RMB City at “the shop” (Beijing, China)

Cao Fei’s RMB City project will appear in the first “edition” of “the shop”, a new experimental art/creative space in Beijing conceived and produced by Vitamin Creative Space.

Starting November 8, 2008, visitors to “the shop” can experience a corner devoted to RMB City, including videos, custom furniture, and can even pick up a preview of the upcoming People’s Monthly, the official newspaper of RMB City…

Read more details on Vitamin Creative Space’s blog. (more…)

Blog,Events,RL Events — Miniature Tigerpaw, November 3, 2008 @ 3:20 am

RMB in the News: The Beijinger

The Beijinger did a quick Q&A with RMB City Project Manager (SL: Miniature Tigerpaw) for its November issue, and touched on a few interesting questions…

“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?

Miniature Tigerpaw: 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.”

Read full interview here.

Blog — Miniature Tigerpaw, @ 2:26 am

RMB in the News: CIAC’s Electronic Magazine

In the recent issue of CIAC’s Electronic Magazine, no 31/2008, artist and academic Patrick Lichty (SL: Man Michinaga) has an interesting essay entitled Why Art in Virtual Worlds? E-Happenings, Relational Milieux, and “Second Sculpture”. In it, he considers the work of several prominent artists using Second Life and gives a very useful framework for viewing SL works in terms of RL art history. Excerpt below; read full article here.

In RMB City, Cao Fei plays with (dys/u)topia in assuming the role of a virtual developer for an interpretation of Olympic Beijing. The city contains virtual analogues of the Koolhaas’ CCTV headquarters, pandas on construction cranes, a Duchampian (Ferris) wheel and many other signifiers of emergent Beijing. In addition, Cao Fei, reflecting the opening real estate sales scenes of iMirror doubles the speculative aspect of the signified city by offering development opportunities in RMB.”

Blog — Miniature Tigerpaw, November 2, 2008 @ 3:34 am

Photo Souvenirs from RMB City

SL Resident Molly Montale has posted some very nice photos of her avatar in RMB City these days – looks like she even visited NO LAB in RMB City on the past two preview days.

no lab_002
Billboard chillin’
no lab_013

RMB City2_001

Blog — Miniature Tigerpaw, October 31, 2008 @ 5:45 am

NO LAB in RMB City – Prospect.1 New Orleans

NO LAB in RMB City
Cao Fei (SL: China Tracy) + MAP OFFICE (Gutierrez + Portefaix)

At Prospect.1 New Orleans

November 1, 2008-January 9, 2009 (Preview days: October 30 & 31)

“NO LAB in RMB City” is a new collaboration between Cao Fei (SL: China Tracy) and MAP OFFICE created for Prospect.1 New Orleans, the largest biennial of international contemporary art ever organized in the United States. A special section of Cao Fei’s RMB City, a virtual art community under construction in Second Life, has been transformed into a stark, surreal vision of New Orleans. Based on MAP OFFICE’s research and drawings about post-Katrina New Orleans, the NO LAB parcel of land is a similar investigation into the landscape (physical, cultural, historic) of this unique city.


Blog,News,RL Events,SL Events — Miniature Tigerpaw, October 24, 2008 @ 1:48 am

Black and White in Second Life (First Look at “NO Lab in RMB City”)

How a real tree becomes a photo…
A photo becomes a drawing…
A drawing needs 3D experimentation… And the 3D experiment finally transitions the tree into a whole new universe.

(First look at “NO Lab in RMB City”, for Prospect New Orleans opening Nov 1, 2008. First two images: Courtesy MAP Office)

Blog — Miniature Tigerpaw, October 20, 2008 @ 3:21 am

Virtual Forbidden City

Miniature Tigerpaw… in disguise as an “Imperial Woman” in the new 3D world “Virtual Forbidden City”
Earlier this week, blogs were abuzz with news of the Virtual Forbidden City launched by a partnership of IBM and Beijing’s National Palace Museum. Of course, RMB City Team decided that we had to take a look at this “other” online virtual rendering of a Chinese city…

Calling itself an “immersive 3-dimensional virtual world where you can celebrate and explore aspects of Chinese culture and history,” the downloadable software and online platform is of course, extremely similar to Second Life. But with some major differences. In the Virtual Forbidden City, you cannot customize your avatar, you cannot buy or sell anything, you cannot build anything… you cannot even fly.

