Metaversal City, interviewing RMB City curator Samantha Culp
The Beijinger, November 1st, 2008
interviewed by Venus Lau
After working for HK art organizations such as Para/Site and Videotage, 26-year-old American Samantha Culp came to Beijing earlier this year. As the project manager of RMB City – an online art community created by China Tracy (the avatar of Chinese artist Cao Fei) in the popular 3-D virtual world Second Life, Culp talked to the Beijinger about metaverses, the media and the state of Chinese art.
The Beijinger: RMB City is a new-media art piece. Innovations in media are often “driven by the desire to overcome mediation” – does RMB City work towards that end?
Samantha Culp: RMB City engages many forms of media at once. It exists in Second Life, which could be called the primary “medium” for the piece, but also encompasses video, writings, performance, social interaction and research. It acts as a bridge between “First” and “Second” lives, and is very much about confusing/connecting these divides. Obviously virtual worlds or metaverses like Second Life are a fairly new medium for art and cultural production, but I think they have a particularly interesting potential to challenge the typical “mediation” of more standard media.
TBJ: What interested you in the RMB City project?
SC: From the first time I heard about the project, I thought it was fascinating – it touched on so many things that interest me, from film and architecture to the blurred line between fiction and reality. It’s probably safe to say that no artist has ever done a project quite like this before, and therefore it seemed like a uniquely challenging yet exciting process to be a part of. It’s not every day you get the chance to help build a city in the clouds, so it seemed too rare an opportunity to pass up.
TBJ: How would you describe the Chinese art world?
SC: DIY energy with an establishment twist.
TBJ: Are there any conditions in Beijing that you have to consider before making curatorial decisions?
SC: RMB City is a very international project, with partners and networks spanning from Asia to Europe, and [more] importantly, the nature of Second Life hopefully creates conditions to skip over national boundaries. So in a way, it has its own distinct curatorial approach that is influenced by the various cultural contexts it touches, but doesn’t really belong to any one in particular.