the validity of virtual photography

I generally believe that misperceptions, or even conflicts, are not bad. If dealt with in a constructive manner they in fact often demystify things. In this post then, I address the common misperception that “real life” photography is more valid than virtual world photography. I look at some of the criteria that overlap in both. I address the difficulty of some critics to accept virtual photography as legitimate. I talk about virtual photography as the same and as different, and as a means of communication between people in Second Life. I consider that virtual photography, especially as perceived on Flickr, may in fact be a new form of art.

I am not a photographer by profession, merely a novice snapping pictures in the virtual world. But regardless, and again, as mentioned in my Le serpent qui danse May 11, 2017 blog entry, it seems to me a photograph is a photograph whether it is taken in real or virtual worlds. If not, would someone please explain to me what is actually the difference?

One of the reasons that I care about the meaning of virtual photography is because I am getting fed up with it being thought of as second best to “real life” photography. It just doesn’t make sense to me. In fact, there are many criteria that overlap when it comes to virtual and “real life” photography. There are virtual images that are of better quality than others, just as it is the case with “real life” photography. The question of what is art pertains to virtual and “real life” photography alike. The thinking involved in the creative process of virtual and “real life” photographs is the same. And so on.

Probably certain critics of virtual world photography, and of SL Flickr, have a hard time consolidating the fact that virtual photography is legitimate because they experience it as a threat. In their minds, this kind of photography must not be real because these days any novice has access to editing tools required to produce an image. But isn’t that great? Why condemn people who experiment creatively with photography? Shouldn’t we be open to creativity in all its forms? Why so frightened of the new and the undefined?

I firmly believe that a virtual photograph is just like a “real life” photograph. But I also believe that it is much more than simply an image; it is a tool for people in Second Life to communicate with each other about their virtual experiences in a virtual community space (Flickr). When we are part of a virtual world like Second Life, we communicate in-world via IM, voice, poses, profiles, and with our choice of avatar appearance. A big part of our communication with each other is also expressed creatively with our photos on Flickr. There are virtual photographers on Flickr who I have never met but I feel I know them because I know their photographs. They have become familiar to me.

Lastly, and boldly, I would go as far as suggesting that virtual photography as we see it and experience it on Flickr is art. So while the virtual photograph is just like the “real life” photograph, it is also not. It represents a new form of art with categories and criteria of its own. I will not go into this too much here because it is something that Tutsy Navarathna and myself discussed at length in the past and even considered putting together a publication about. We may still. It was during these discussions about virtual art and Flickr that Tutsy cleverly coined the term Flickrism.

In conclusion, I think it is safe to say that a virtual photograph is the same as a “real life” photograph. In addition it also serves as a communication tool for creative people occupying the virtual world. And we may want to start considering virtual Flickr photography a new virtual art movement in its own right. Virtual photography is not only the same as “real life” photography it is also different. Different is a usually a good thing, at least in my book.

Photograph by Kate Bergdorf

Le serpent qui dance

For the past few weeks I’ve been completely caught up in finishing a collection of photographs for an upcoming exhibit at the Itakos Gallery. The exhibit, The Dancing Serpent, inspired by the poem with the same name by Charles Baudelaire (Fleurs du Mal, 1857), is curated by Akim Alonzo. The opening is this Sunday, May 14, at 1:30PM SLT.

Baudelaire’s poem Le serpent qui dance is playful, filled with erotic symbolism and metaphor; it is an ode to desire and longing, no doubt, sexual and otherwise. It consist of nine parts. As the themes for my ten photographs I picked one sentence from each part, as well as the name of the poem itself. There are at least twenty translations of Le serpent qui dance; I ended up choosing the version by William Aggeler, translated in 1954.

Putting together this exhibit led me down a path of self-examination. I came up against content issues where I questioned my use of the female subject as a nude. I realized finally that adding a male subject in some of the images would add a much-needed tension. Also, during the weeks that I worked on this virtual world project I simultaneously had several deadlines in real life that needed to be met. I had to seriously consider the importance of time and how it was spent. I reached the conclusion that the process of creativity, regardless if in real life or virtual life, could only aid me in the sense that it provided a welcomed escape from too much thinking. Lastly, I questioned the meaning of the virtual world Flickr photography itself.

About virtual world Flickr photography then. I showed my ten completed photographs to several friends, all of whom I respect in part because they are talented virtual world photographers who I know will not hesitate to offer constructive criticism. I was pleased with their feedback and, yes, relieved, because like so many others, I never really know if my work is any good. I then showed the images to a friend who is a real life photographer, but does not himself have a Second Life Flickr account. He simply refused to comment. Once I got over his frustrating lack of response, I started pondering what some of his reasons for not commenting may have been. He did not want to offend me with negative feedback, could it be that simple? His only observation, which was something like “everybody on Flickr will love it,” referred to the fact that nude virtual world images receive a disproportionate amount of attention on Flickr? Or could it be that he had actually failed to comprehend that a photograph is a photograph, regardless if taken in real or virtual life? I don’t think I will ever know, but I believe this perhaps nicely illustrates a common reluctance of “real life” photographers to embrace and accept the newness and, yes, modernity, of virtual world Flickr photography. If I sound defensive, it is because I am. But it is not about my work, it is about feeling protective of virtual world Flickr itself. Because rarely in my life have I seen as much creative talent in one place as I have seen there.

