiddling around with the various softwares he use in his daily life. For example, playing with Ableton not before long where he would switch to something else. On top of that, text that are big and bold, probably comments overlays above what he was doing on the desktop.

Screen capture of the big and bold text overlaying the softwares he switches around every so often

I think in this work, the element of recursivities were quite prominent where there were three main scenes –  a frontal view of Jon Cates in full screen but slightly fuzzy and blurry, text overlaying programs on screen and generally a very glitchy scape plus the strong buzzing of white noise.

white noises with graphic that glitches

Though the content seems to be all cluttered and all over the place, there was still some sort of flow. There seems to be a narrative but it is very much non-linear. It was kind of hard for me to understand what was going on most of time to be honest and I struggled a lot to watch this piece, what with the rather “flickery visuals and audio”. However, i thought about how it not very different from how we do things on the desktop now. For example, in current days, with so much information and content disseminated so freely, one is so easily distracted, we switch between the various tabs so often in a way if we visualise it, it might look something similar to Jon Cates’ video piece. Hence, in our lives now, it is also in a way sort of glitchy, both in reality and virtually.

Our desktop is more than screen space, it is a virtual extension of our physical reality, a space for the formation and design of new identities, and an alternate world for artistic invention.

Jon Cates’ use of glitch and “dirty new media” entered into his performance of Bold3RRR. In this work, I think it perfectly captures that since it captures Jon Cates’ identity really well and the glitch effects added a layer of intriguing attractiveness to the daily and mundane. It was kinda broken up, at times seemingly unreal yet it is real, and as a whole it still is able to hold together as one whole.

“Masks” on Adobe Connect

Initially, I was really curious how the lesson will be carried because I’ve never attended such a type of class before and it was kinda exciting and also a bit nervous since its new. I think the difference between having the class virtually than in real life is that it is definitely more convenient. In real life, its considered okay to be late for a short period of time but when it was online, it was actually more pressuring in the sense that you have to be present at the set time if not you’d miss out and perhaps the class cant start. It was also actually more participatory with the selected groups chosen to be discussing about the given questions in Adobe Connect. Since it was virtual, only the selected people could be heard and seen but in a more focused way. For example, when someone talks in class, one would not stare consistently at the person talking or focus on them but perhaps just listen without looking much at them. Perhaps this was also due to avoid social pressure since it was rude and kinda pressurising to have someone constantly looking at you, much less a crowd. Hence, in a way, it felt more comfortable to be talking virtually, even though its still to a crowd. But one problem was with the technical aspect where my mic was working fine from the start but suddenly it “spoiled” when I didn’t do anything. That left me rather clueless and at lost of what to do and I was frustrated but sorry for those who couldn’t understand me.

Since I attended this at home, it was more comfortable in the sense that I do not have to rush my dinner before rushing down to school for class and also I was in a space where I fell home at. However, one problem is that since I don’t really have a “room” and my desk is actually kinda out in the open, my family members actually have to be more considerate with the sounds they make and all.

I think having the class about the third space in a third space was helpful in the sense that we get to learn through experience and it was also memorable. It was really fun towards the end where we had to “interact” with the others near where our screen is located, especially the “mask” activity  as show in the image above. I think that was the most engaging and fun moment and even though we were not together, but we are, in a sense. Hence, I really learnt a lot from this experience. I think it would be fun to have lessons on this platform again.

“Hole in Space” (1980) by Kit Galloway and Sherrie Rabinowitz resembles what we call the video chat now when implemented at that time. It went for 3 days at the walkways of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts (New York City), and the broadway department store located in the open air Shopping Center in Century City (Los Angeles). It was a totally fresh and surprising event since their was nothing mentioned about it or explaining it and only people who had actually passed by those places would chance up this. They could now see, hear and speak with each other across a life-sized television images of the people from the two places. They could not see themselves but they could see what was happening in the other part of the city. It unconsciously served to close the distance between the both cities and people could interact as if the other city was right there literally in front of them. This allowed for discovery of new people, rendezvous to be set up and even allowed long lost separated loved ones to see each other again.

Kit Galloway and Sherrie Rabinowitz have worked on various pioneering communication projects. This particular installation was funded by The Broadway Department Store, grant from National Endowment for the Arts and numerous companies. In 1989 Galloway and Rabinowitz founded Communication Access For Everyone (C.A.F.E).