Of course, for people who are new to virtual worlds (clearly the majority of the audience being targeted), this platform is an eye-popping introduction, and astoundingly easy to set up and enter. Visually, the city is astounding; so rich in detail that I wonder if avoiding prim limits is one reason they decided to build this project outside of Second Life. The interface is simple and intuitive (and the way it allows you to quickly change perspective, instead of grappling with mouse-look, is something I kind of wish SL offered). And it seems quite useful as an educational tool– there are pop-ups and extensive information about Chinese history and culture, similar to a real museum visit.

But it seems very much a passive experience. Yes, you can take some low-resolution screenshots (but cannot save them to desktop- you can email to yourself or a friend, but even then it just contains a link, not an attachment), and chat with other visitors, but you can’t really do anything else. Which is perhaps sufficient for a historical landmark, or the classic conception of a museum. It is a place to look at (but not touch) the past.

Since RMB City is more about the present, and the future (sometimes even we confuse the two), it seems vitally important that it exists in the larger metaverse and community of Second Life. I personally wish that the Virtual Forbidden City had been built in SL instead. A place that’s a little messy, a little dusty, but open to change and challenge. A place to foster real conversation and interaction. A place where you can re-mix the myths and dreams of your nation into something strange and new. And most importantly, a place where you can fly.

Miniature Tigerpaw... at home in the chaos of RMB City

Miniature Tigerpaw... at home in the chaos of RMB City

Blog — Miniature Tigerpaw, October 18, 2008 @ 12:44 am

RMB City/Yokohama Triennale in the Press

Courtesy of Lucy Birmingham

RMB City at Yokohama, featured in ARTINFO (Courtesy of Lucy Birmingham)

As the Yokohama Triennale hits the halfway mark, two recent articles give prominent mention to Cao Fei and RMB City’s “Play with Your Triennale” project.

Tokyo Artbeat‘s Rebecca Milner calls it a project “…that endeavors to facilitate a public space for creation, construction, and discourse on the current and future state of the real and the imagined.” Read the full article here.

In ARTINFO, writer Lucy Birmingham assesses the Triennale as a whole, and mentions how Cao Fei’s piece is a visitor favorite, alongside a photo illustrating just that. “On the other hand, the response has been more favorable… to Cao Fei’s virtual navigation RMB City Project, which invites players to help build her Second Life utopian art city.” Read the full article here.

Blog — Miniature Tigerpaw, October 14, 2008 @ 1:15 am

RMB in the News: Financial Times

A recent article in the Financial Times focuses on RMB City and the greater context of art in digital worlds.

“A fast-paced, pulsating vision, RMB City condenses contemporary urban China into an amalgam of symbols and icons, from shiny new skyscrapers to the much-loved panda,” writes Natasha Degen. Read the full article here.

Blog — Miniature Tigerpaw, @ 12:48 am

The Devil’s in the Details

Dormitory in the People’s Worksite- the amazing details eating into our prims…

It’s one of the hardest concepts for newcomers to SL to grapple with: prim limits.

A “prim” is short for “primitive”, and denotes the basic building block of Second Life. A simple shape like a pillow might be 1 prim, but to create an entire bed (let alone the room containing it), you will need different prims for the mattress, the bed-posts, the blanket, etc… And so on and so forth, up through the levels of complexity, until you hit the limit, which is currently 15,000 prims per SIM (the basic unit of land in SL). The reason for this is technical- I suppose at the basic level, prims take up space somewhere on Linden’s actual servers, and in general, the more complex a SL location gets, the longer it will take for your own computer to process it and allow normal interaction of your avatar.

The logic is understandable. But in some of my most frustrated moments, it almost feels like a canvas that has a finite, limited number of brush strokes you can use upon it. Or at least, a limited number of “tiny” brush strokes, with a higher number of “broad strokes” permitted. This seems to be one major reason why so many territories in SL look the same – basic building shapes covered with various flat textures.

