March 5, 2007

The Meaning of "Virtual"

written by Cyanide Seelowe

A month or two ago, I posted a thread in's community forums. Modestly placed in the "resident-run websites" forum with the modest title of "Virtual Artist Alliance Art Newsblog", my intention was the advertise the blog's existence, as I am quite proud of the work that my colleagues and I do here. In response to the thread, a new perspective was thrust upon me in regards to the VAA's identity, as new perspectives have a common way of doing on the InterWebs. Copied and Pasted directly from the forum, here is what a reader had to say about our title:

"I really like your blog, but I gotta say I'm less than enthusiastic about the title. To me, the term "virtual artist' is a bit belittling. I'm not a 'virtual' artist; I'm a real artist. I happen to apply my real art to virtual worlds, but that doesn't mean it's 'virtual art'. I'm real, and so is my work. The nature of the medium to which the work is applied doesn't change that.

A painter's canvas is a virtual world too, and so is an author's writing paper, but no one would give the painter or the author such a title, no matter how unintentionally, to imply that they or their works are not real. Why should it be any different for me just because my canvas of choice runs on electricity?

I'd be fine with 'virtual world artist', but not 'virtual artist'. Make sense?"

Yes, of course it does. You can find my reply to this statement here, but my message to my fellow members is far more pressing:

I'd like to make it clear to everyone who is a member of the Virtual Artist Alliance that I do not consider you to be Virtual (as in "close to real") Artists; the purpose of our group is to celebrate Virtual (as in "computer generated") and Digital art and artists. Reading this individual's opinion and taking it into account made me consider our purpose a little more closely.

That being said, nothing has changed :] Despite our somewhat blurry beginnings, our mission is still to cater to the Artist and their needs, not to belittle them with something as unimportant as a title floating above their heads.

The lesson? Don't look too deeply into the things that come out of my head. Ideas can only be as complicated as the mind they come from :]


ninsve said...

I've been thinking a litle about this too.
I think that within a year or two the word *virtual* will not be considered as belitleling anything or anyone, not even an artist. It will be more and more common for people to have avatars and second lives and your merits as avatar will become respected (maybe) as much as your merits as a rl person.
I'm a rl artist myself (not very successfull though..) and I've been think of how to put my SL-art activities on my CV, how to formulate it. The art I do in SL is signed Plurabelle Posthorn and is made almost entierly in-world. So far I have not brought my rl art into SL, well, I've not scanned my drawings, paintings and photography to put on a SL-wall. As for the CV I could do it like this: Art activities by my avatar Plurabelle Posthorn, and then a list of where and when and what. Look how Wirxli Flimflam does this in his blog profile and footer HERE.
Another aspect of this is the diversities of approaches the rl persons have towards doing art in SL. Some are rl artist, some preserve a link to their rl, some do not. Some are not rl artist but they make things and put them up in galleries, so they are artists in this virtual world "only". Second Life can be used for roleplaying and some are just having fun building up an artist career for their avatar. Now for all these different approaches, what is common for all the artist is that they have to have an avatar with an avatar name, they can not enter Second Life as themselves. People can of course modell their avatar to resemble their rl flesh and blood, but anyhow they are avatars. And in that sense virtual. Not?

Jackie! said...

i completely agree with you :] i hope that as time goes by people will come to respect the great things that are being done in virtual worlds- even if it is a bunch of pixels and code, it is still being run by human minds and being fueled by human passion.

great insight, thank you!

ninsve said...

Look at this, from a festival/conference in Austin, Texas, right now. "Virtual Worlds & Virtual Humans". And a short report here.