This post ended up being much longer than I thought, lots of rambling here. Thank for reading all the way through if you did. Also, and finally, thanks to Akim, an excellent curator, for asking me to show at your beautiful gallery. Thank you also very much to Tutsy Navarathna and Huck Hax for posing; I honestly can’t think of two more patient posers. Thanks to pose makers Del May (Del May Poses) and Olivia LaLonde (Le Poppycock) for your incredible poses, without them, these images could never have been produced.

Poster created by Akim Alonzo

art in february

the-haul

In addition to the two shows currently at Berg by Nordan Art, Penumbra, by Meilo Minotaur and CapCat Ragu, and lacrimioare by Huck Hax, there is some incredible art to be seen in Second Life right now. First, we have to most recent installation, The Haul, by Haveit Neox, curated by Ux Hax and Romy Nayar, at MetaLES. We visited The Haul without any prior knowledge or information about it. And rather than attempting to interpret it here, I will share with you part of our conversation from when we visited the installation earlier today.

the-haul

[05:41] tutsy Navarathna: for me haveit is always in same time messy and poetic
[05:41] k a t e (KateBergdorf Resident): yeah, well put
[05:41] tutsy Navarathna: i like what he does
[05:41] k a t e (KateBergdorf Resident): a poetic mess
[05:41] k a t e (KateBergdorf Resident): me too
[05:42] k a t e (KateBergdorf Resident): he has his style, we know it is by him
[05:42] tutsy Navarathna: i don’t mind not to understand something
[05:42] k a t e (KateBergdorf Resident): i agree, its just a feeling
[05:42] tutsy Navarathna: we can let our imagination going on
[05:43] k a t e (KateBergdorf Resident): aww look at those figures above us
[05:43] k a t e (KateBergdorf Resident): soo beautiful
[05:43] k a t e (KateBergdorf Resident): i want to take a pic, just a sec
[05:43] k a t e (KateBergdorf Resident): the colors, the gentleness
[05:43] tutsy Navarathna: yes all details are very well done just as by a painter
[05:43] k a t e (KateBergdorf Resident): yeah does feel like a painting
[05:44] tutsy Navarathna: organic, vegetal
[05:44] tutsy Navarathna: mythologic
[05:44] k a t e (KateBergdorf Resident): he puts his soul into this
[05:45] k a t e (KateBergdorf Resident): this is really tremendously beautiful
[05:46] k a t e (KateBergdorf Resident): the longer i look at it, the more i see
[05:46] k a t e (KateBergdorf Resident): the figures that are part of this emerge
[05:46] tutsy Navarathna: yes need time to see all details and personnages

Head over and take a look at this latest work by Haveit and make sure to check out the installation Illogism by ChimKami Resident as well. Thank you Ux and Romy for all the incredible works you show at MetaLES!

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We have a Pink Floyd themed event at Orange Blue that opened this past weekend and will unfortunately close later today already. Curated by Ini Inaka, we find here sculptures by Igor Ballyhoo, animated textures by Willem Koba and walls by Ini Inaka and LeeAllison. I was lucky to bump into Ini as I was standing around putting together this post and she gave me some hints on how to experience this work; use Advanced Lighting and Midnight WL and wear the Record Thrower object provided and use mouse-look to crash walls. Following these instructions is indeed vital for an optimal experience; suddenly light is moving and flickering and walls come crashing down! Noteworthy here are of course also the older works by Igor Ballyhoo, My Lovely Wife, From Green Into Red and Red Into Green and Frozen Brain, amongst others. These sculptures so clearly have stood the test of time; I have said it before, and I will say it again, Igor’s works are Second Life classics. When I asked Ini to tell me a bit about this Pink Floyd themed event, she responded that the idea here was to let people destroy walls. And she noted, “Pink Floyd said it all:” Another Brick in the Wall. Thanks for showing me all this Ini and thanks also for refreshing my rusty mouse-look skills!