Obviously, every art form, especially in its infancy, has these limitations. The 100-foot reel in early silent film. The size of original 78 gramophone records. The inability to build skyscrapers before the advent of the elevator. What’s interesting is that as technological advances keep breaking (or at least “pushing”) these limits, often people romanticize the creativity that the earlier restrictions fostered. In the age of cheap and nearly-infinite digital video, older filmmakers complain that younger ones have no discipline in shooting. “Dogme 95”, the mid-90s filmmaking movement spearheaded by Denmark’s Lars Von Trier, revolved around setting up “new” rules and “obstacles for filmmaking, as a way to force more innovation. Certain musicians and sound-artists try to re-emphasize the object of the “album” and its linear structure as a way to combat the modern, fragmented, mp3 free-for-all. Perhaps someday, when we have reached the era of infinite prims, we’ll look back upon these days of scrimping and saving, trying to make a tree from only 2 prims (that still sways in the breeze), as a golden time of dynamic problem-solving and pure creativity.

Blog — Miniature Tigerpaw, October 13, 2008 @ 1:04 am

Masterpieces of the Universe, Financial Times (UK)

Masterpieces of the Universe

Financial Times (UK), October 11th , 2008

by Natasha Degen

This month Cao Fei, one of China’s most lauded young artists, will open a city in the online virtual world Second Life. Its 10 leased buildings may be constructed from zeros and ones rather than concrete and steel but their prices are very real: they range from $80,000 to $200,000.

A fast-paced, pulsating vision, “RMB City”, condenses contemporary urban China into an amalgam of symbols and icons, from shiny new skyscrapers to the much-loved panda.

“The project comments on the current hyperactive pace of Chinese real estate development and urbanism, so it is fitting that the spaces of the city follow the market system conceptually,” Cao says.

Buildings are being leased to collectors and institutions with the expectation that buyers will programme events and activities in them. “As ‘RMB City’ is a huge art project in Second Life, it takes much funding,” she continues. “We had to find a way to realise it, so we decided to sell to collectors and institutions.”

After opening a sales office at the Art Basel Miami Beach art fair last year, Cao – whose Second Life avatar is called China Tracy – transformed New York gallery Lombard-Freid Projects into a real-estate showroom. According to gallery partner Lea Freid, all the photographs exhibited were sold and all the promotional videos (in editions of 10) have been placed in major collections, among them New York’s Museum of Modern Art, Minneapolis’s Walker Art Center and the Louis Vuitton collection. The project is now on display at the Serpentine Gallery in London.

“RMB City” is an example of the new collectability of internet-based art. Whereas web artists once worked outside, and even in opposition to, the art establishment, artists today make their internet-based pieces into objects that can be sold in galleries and displayed in museums and homes. Cao, for example, has sold photographic and video documentation of “RMB City”, as well as opportunities to participate in the project.

“‘RMB City’ is a new model for communication between collectors and artists in the virtual world,” says Guo Xiaoyan, chief curator of the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing. The Ullens Foundation has bought access to a building in the virtual city, and will host events in the structure for the duration of the project, until 2010. City-wide, Freid says, activities will run the “gamut of arts and cultural disciplines, from poetry readings to lectures to visual art displays”, rendering the city a 24-hour culture centre.

Cao Fei isn’t alone; more than 1,000 galleries exist in Second Life and many artists are using the online community to create art. Eva and Franco Mattes make portraits (at $10,000 a piece) of the avatars, or digital surrogates, that people create to participate in Second Life. They’ve also reenacted, again in Second Life, a series of historical performance art pieces, including Vito Acconci’s “Seedbed” and Marina Abramovic and Ulay’s “Imponderabilia”. Another duo, eteam – artists Franziska Lamprecht and Hajoe Moderegger – have maintained a public rubbish skip in Second Life for the last year, documenting the project with still images and text.

This new kind of web-based art reflects the phenomenon commonly known as Web 2.0. The term refers to the increasing interactivity of internet-based technologies, epi-tomised by websites such as Google and Wikipedia, in which users drive content. Web 2.0-style projects contrast with the subversive, hacker-like interventions that characterised the net art of the 1990s. These early artworks took the internet, then a new and uncharted technology, as their primary subject; the results ranged from parodies of famous websites to web-based flash animation to conceptual art embedded in a site’s source code.

The ascendency of the internet not only inspired artists but precipitated the dotcom boom, with its heady energy and soaring stock prices. Arts institutions flocked to internet art to “tap into the money of surrounding dotcom businesses,” says Julian Stallabrass, a reader at the Courtauld Institute of Art and author of the 2003 book Internet Art: The Online Clash of Culture and Commerce (Tate Publishing). Museums founded new media departments, and exhibitions of net art were mounted.

