Friday, November 18, 2011

"1000 Avatars" Reaches a New Milestone with Second Volume to be Published


Are You Your Avatar?
2000 avatar portraits explore identity in online environments

The largest ever documentation of Second Life® avatars has reached another milestone.

Gracie Kendal, Los Angeles artist, Kristine Schomaker, in real life, has photographed her 2000th avatar and she has declared the project finished, at least for now.

Begun in October 2010, the 1000 Avatars Project is part of Gracie's ongoing examination of online identity and anonymity. Her inworld exhibition space on Coyote is stunning and humbling with its complexity of portraits of avatars from all corners of Second Life.

“In the portraits, I explore the representation of the avatar as a construct, distinct from any traditional notion of the self,” says Gracie. “I examine the sitter’s identity and probe below the avatar surface to reveal and comment upon their character, personality and their diversity.”

In June of this year, Gracie released a fine art book of the first thousand avatar portraits. 1000 Avatars Volume 1 was well received by the Second Life community and now Gracie is preparing to release the second and final volume of the series.

In volume 1, avatars are shown from the back, the way we view our own avatar in most situations, but also expressing the desire for anonymity in our virtual environment. In volume 2, however, Gracie has shown avatars in the traditional front view.

It was after the publication of 1000 Avatars Volume 1, that the Google corporation inadvertently set off a battle for online anonymity, the so-called “nym wars”, with the release of Google+. Both Facebook and Google+ were cancelling “fake” accounts of  persons choosing to use avatar representations of themselves online.

“I realized I needed to show these people as strong, brave souls who are proud of their online identity,” Gracie says. “I felt showing each avatar in full front portraits was a way to stand up to these big online companies who are trying to take away our privacy."

1000 Avatars Volume 2 includes essays by virtual reality researcher, Garrett Cobarr, and Point Park University photography professor, Patrick Millard, who place the project in social and art history context.

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