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‘Money bubbles’: experience the 2nd project of ‘People’s Limbo’

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After some time spent in the mysterious and enigmatic interiors or RMB City’s People’s Bank, surrounded by divine presences, phantoms of economic disasters and beneficial fluxes of regenerating energy I’ve finally teleported myself to the second setting of ‘People’s Limbo’ project: the ‘economic cauldron’ in ‘People’s Love Center’, that is the emblematic floating panda of RMB City. You can either reach it by flying over the city or using the ‘Limbo 1’ teleporting command on the golden statue of the Virgin Mary.

The first reaction when you enter inside the giant panda is a childish outburst of excitement: you fly above the ancient copper vase, take a deep breath and when you’re ready to let yourself go you stop flying and get bounced up and down by the money bubbles for an indeterminate period of time and following unpredictable trajectories.

We all know, though, that our bothersome adult consciousness lies in wait for the right moment to muck up the party and so you gradually start catching the metaphorical meaning of the whole scene: you’re in a panda, a symbol of peace and the ‘diplomacy animal’ for some time between China and other Countries but also an endangered species, and you actually get bounced by banknote balls that all of a sudden burst and let you fall from the sky and crash on the ground…it’s a tragicomic interpretation of the crisis: one moment you profit by money speculations and favourable economic cycles and ‘fly high’, and the moment after everything collapses and you need to get on your feet again.

Many questions still have to be answered in this second phase of my journey but at least I’m starting to collect some hints, and while reading the instructions board of the ‘money bubbles’ I realize this is not actually just an ancient vase but a religious ‘burner for processing elixir of Tai Shang Lao Jun, the highest Taoist God’…this game is also my cathartic stage -I think- my purification ‘limbo’, a highly necessary proof in order the rebalance the world equilibrium and stabilize my internal Qi.

Are you ready to face this adventure and jump into the cauldron?

Blog — Gianna Yebut, June 5, 2009 @ 1:21 am

Sweet (virtual) dreams!

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While having my breakfast this morning I realized, honestly a bit worried, that last night I dreamt about SL. I haven’t got to the point of thinking myself as my avatar ‘Gianna’ or communicating with my friends via chat yet (but I’m also sure this will happen soon or later…), nevertheless, in my dream I was flying over my Italian hometown with the typical SL movements, that is with the common ‘follow’ mode (the camera behind and slightly above my avatar), ascending and descending abruptly (I’m honestly still very clumsy in my new life), running into ghost buildings that suddenly materialize on my way and clicking on my ‘stop flying’ command to finally land on the top of my house.

This is quite intriguing, I thought, and very interesting too because it reflexes and it is symptom of the invasive way in which virtual worlds, digital webs and network data enter in and connect with our real life and real space. From a sociological and anthropological point of view our ways of communication and socialization have changed completely and this is especially due to the wide spread of social web services, such as Facebook, Twitter or SL or the everyday use of technological instruments such as mobile phones, GPS receivers or webcams. As long as the world evolves we also conform to these new changes and try to adapt ourselves to the standards: our relation with space, time and people has been changing enormously in the last decades to the point that it would be unimaginable nowadays to arrange appointments without mobiles or e-mails or to use a paper map in order to reach a place.

Aram Bartholl, an original young German artist, through his peculiar artistic projects, raises consciousness on these sociological issues and explores the way in which our real lives have been recently modified by the advent of new technologies and virtual communities.

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Have a look at his website (http://www.datenform.de/indexeng.html) and pick up your favourite project! Mine is ‘Speech Bubble’, an exhilarating performance in which participants were to pick up messages that party visitors did post digitally at a party at Plazes platform, and bring these messages back to the user in form of a physical object.
This is the world upside-down: virtual conventions becoming models for real life games!….And it’s great fun! Check it out!

