Virtual worlds have long been a part of the internet, evolving from text only equivalents, with Second Life reaching 16 years this year. As with other computer games there is a history of making videos, often called machinima, to record what goes on there. While many machinima recorded gameplay prowess, and arguably that has come to dominate, there have been a significant number of people who have worked with the artistic possibilities, particularly in Second Life – including myself. Archive film is now accessible online too, whatever the original media, because of digitisation. Combining the virtual and archival is not common practice, but it is what I do and will talk about. It is interesting in two ways: it makes the archive material available for reuse, something that digitisation often claims it wants to happen, and it gives the artist the opportunity to compare and contrast spaces aesthetically, socially and historically. The academic temptation of narrating comparisons should be avoided however; the aim should be to put the visual in dialogue so that the audience can think about, interpret and make their own conclusions.
About the speaker
I have been active in virtual space and specifically Second Life for 10 years. I started making video work about 4 years ago, as it allowed more expression than photography or ‘screenshots’. I had a background in photography in the actual world, but I found that video allowed me to explore the shared creativity of Second Life users in more interesting ways, and it led to me starting a PhD in Contemporary Art at Lancaster University in 2016. My outlook is cross disciplinary and draws on a wide academic background; primarily sociology, but also visual art, film, literature, geography and anthropology. I am now in the later stages of completion of the PhD after three years, which has also included about 30 video works. These use differing approaches that have been informed by, and have informed the writing of, the PhD. An important aspect of theory has been to resist digital exceptionalism, and my adoption of printmaking as a new strand of practice, to use mechanical presses to print digital images on paper and ink, is a reflection of that. Prior to the PhD I worked in arts marketing, had a publishing business, and was involved in politics.