However, “around the time of the dotcom bust [in 2001], everyone pulled up their socks and readdressed the medium,” says Barbara London, associate curator in the department of media at MoMA. “We’ve taken our eyes off it but we can always return to it,” she says. MoMA continues to show internet art: last year’s Automatic Update , for example, reassessed the art of the dot-com era, revisiting first-generation web art now that the new media frenzy has fizzled. Still, no internet-based work can be found in the museum’s permanent collection.

Initially, as Stallabrass points out, “no one knew the value of these things or how to conserve them”, but today’s internet art is nonetheless following an established model. Much like video or performance art, virtual pieces are now being transformed into limited-edition objects that can be collected and displayed, even though the works are often readily available online.

“Part of the way we’re marketing internet art is by taking it offline,” says Bryce Wolkowitz, director of Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery in New York. “It becomes an art object by putting it on a data storage system like an external hard drive.” At Wolkowitz’s gallery, such works range in price from $10,000 to $20,000.

Vuk Cosic, a prominent first-generation web artist, explains: “What a collector buys from me is not really the piece of net art itself but a relationship with me. They get a contract with my signature, a copy of the piece and the right to list it in their annual reports and media.”

This saleable product suggests the importance of the object in collecting, even when the artwork is virtual.

Press — Miniature Tigerpaw, October 11, 2008 @ 1:19 am

“But Second Life is not a game…”

The American online magazine The Fanzine has an interesting new article on the controversial topic of addiction to online worlds. It’s entitled “Five Hundred Eighty-Six Days, Fourteen Hours, Forty-Six Minutes, Eleven Seconds”, the precise amount of time the writer, Michael Louie, spent playing Final Fantasy XI, and the ensuing narrative chronicles his own complex relationship with the game, as well as the larger context of this phenomenon. Of course, Second Life is “not a game”, as anyone involved will hasten to tell you, but it shares many obvious similarities with some of these other point-based environments. Perhaps most intriguing about Louie’s article is the spectrum of emotional engagement with the game he explores — from those driven by depression to bury themselves in the game, to a mother who uses it to stay close to her overseas daughter and son-in-law (stationed in Iraq). It’s clear that as virtual worlds continue to develop, so will the variety of positive and negative ways people find to interact with them… after all, why would it be any different from the real world?

Blog — Tags: — Miniature Tigerpaw, September 19, 2008 @ 11:35 pm

RMB City at SLCC

RMB City’s engineering team Avatrian was a sponsor of the SLCC (Second Life Community Convention) in Tampa, Florida, 5-7 September 2008, one of the key gathering-points of the greater Second Life community. There they displayed the first poster promoting RMB City’s grand opening in Fall 2008. Read more about the event at Avatrian’s blog.

Blog — Miniature Tigerpaw, @ 10:47 pm

A Virtual City by the Bay- RMB at Yokohama Triennale

After much preparation, the “Play With Your Triennale” arcade-box made its premiere at the opening of the 3rd Yokohama Triennale, on September 12th and 13th.

Cao Fei’s project for the Triennale uses RMB City as its medium, and is embodied both in the physical installation (inspired by the classic video-game arcade structure) and the People’s Worksite in SecondLife, a portion of the still-under-construction city that was opened for this event. Via SecondLife, anyone from around the world can participate in the Triennale – by visiting virtually at any time, and also by submitting their creative ideas for possible realization in the Worksite over the Triennale period.

On the opening days, visitors young and old came by and played with the exhibition… but perhaps the most excited were the kids, who jumped on the keyboard and within seconds were discovering the joys of flying in SecondLife. If you visit the People’s Worksite these days, make sure to say hello or こんにちは (“konnichiwa”) to Yokohama Lemon, the official avatar of the RMB City terminal at Yokohama… you may find yourself talking to some young, eager Triennale visitor as cute as the one below!

See more photos in the Flickr Sets here and here.


Blog — Miniature Tigerpaw, September 18, 2008 @ 3:24 am

Bonniers Konsthall (Stockholm, Sweden)

Sep 17, 2008 – Dec 21, 2008

“Sprout from White Nights” at the Bonniers Konsthall in Stockholm, Sweden, focuses on “young Chinese artists at the interface of thousand-year old traditions and new technology,” and featured Cao Fei’s RMB City in a dedicated room with terminals for visitors to access the city under construction. During the opening days, many journalists and visitors were able to chat live with China Tracy via SL in RMB City.

Blog,News,RL Events — Miniature Tigerpaw, September 17, 2008 @ 1:14 am
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