What was interesting was how the audience reacted this sudden opportunity. Like always, people were clearly confused and wondering about what is this that is put in front of them since it came out from nowhere and they had never experienced anything similar.  Even now, its the same for the people in our century now. We still get confused and uncertain when suddenly plunked into a new situation with no instructions or whatsoever. Conversations then started as the viewers realizes that they were talking with people, who were placed in this same confusing plight just from a different part of the city. Considering the technology at that time, this was indeed a wonder and unexpected for everyone. Word spread quickly about this amazing communication platform and more people came to experience it.

A man and a women having a casually and flirty interaction about the bottle across the screen

As seen in the screen capture above, the two individuals even progressed to maybe starting a romance just over the screen. It is at this moment that you realise that the distance between these two groups of people had actually been dissolved, gone. Poof into the air, like as if it never existed. It also served to show that actually we’re all actually not that different from each other. Of course we have our differences, but we also share so many hidden similarities just waiting to be uncovered. We can connect with one another easily when putting aside the discriminations and prejudices and just presented as how we are at that time. There is nowhere to hide “yourself” or “enough information to pin a judgement” on the other party since it was something that just throws out into the open, exposed but also free of all strings.

“The absence of the threat of physical harm makes people braver”

So true this statement is. Perhaps its because you aren’t really there so people tend to do things they won’t do on a daily basis with people that are right beside them in flesh. For example, at one instants during the video, there was also a excited woman gleefully talking with the projected people from the other city, whom she had not seen for some time. She was blowing kisses, getting so emotional she even bowed down and burst into tears. It was interesting to see how people whom are strangers to each other, play, talk and interact in the various ways as if they had knew each other for ages. Also it is also interesting to note that all those people she got so emotional over where the pedestrians that she were to pass by often in reality, I doubt they would even have the chance to develop a relationship much less a so “deeply bonded” one as seen in the video.

“Kit Galloway and Sherrie Rabinowitz showed that rich human communication was possible over a high speed link”

It is fascinating to see, that in this day and age, such methods of instant communication to the rest of the world was regarded as impossible in the past. Compared now, such technology and opportunities are so easily available to us to the extent some are even starting to take it for granted. Now, instant communication has proved to be a double edged sword where it can strengthen/build relationships or even break them.

Collective Narratives

“We wanted to explore the aesthetics and sense of presence in a shared performance/multimedia environment, where people don’t leave their indigenous environments. That way people from varied creative and cultural backgrounds could help create a new environment in which they would collaborate on an international scale.”

Hole in Space itself is an example of a collective narrative. In this project, people from a whole diversity of cultures, backgrounds and lifestyles came together through the screens provided and they interacted with each other in a way that was totally pure, raw and unscripted. It was a in the moment kind of thing. Hence, this allowed for a rich diversity of personalities, characteristics, stories to be mixed together beautifully into as one.




Q: Discuss how you think they revolutionized television, and how they started a media movement that you are now enjoying today with your smart phone videos and social media. And how have they influenced our study of social broadcasting? 

Traditionally, television used to be static and rigid. It’s extremely carefully planned out and moulded in a way to transmit “untrue” information for certain ulterior motives. Videofreex brought upon a very dramatic change wheres they started a movement that was scripted, planned and for no ulterior motives. They just shot whatever and wherever, capturing the raw environment and relationships. Everything was about freedom and the plain honest truth, nothing more, nothing less. They captured the beauty of life – everything from the highs to lows.

“video productions with subjects that ranged from rock music, avant-garde performance art, the erotic, circus arts, street demonstrations, traditional crafts, and alternative culture, to behind-the-scenes at national mainstream events and travel through foreign countries.” – Videofreex

There’s more personal content, where real opinions and real emotions arises, totally raw. What is captured are exactly as it is, what you do, what you want to say is relayed exactly as it was captured. You get to create the content. You are the character and do whatever you want. This was a captivating element for people and they want to know about other’s stories.

Carol Vontobel recording the everyday life of a young boy.


Videofreex has broken the various boundaries of what broadcasting is and what it could be. In current times, how they had carried out their work was almost similar to how people nowadays take video through their social broadcasting platforms. It’s more intimate and has a life force of its own, portable, anytime and anywhere.