The British design artist Marc Owens is fascinated with 3D games and the relation that gamers have towards those. One of his most recent projects is - besides Second Life related - rather ingenious. Lately, I’ve been pondering Virtual Death a bit: is anybody paying to use those virtual suicide machines inworld? What happens if you terminate your account with LL? What would you prefer your SL memorial service to be like, and should it happen upon disappearance of your avatar from the grid or your human from earth? Where do deceased sims go? And so forth. Well, Marc Owens created SABRE & MACE, a company that offers virtual characters the opportunity to experience death as a way to close their user account permanently. The project examines the notion of feeling sentimental toward a virtual character and examines the link between sentimentality and tangibility.
Sabre & Mace, virtual death row
The service works as follows:
Having discovered the Sabre & Mace site on-line (the website had to be taken down after the show) or through one of the virtual adverts in Second Life, the prospective customer teleports to the company headquarters. There, the client meets a manager who explains the full process and guides him or her through the signing of two contacts. Contract 1 - states that at some point (completely random) in their second life the avatar will be collected by a Sabre & Mace officer and taken back to the headquarters for termination.
Contract 2 is in fact the client’s ‘Last will and Testament’ where he or she outlines how they wish their virtual moneys, land and assests to be distributed once they have been terminated. The client continues to live their second life until one day, a Sabre & Mace officer appears and informs them that the final proceedings are about to begin. The client is collected and taken to the Sabre & Mace HQ. The client meets again with the client manager, to discuss the final process. At this point the client reveals their ‘account password’, which is the means by which the avatar is terminated.
The client is led through the cryogenic chamber, where the virtual physical forms of past clients are stored. Upon arrival at the ‘Termination Room’, the client is instructed to walk through the ‘white noise’ door. Once he crosses the threshold of the door his Second Life game crashes, giving a Sabre & Mace member of staff time to change the clients password - effectively terminating the character.
The client’s former avatar is immortalised as a golden statue. Information about the avatar can be read on the plaque which sits on the monument. Should the client visit the Sabre & Mace memorial gardens he would see his own statue as well as the monuments of previous clients.
Would you have put your avatar up for ‘death row’, just for the sake of art? ;)
More ‘Game’ related content by Marc Owens
Virtual Transgender Suit
Also ‘inspired by Second Life’ is Marc Owens’ ‘Virtual Transgender Suit’. As a study by psychologists at Nottingham Trent University has found that 54 percent of all males and 68 percent of all females “gender swap”–or create online personas of their opposite sex, this became Marc Owens’ next project after the Avatar Machine listed below. A real life manifestation of that practice, the Virtual Transgender Suit replicates the aesthetics of the typical virtual female form and catapults them within a real world context. The piece was specifically designed for men to wear in the real world, creating a bridge between real (where cross-dressing is not really socially accepted) and virtual.
Translated: OMG! Look at that mesh! (S)he’s hot!
The virtual communities created by online games have provided us with a new medium for social interaction and communication. Avatar Machine is a system which replicates the aesthetics and visuals of third person gaming, allowing the user to view themselves as a virtual character in real space via a head mounted interface. The system potentially allows for a diminished sense of social responsibility, and could lead the user to demonstrate behaviors normally reserved for the gaming environment.
Translated: will we act just as silly as we do in virtual worlds, when we see ourselves as avatars, and through an ‘avatar perspective’?. I think not. Number 1 reason why not? Real life is damage enabled! ;)
More on this ‘Avatar Machine’ at We Make Money Not Art dot Com.
Marc Owens’ website is marcowens.co.uk
Also interesting is Mourning and digital culture.
Know of any more artists that create ‘real life’ works based on Second Life? (And no, the ‘texture missing’ tshirt does not count. We’ve seen that already enough.)