"Liminality: A Mixed Reality Exhibition of Second Life Art" at antena
"Liminality: A Mixed Reality Exhibition of Second Life Art" is on view by appointment through May 1 at antena (1765 S Laflin St, 773-257-3534, antenapilsen.com).
As it tackles big questions about the virtual and the real, this riotous show doesn’t ask so much as it frenetically shouts. Works by more than 20 artists, including new-media pioneers Cao Fei, and Eva and Franco Mattes are shown in a single cacophonous room flashing with computer animations and buzzing with digital audio samples.
Curator Patrick Lichty's collaborative performance with artist Gazira Babeli plays out on a 12-channel video wall of the bizarre. The artists’ avatars’ pace around desert islands, fish from giant lily pads and stand in rooms as severed Mickey Mouse heads rain down on them. The constancy of the two avatars amid such wildness and weirdness underscores how Second Life identities can embrace the imagination's free reign, in stark contrast to our own world.
Lichty's worked with the Yes Men, so we're not surprised "Liminality" has a strong activist streak. Artist Joseph DeLappe, who also created the virtual protest Dead in Iraq (2006–ongoing), used a 3-D printer to create a gilded Mohandas Gandhi figurine. In Second Life, DeLappe uses a Gandhi avatar to reenact the Indian leader's famous nonviolent protest of 1930, the Salt March to Dandi.
While most works are about the human experience in digital space, Ben Chang’s Sounder and Relay brings the robotic experience into human space. A man and woman—each trapped in a Victorian-era living room—appear on two separate monitors, trying to converse in Morse code. Their words, coded in dots and dashes, are channeled in real time to telegraph equipment wired to the gallery wall. The thrilling yet disconcerting effect is that the ghostly onscreen characters have crossed a boundary to our world, alluding to a not-so-distant future when artificial intelligence assumes a physical form.