A short abstract: like many I was “born” in Second Life some years ago, in 2008, and immediately I was lucky to discover, in addition to the game, that the virtual world of Linden Lab could serve as an ideal tool for new forms of artistic expression. Among the blogs I was following at the time (and still occasionally go to see to remind me of what SL has shown) there was NPIRL (Not possibile in RL), edited by Bettina Tizzy (aka Beverly Milson, a US PR with a passion for art and virtual worlds) and Alpha Auer (aka Elif Ayiter, co-director of the department of Interactive Graphics Sabancy University of Istanbul, chief editor of Metaverse Creativity and herself an artist, designer and researcher in Second Life). The NPIRL project ended with the departure of Bettina November 2009 but Alpha/Elif is still continuing her experiments and researches in Second Life, as evident from her very active album on Flickr. So I decided to ask for an interview and she was very kind and has given me.
Luciana Pinazzo: You are a famous SL artist, how is that you start using Linden Lab’s online platform and how do you feel regarding these last years (you see some evolution or on the opposite you think the “great future” is now behind the shoulders)?
Alpha Auer: I guess I went into Second Life like most other people, I was just curious. In the beginning I was quite disappointed, would have left actually. But then I made friends with a bunch of crazy avatars, started to play like crazy (play like a child I mean) and stayed. And then all the play led to making things that I could play with – such as the island Syncretia. But that didn’t start happening until almost a year later.
And to answer the second part of your question. I think we are only at the beginning of virtual worlds. Although it is of course hard to predict how it will all evolve. But I think at its best it will hopefully always be a mixture of play and creativity.
LP: I discovered you, I must admit, thanks to the work of Bettina Tizzy and your blog, Npirl (which still is one of my favourite, despite it is frozen since a couple of years). How was to collaborate with Bettina and have you ever hoped to do something new with her again? Or with other talented artist/communicators like her?
AA: Bettina and I are still very much in touch via Skype and email in RL. We even have a tentative plan to meet next Fall in the flesh since she plans on coming to Europe for a few weeks. She is one of the greatest people I have met in a very long time, both in and out of the metaverse. And yes, I would love to do something with her again, and I am sure at some point we will do so.
LP: (Wonderful, let’s crossing fingers!) Do you think there are still some cool emerging artist in Second Life? Or what is now the most intriguing 3D online platform/editor for those who like to develop some new artistic projects (Deviantart? Rez 3D? Other virtual worlds? Or something totally different)?
AA: Oh yes, absolutely, but don’t ask me for names, I am awful with names. And the list would be too long anyway, there so many really great content creators these days. Too many to count. Although I will give a couple of names anyway, I guess: my good buddy Eupalinos Ugajin would be one, and then Simotron Aquila… and Maya Paris (although she has been around for a while now, I think). One thing which I am very happy to see also is that as it evolves further metaverse art is nevertheless maintaining its playfulness and humor. In terms of other places I think OpenSim (where I have also migrated to btw) will become increasingly more viable. I am not terribly enchanted with Cloud Party (the new “user generated content” virtual world of Cory Ondrejka based on Facebook, ndr), because of the mesh thing. It will stop a lot of people (including myself) from going there. Life is too short for all that software learning, the beauty of SL (and the whole metaverse) is that it allows everyone (regardless of background) to become creative, and then you get all the amazing and wonderful diversity which makes it all so special.
LP: Which are your main projects at the moment?
AA: I don’t really ever have projects in that sense you know? I mostly play around and at some point it turns into something – or not, as the case may be. So, I guess am making stuff for the shop (Alphatribe, ndr), although a bit more sporadically these days, and then I am sort of building around atNGrid (there are images on Flickr).
LP: What kind of advices can you give to new young artists interesting in digital art (and in virtual worlds in particular)? And how to evade virtuality and let real audience be interested in “virtual art”: is it a problem of galleries, of marketers, of critics… or of what?
AA: My advice to anyone is to first and foremost really and truly have fun while they are making stuff. And make stuff for fun. Not to think of art with a capital A, or this or that: just do it and let the rest take care of itself. And as for virtual world art, if the ambition is to get attention in RL, then I would say that this is a difficult undertaking in virtual worlds – then I would make art in RL. And this, as far as I can judge, has nothing to do with curators and galleries etc, but rather it is in the nature of the thing itself, I think: At its very best, for me, virtual world art is about making ecologies (like Immersiva for example , or Screamer or Delicatessen) that people will almost “live in” for a while – play games, take photos, make videos, all kinds of things… Creativity in virtual worlds begets creativity, that is the beauty of it. But that takes time, lots and lots of time. And sadly, RL does not have that sort of time. Art gets very quickly consumed in RL. In the metaverse however, art grows on people very slowly until they become a part of it somehow, and it reflects in their own creativity.