Blog — Gianna Yebut, June 3, 2009 @ 3:00 am

Recipe of the day: to build up a city you need…

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What makes people live, die and even kill in the name of a Nation? How does Benedict Anderson theories of ‘imagined communities’ apply to a virtual world? RMB City and other SL realities need to be founded as RL cities are, or do they apply to a different logic of existence, balance and survival?

I don’t know the answers to these questions and I think it all depends on the needs and goals of any different virtual project…RMB City could become a showcase for artists and creative minds to show off their talents, it could be a stage for different trade and commercial activities, it could attract interests and provoke indifference but I personally still think that RMB City, as its own name registers, needs to be thought as a real, anthropological entity made of citizens sharing some common principles, faith and expectations and consequently still needs some essential elements to be laid for its stable foundation.

The birth of a new city and a new civilization must be built on something more than the mere defence from a common enemy or the mutual exchange of goods and services, and this is especially true in the case of virtual realities where you don’t normally need to bother about external threatens or perilous dangers. This is exactly the point: what brings people together if there is no fear and no need for self-conservation? Behind a virtual world’s artificiality there are real men, there are ideas, there are dreams and expectations that could turn out to be interesting and valuable in the construction of any kind of community. We should therefore find the proper ‘ingredients’ to build up this new community; this is particularly important in the modern multicultural context, where cultures and identities get lost in the huge macrocosm of globalization and it is also specifically urgent in contemporary China, a place of thousand-year traditions whose past has partially been erased from history books, though.
From this perspective, RMB City could also be used as an opportunity for contemporary China to redeem itself from the obscurantism of the past and start writing its alternative history anew.

If it is possible, this is my fundamental ‘recipe’ for the making of a new society:

a big handful of fantasy
three grains of Ancient M
yth (cosmogony, fratricidal fights and semidivine nature of the founder), three grains of Modern Myth (Childhood-as-Poet, Marylin Monroe, Libertė-Egalitė-Fraternitė)
a patron saint to whom pay homage every festivity
a past and a future
a founding text
a common language (what about sign language)?
a handful of utopic desires
a spoonful of transgression (useful to any society to regenerate itself)
a slice of sociality and free exchange of opinions
a copy of ‘The Noble Savage’ by Rousseau to believe (naïvely) in human goodness
a copy of Hobbes’ ‘Leviathan’ to keep in mind our animal nature: bellum omnium contra omnes
the complete edition of ‘Lost’ tv series for fun and as a modern reinterpretation of ancient myths and superstitions

Suggestions and new recipes are warmly welcomed.

Blog — Gianna Yebut, May 25, 2009 @ 9:19 pm

Money, faith and Chinese medical remedies: experience the new ‘People’s Limbo’ projects!

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In adverse times of economical and social tribulations we can either complain and grieve over our dramatic fate or we can dust ourselves off and use the secret weapon of irony and playfulness in response.

I chose the second option and flew towards the first location of new RMB City project ‘People’s Limbo’: the Bank of China tower, also called ‘People’s Bank’.
Still crackling with enthusiasm in the outside area for the recent ordination of our new Mayor, its interior displays a highly intense icastic figure of faith and spiritualism: a huge golden statue of the virgin Mary ‘mapped’ on its surface with a sort of acupuncture web. The ten points drawn in the map actually relate to every single project of ‘People’s Limbo’ and by running the mouse over each point one gets teleported to a different related scene.
This mysterious place wanted to tell me something, I’m sure of that but still uncertain is the answer…inside its golden shining walls I expected to find cash and cheques but there’s only this enigmatic figure of Christianity enwrapped in Chinese traditional believes….I’m sure this is a message: should I count on faith and believe God will find a way out of this uncertain situation or should I find better answers in Chinese medical philosophy and re-equilibrate my interior harmony?

My life is in limbo and I’m waiting for some answers.
Any utopia demands for some sacrifices and any rebirth needs a process of purification…I’m waiting to experience the next step of ‘People’s Limbo’ to get some more clues on the solution.