naninona

Another remarkable show currently on display is NaniNona, by Romy Nayar. I haven’t seen work by Romy in a while and was pleasantly surprised to see this little exquisite installation. About her work, Romy states in her note card, Nani nona na ni no na nani nona na ni nona naninona na ni nona na ninona na nino na na nino. Na ni nona naninona, na ni no naninona, na, ni nona ( nanino na nani no) na ninon a, which made me smile for the entire period that I wandered throughout this enchanting show. The exhibit consists of several rooms connected by doors. In each room, there is a display of a simple scene, all scenes seem to me to be little whimsical parts of stories, all remarkable in their own way and how they are displayed. All comes together here, Romy’s colors and her genial use of magical little figures and objects. Bravo, bravo, bravo Romy!

untitled

Finally, we have another installation, Frogs, by Cica Ghost, that opened a few days ago. I am happy to see that Cica is back on a roll again and showing installations on a more frequent basis. Frogs consists of a hilly landscape, a few trees and the ruin of what once must have been a house. Situated on the ruin, there is a girl who is drawing on a wall; the drawing is of a girl dreaming of prince. On the other side of the wall there is another girl at a table watching TV and eating a lollipop. The TV is broken and the scene depicted inside it is very similar to the one in which the girl at the table finds herself outside of it. These two girls, with their dreams and fears, are at the center of the installation. Surrounding them, are a number of large frogs, moving gently in place. This installation feels a bit more hopeful than Cica’s last one somehow, more playful. And I always love seeing her  little figures, dressed like dolls, in knitted sweaters and socks. Great detail here, head over and take a look. There is a free frog avatar available at the landing point, make sure to click the sign.

Top photograph by Tutsy Navarathna and all others by Kate Bergdorf

berg by nordan art: gallery changes

gallery-changes

As mentioned in a blog post a few weeks ago, there will be several changes made to Berg by Nordan Art, all effective starting April. First, I am happy to officially introduce Tutsy Navarathna as my co-manager and co-curator. Tutsy has already played an integral part in the gallery for the past years and it seems only fitting that he should now take on a more visible role. Our shared goal continues to be presenting you only with outstanding virtual art; photography, installations and machinima.  Gallery M, the permanent exhibit space for the artist Mich Michabo, will remain as is. Mich has been working on a new exhibit and I anticipate we will have the opening in a few months. The format of the Berg by Nordan Art gallery in the sky remains the same; we have four photographers per year, each showing their work for a period of three months. We will replace the current a bit dated gallery build with a new building by Abiss. L’annexe, which I have been using to exhibit my photographs, will become a space where Tutsy and I present collaborative work a few times per year. We have already started work on a new machinima. Last, but not least, I just received word that Meilo Minotaur and CapCat Ragu have graciously agreed to permanently exhibit their installations on the ground. We will see two or more new installations by them per year, the next one some time in May or June. I have been an admirer of the work by Meilo and CapCat since I first came to SL in 2009. It is a great honor for me that they accepted our offer to become resident artists. That is all for now. Please check this blog, or join the group Berg by Nordan Art inworld, for updates and announcements.

Photograph by Kate Bergdorf

illogism

There is a new exhibit, Illogism, by ChimKami, curated by Ux Hax and Romy Nayar, at MetaLES, that opened to the public yesterday. I could unfortunately not attend due to RL commitments, but was lucky enough to have received a sneak-peek preview a few days before. Let me tell you, if there was ever an upside-down world that made sense to me, it would be this one! First-time exhibitor Chim is off to an excellent start with this work, combining her 55 photographs as well as objects, poses and movement to produce an exhilarating whole. Visitors are encouraged to fly or use the Walker HUD for optimal experience; with it you can walk up walls and generally get a sense of being upside down and have a tilted and overall quite mesmerizing experience. I also adore the colors used in this installation; integrated with the rest, it simply leaves one smiling and feeling happy. See above for the machinima of this exhibit, put together by Tutsy Navarathna; it captures the installation so beautifully. Bravo to all for your contributions to this exhibit. It will be open until the end of February, head over before it is too late.

Penumbra opening at Berg by Nordan Art: A Machinima by Tutsy Navarathna

Tutsy  Navarathna has put together a machinima of the recent opening at Penumbra at Berg by Nordan Art that is nothing short of astonishing. The clever editing, combined with the gentle Indian composition Bombay Dreams by A.R. Rahman, beautifully capture the magic of the installation by Meilo Minotaur and CapCat Ragu. I know you will fall in love with this little film just like I did.

aisling at dathuil

equilibre

Currently at dathuil, curated by Lucy Diamond and Max Butoh, we have a great new group exhibit, Aisling (ASH-ling; vision, dream, apparition). On display at this show are 20 images by artists who previously showed their photographs at the gallery. These photographers were asked to contribute an image consisting of their interpretation of the theme of togetherness. The contributing artists, and their work(s) for the exhibit, are Gaus (cicciuzzo.gausman): Femme d’Essence, Togetherness; Mrs S (lauralar): Minimalism, Minimalism dark; Mr S. (saka.infinity): All About You; daze landar (daisydaze): A Show of Hands, His Warmth; Yann Whoa (lottomann): Dedication, Admiration; k a t e (katebergdorf): Beside Me; Your Mother (elizabethnantes): AtHome; Ash (ashratum): Bare Witness, Triangulation; Io (io.bechir): Waiting for Dawn, In Life a Slave In Death a Warrior; Maloe Vansant: Stand up for a new future; Mi (kissmi): Winter Undergrowth, Winter dog roses; and Joslyn.Benson (jolivea.tyran): and i’ve lost, stay close. There will be no formal opening for this show, but it is open to the public as of today and will remain in place until the end of January. Head over and take a look!

