The project Meta_Body was developed in response to an invitation to participate in the 2011 edition of the exhibition AMIW, its first out of Portugal.
In its sixth edition, the exhibition was shown in Vienna, Austria from November 3 until December 3, in the VBKÖ (Austrian Association of Women Artists) space.
This edition of AMIW was largely a continuation of the 2010 edition. Its subtitle was “Or Rather, What Can Words Do?” A question quoted from the book that was the thematic basis of the previous edition, the collective reading of the Novas cartas Portuguesas/New Portuguese Letters by Maria Isabel Barreno, Maria Teresa Horta and Maria Velho da Costa, as explained before.
The idea of metaphorical body, approached by us before, was continued and expanded to its full potential with the project Meta_Body.
The virtual experience of the body is not exactly an experience of the flesh. Albeit SL experiences have a perceptual and sensorial aspect, they continue to be experienced in our organic body, not in our avatar body. We could look at a very realistic virtual cake and salivate, but if our avatar eats it we won’t feel its flavor. We’ll have only the suggestion of taste… But that’s a lot!
The virtual body is a metaphorical body and therefore a body of expression and language.
We focused on this aspect, on project Meta_Body, thinking of the avatar as a body / language open to experimentation and possibility, providing eighteen avatars, which were not only offered, but were also copiable and transferable, giving total freedom of use to produsers.
They ranged from the realism of “Godiva” to the improbability of the “Meta Birds”, without yet become completely abstract, without losing its metaphorical dimension.
We speak of produsers instead of public, because the relationship they had with this project was one of creative participation, a component of the project. In the note we distributed along with avatars in SL, we invited people to participate in the project with their derivative work, sharing it with us in the Meta_Body groups in Flickr and Koinup. Stating also that from these groups would be made the selection of works to be displayed in Austria.
We exhibited not the avatars, but the derivative work. 120 works were selected and presented as virtual photography or machinima, with a total of 80 people integrating the project Meta_Body in AMIW.
Our selection tried to be as inclusive as possible and not based on criteria of personal “taste”, instead trying to sample the different sensibilities and cultures in the art of the metaverse and the different approaches to the original avatars. From pure virtual photographs (unedited) of the avatars, to original avatar photographs edited out of world, digital collages, stories based on avatars, machinima, documents of the transformation of avatars modified by mixing between components of the various avatars, the mixture components external to the project or even the transformation of the different components of the distributed avatars.
In Tim Deschanel’s proposal, for example, we see a mixture of one of the avatars, Chart Man, with external components, but photographed by a third person. Eupalinos Ugajin designed this reconstruction of the avatar, but Tim Deschanel photographed it. This image brings us several questions about authorship, originality, creative process and even the concept of a work of art. What is the work? The avatar we distributed? Eupalinos Ugajin’s avatar? Tim Deschanel’s photography? The project Meta_Body with a distributed authorship? Or are all these artistic moments in themselves to be considered in isolated, or integrated into the overall project?
Meta_Body II was the second phase of this project. Having the Meta_Body project avatars as a starting point, SL residents were invited to share their derivative avatars, using any of the parts of the Meta_Body project avatars, parts built by the users and/or parts built by other developers, since their specified license allowed redistribution with full permissions. All avatars had to be provided with full permissions, meaning that they had to be copyable, shareable and open for transformation.
22 creators built 26 new avatars, from well-known metaverse artists and designers to absolute new residents, trying SL and avatar building for the first time. These avatars are now being distributed at Delicatessen. For that purpose Meilo Minotaur and CapCat Ragu built four virtual installations, in homage to the avatars and their creators. Takio Ra was invited to make a sound intervention. All the sounds used in these soundscapes are also being shared with the residents with full permissions.