Blog — Gianna Yebut, May 20, 2009 @ 11:17 pm

Immortal Art? Support the ‘Will your work’ initiative!

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‘Art is man’s distinctly human way of fighting death’ says the American painter and sculptor Leonard Baskin; this post is to sustain the immortality of Art and specifically to suscribe to Bettina Tizzy’s proposal of establishing one day to encourage content creators to “Will your work”. This is her proposal:

About two weeks ago, virtual artist Vanfarel Kupfer died. Had he not left copies of most of his work (no trans, no mod) with his virtual girl friend, Native Aeon, his only legacy would be what is currently rezzed today.
Avatars in Second Life devote thousands of hours to creating content, and all that work is LOST when they die. Yes, even if they backed up that work by giving it to an alt. Even if they gave their account password to someone. When you die and unless you have taken appropriate measures, no one, not even Linden Lab, can legally access your work. It is simply lost forever.
I have been in communication with Linden Lab regarding the correct procedure for “willing” one’s artwork – or for that matter, any assets – in SL. Legally, the correct and ONLY procedure boils down to this: https://support.secondlife.com/ics/support/default.asp?deptID=4417&task=knowledge&questionID=4265

In a nutshell, I propose that we establish one day a year, May 18, to encouraging content creators to “Will your Work.”
The goal would be to celebrate Van’s art while at the same time encouraging people to either give copies of their work to one or more avatars (not their alts) whom they trust, or add them to their Real Life will.
Also on May 18 and for one week, and working with his beloved Native Aeon, Vanfarel Kupfer’s work will be exhibited at four locations: his former home sim, EnLuminaria, the Crescent Moon Gallery, the Blackwater Gallery, and Chakryn Forest. Understandably, Native is still very much in mourning over her loss, and when I asked her how I could help, she stated that her greatest wish is that Vanfarel’s work become known throughout the grid. So be it.’

I would like to sustain Bettina’s proposal and maybe ask our fellow bloggers and visitors of RMB City website to leave a comment on the tricky issue of the immortality of virtual art and pay homage to Kupfer’s work.
As for myself, I totally agree with the general idea of living wills (as I actually do also in RL) but I also would like to raise a question: wouldn’t it be possible that the original intention of an artist is to let his art vanish together with himself?
Do we still have to believe in the immortality of Art (in regards to this subject I suggest the reading of the marvelous Keats’ ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’) or is it also possible to consider it as an eternal and ever-changing flux of energy and renewal? http://www.bartleby.com/101/625.html

Bettina Tizzy’s blog: http://npirl.blogspot.com

Blog — Gianna Yebut, May 14, 2009 @ 11:03 pm

Virtual reincarnations

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Skipping through the huge amount of articles, manuals and essays I have been recently reading on virtual worlds and SL community, I have found out that the term ‘avatar’ is actually the Sanskrit word for ‘godly incarnation’ or ‘descent’. This is just a curiosity but still the definition strikes me as quite important.

First of all, I am wondering why, amongst all the languages of the world, Sanskrit has been chosen as the depositary of the meaning? And secondly, I am trying to think how this original definition connects to the actual concept of your-secondlife-self…

Sanskrit is an archetypal language, it has a very long history (apparently even longer than Chinese) and it is the best-preserved indo-European idiom thanks to the Veda and still nowadays one of the eighteen languages recognized by the Indian constitution. It is also of course the original language of Hinduism, religion predicating as one of its most important pillars of faith the theory of reincarnation and karma.
Both ‘samsara’ (reincarnation in Sanskrit) and ‘avatar’ are therefore specific Hindu words referring to a change or re-birth to a new (in the second case even lower) realm of existence. Is therefore your SL avatar a mere inferior replica of you real self? And most of all, do we really ‘replicate’ ourselves only through virtual worlds and role-playing games or do we maybe do it every day also in RL? Am I the exact same person in a formal business meeting at work and going karaoke night with my intimate friends?