lucy-and-max-at-datuil

Top photograph of exhibit at dathuil by Tutsy Navarathna
Bottom photograph of Lucy and Max by Kate Bergdorf

merry christmas 2016

1

I am sitting here at my desk in front of the laptop with a very sleepy dog on the carpet next to me. It is snowing outside my window. It is the first heavy snowfall this winter and I can’t help but feel like a kid; there is this pull to run outside and play in the snow. But I’ll save that for later and focus on this post… As the year comes to an end it is time to reflect on time past and what lays ahead. Much happened at Berg by Nordan Art in 2016; we had remarkable exhibits and installations, exciting openings with music by DJ Eif (aka d-oo-b), machinima made by Tutsy Navarathna, and the Gallery M showing Mich Michabo‘s art was added as an integral part of the gallery. We held the monthly Paper Crown Passing Ceremonies, which were so whimsical and fun. Still to come this year, as usual a collaboration with my friend Huck Hax, the gallery retrospective publication, Berg by Nordan Art 2016. The gallery will continue to evolve in 2017 and there are several important changes planned, the most significant being a change from single to joint leadership when it comes to administration and curating. The gallery will also reduce in size; we will no longer be showing installations on the ground, a new gallery build will instead be situated on the ground and we will show photography only. What will remain the same, however, is our continued commitment to only showing the highest quality SL art. But more about this to come in the next several months. 2016 also brought other exciting things for me; an increased focus on Flickr photography, I joined the junk. and Clef de Pleau blogger teams, and worked together with Mich Michabo on the lovely Paper Crown events. I will be happy to continue devoting my time to all of this in 2017. Finally, on a more personal note, I made many meaningful connections with people in our virtual world this year, something I know will also continue happening in 2017. Because as we all know, even though we are all busy and sometimes don’t find time, it is ultimately the connections with others that make our individual SL experiences priceless. So Happy Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa everyone and I hope 2017 will be just as great as 2016!

Photograph by Kate Bergdorf

Tout est Allumé by Tutsy Navarathna

tout-est-allume-01

For those of you who have not yet seen the exhibit Tout est Allumé, by French artist Tutsy Navarathna at MetaLES, there is still time. This spectacular work, curated by Ux Hax and Romy Nayar, with technical assistance by ChimKami and Yoon, will be open until the end of the year. What we find here are six stories of machinima art, 35 movies all in all, made up of 16 machinima and 19 short animations. It would be a mistake to think of this as simply a retrospective of Tutsy’s machinima as there are several new shorter animations to be seen as well. All films are displayed on several levels and to me they somehow feel both separate and connected. The space surrounding the machinima consists of geometric shapes, some of are moving and some static. Translucent staircases connect the different floors. Crucial to the experience of this multidimensional work are of course the animations and music, which are set in continuous loops. There are poses and props, rain, umbrellas, a grand piano and much more, all contributing to a most unique and playful immersive experience.

tout-est-allume-02

This is a monumental installation and well thought out in its complexity. The visitor will want to come prepared to spend time. Tutsy has with this work integrated sound, movement and animation to create a sophisticated immersive whole and with it beautifully displays the notion of the virtual; virtual reality, augmented reality, virtual life, immersive worlds … these new words describe a part of our future. My movies in Second Life try to show how virtuality is part of our reality. The influence it has on our thoughts, our artistic creations, our friendly or romantic relationships. A phenomenon still very young, virtual life has a bright future and like all major revolutions it is worth to see more closely, trying to understand, even flying too close to the sun and burn your wings . . . Bravo Tutsy, this is truly a groundbreaking contribution not only to our SL world of art but also to the virtual community at large. Noteworthy is also that visitors to this exhibit will likely not have any technical difficulties at all. The machinima themselves are easy to play; simply place the cursor on the bar on the movie screen and press play, replay or stop. They can also be viewed on the web. It quite remarkable to me how these films can be played simultaneously inworld without the sound or the visuals of each machinima interfering with the other. Quite the technical challenge, congrats to all involved for mastering this aspect too. The recommended WL is midnight and draw-distance 200. There are illuminated lines and large arrows on the ground showing the way. Head over and take a look before this installation closes to the public in about two weeks. You will not want to miss it!

Photographs by Tutsy Navarathna