Everybody in his everyday, ordinary life wears masks and creates social ‘avatars’ of himself in order to interact with different social situations.
With regard to this concept, I would like to suggest some readings of a famous 20th Century Nobel Prize Italian novelist and theatre writer called Luigi Pirandello and his interesting theory of the mask (http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/1934/pirandello-bio.html)

Blog — Gianna Yebut, May 10, 2009 @ 11:15 pm

Literary constructions

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While still exercising my avatar in SL (my current mission now and for the next few days is learning how to gesticulate) I came across a sentence of a novel I’m reading in my RL which struck me because of its perfect definition of ‘heterotopy’:

‘We want here, we want now, we want the Island, but we also want magic. We want our Visitors to feel that they passed through a mirror –regarding this Carrollian reference I’ve also posted a pic of me in a SL Alice’s Wonderland– that they have left their own worlds and entered a new one, different yet strangely familiar, where things are not done as in other parts of the inhabited planet, but as if in a rare dream’ (Julian Barnes, England England, 2008, London: Vintage, p.120) www.julianbarnes.com

This is a science fictional novel about the construction of a giant amusement park that duplicates the tourist spots of England and should represent the authentic ‘Englishness’ of the country. It is an enjoyable book, a discussion and parody on the invention of cultural tradition and on the questionable notion of historical authenticity.
Does RMBCity with its symbolical buildings and spots represent the authentic ‘Chineseness’ of the Republic, should it actually do it, how does it connect to real China and how more constructed than reality is it (if it is at all)? I leave all these questions open to discussion and in the meantime go back to my new SL clumsy attempts of gesticulation.

Blog — Gianna Yebut, April 27, 2009 @ 11:53 pm

Coming into being in a new world

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It may sound like an inconclusive generalization but I am almost sure that anybody, if given the possibility, would take the chance of experiencing a new birth, exploring ‘another world’, making up a new existence and exerting the power of controlling every single aspect of a new life.

My immediate thoughts when I first entered the heterotopical, virtual space of Second Life and RMBCity went to all the complicated academic literary issues I studied in the past (Foucault’s essay on ‘heterotopy’, utopianism and science-fictional studies etc.etc.).

As a new intern for RMBCity project I am now exploring, honestly for the first time (maybe second?) the immense virtual place of SL and I am now starting to realize how much fun it can be and at the same time how complicated it actually is to re-enact my second birth in a new unknown world (I don’t really have memories about my first one!).

I therefore set aside all my philosophical queries for a while and instead concentrate on far more down-to-earth subjects like learning how to walk, jump or speak (I’m almost sure the extremely diabolical deus ex machina behind SL intentionally meant every initial step in this world to be terribly difficult to learn, so as to re-create the actual troubles a newly born real creature suffers!).

After a while spent in my original homeland I immediately feel the curiosity to teleport my avatar, my alter-ego, my second-me (is it maybe more real, I am wondering, than my real-me…?) to RMBCity and magically find myself in the central City Hall (teleporting, compared to other more ‘realistic’ actions is surprisingly very easy to perform) and WOW!…..imagine my surprise when I find myself in this surreal cosmo-Chinese land surrounded by jumping fishes, Beijing architectural symbols dangling in the sky, ‘dream umbrellas’ and many other stimulating and magical situations! I cannot trust my eyes! I’ve finally found a place where I can give vent to my creative dreams. In this place you can refresh your imagination and get to think on a different, maybe higher and more ambitious level, Dante already wrote about that many centuries ago (and here, I’m sorry but both my literary and my national background come to the fore!) in the marvelous Ulysses-canto (Inferno, Canto XXVI): you must overcome your own limits and keep on pushing forward your own goals in order to get knowledge, and I think this new world of RMBCity may be the ideal place to start my virtual explorative journey.

‘Consider your breed;/ you were not made to live like beasts,/ but to follow virtue and knowledge’!

Bye

Blog — Gianna Yebut, April 25, 2009 @ 2:37 am
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