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

RMB City: NO LAB, New Orleans Biennale Preview Day 1

Today is the preview day for the NO venue, as Avatrian-our building team is busy building the People’s Palace

in a distance, many visitors came to the No venue including RMB City’s freinds Hamlet Au, Zafka Zimminy…

Blog — Ume Freiman, October 30, 2008 @ 2:46 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

Unexpected ‘visitors’ in RMB City

While there are ‘limitations’ in RL, mostly they are invisible. You might sometimes want to ignore them or want to try and see if you can get away from them, and of course, you’ll ‘get caught’. Like i always wanted to skip classes when I was a student; that means I always had bad results from my classes.

In SL, limitations are limitations. If you are not permited to enter certain sims, you just can’t. There are actully red lines to tell you that. Right now most part of RMB City has not open to public yet, but we always have unexpected ‘intruders’ in the People’s Water Park and People’s Observation Wheel. As you can see from the snapshot, this area is high above the RMB City sims, and here, you don’t have the right to limit others from flying over it– though they cannot land.

Blog — Ume Freiman, October 23, 2008 @ 3:36 am

Underwater communities, aesthetics of a “storm” and its practice in virtual worlds

Longtime friend of RMB City Zhang Anding (SL: Zafka Zimminy, formerly Zafka Ziemia) recently mentioned the upcoming “NO LAB in RMB City” project in his “Parallel Worlds” column for Urban China magazine. In his article, he discusses the issues of disaster and collective memory in virtual worlds, and also analyzes an underwater community in HiPiHi. Excerpt in Chinese and English below:

“The ability of 3D virtual world to manipulate time and space as a whole, far exceeding the 2D world. It provide a new meaning for the projection of human being’s collective memory  and the  collective cognitive.

Cao Fei’s Virtual New Orleans, mixed the logic of natural disaster and the logic of political and economic

together. Using such a way of public assembly, to re-awareness and reflect on the relatinonship between the environment and human behavior.” (Read the whole essay in the new issue of Urban China)



水下社区,风暴美学与虚拟世界再实践—-文  / 张安定(Zafka)



Blog — Ume Freiman, October 22, 2008 @ 11:42 pm

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 Construction Report

RMB City is under intensive construction now, here, from the city plan images and city live images from SL,

lets feel the forming of your city.

Blog — Ume Freiman, October 17, 2008 @ 11:15 pm

RMB City at Frieze Art Fair (London, UK)

As part of the preview of Vitamin Creative Space‘s ‘the shop’, opening in Beijing this November, four of RMB City’s construction videos are now showing at Frieze Art Fair.

“a better life: the shop for Frieze Art Fair 2008” Wednesday October 15-Sunday October 19

Featuring: Cao Fei (SL: China Tracy): Media Center of RMB City and RMB City Construction Video Program

Stand F26, Frieze Art Fair, Regent’s Park London

Blog,News,RL Events — Ume Freiman, @ 10:41 pm

Yokohama Triennale 2008: Cao Fei, Tokyo Art Beat

Yohohama Triennale 2008: Cao Fei

Tokyo Art Beat, October 1st , 2008

by Rebecca Milner

Venturing into the virtual spaces of Second Life, the Chinese artist invites you to “Play with your Triennale”. On the second floor of the Red Brick Warehouse, I made my first trip into Second Life. It almost didn’t happen; I was doubling back around looking for the Cao Fei exhibit when I spotted the entryway. Being familiar with some of the Chinese artist’s other work, particularly her photographs and videos that chronicle China’s youthful diversions (their adoption of cosplay and hip hop dance for example), I did not immediately recognize the computer terminal as her piece. To be honest, I thought it was one of those information portals that are commonplace in museums, train stations, and tourist areas these days.

Cao Fei’s piece is titled Play with your Triennale and it takes place in a Second Life space created by the artist known as RMB City. This virtual city (RMB is the Chinese national currency) is a project – over a year in the making – that endeavors to facilitate a public space for creation, construction, and discourse on the current and future state of the real and the imagined. Yet one with a noticeably Chinese slant: areas are given names such as “People’s Neo Village,” “People’s Slum”, and “People’s Love Center” and visitors will recognize distinct sights like the Three Gorges reservoir, the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, and the Olympic “Bird’s Nest” stadium, though patched together as per the artist and her team’s surreal vision.

For the Triennale, the artist created a designated area in the “People’s Worksite” designed for audience participation and play. Here visitors can explore a space resembling a Chinese construction zone, detailed down to the makeshift bunks, and chat with the artist herself and the curators for the event in avatar form. As it looked at the opening preview the work site wasn’t much more than a field of dirt, a nice wide open space where one could practice trying out the controls, although there is a briefly amusing video embedded of the animated curators doing YMCA karaoke. But it is just that, a work site, in development. RMB City doesn’t officially open to the public until later in October, so what early visitors to the Yokohama exhibition have been treated to is essentially a preview, as well as the chance to become involved themselves. As the event progresses Cao Fei plans to fill in the rough space with select audience generated “Yokohama Dream Proposals.”

Any visitor from the general public is free to muse on this idea of having a hand in shaping a world where technically anything is possible. Technically, but not actually, and here in lies the catch: RMB City offers the freedom to imagine but it is not anarchy, the artist ultimately selects which projects are realized. Likewise, citizenship in the city is not to be taken lightly, as the “City Hall” requires a commitment in the form of a pledge of allegiance from avatars to RMB City. A dictatorship of sorts yes, but fair enough, she did make it and as the project advances and grows it will be interesting to see just what kind of ruler an artist overseeing a virtual community turns out to be.

Over time, Cao Fei intends to collaborate with real world art institutions and individuals around the globe, bringing in like-minded entities to develop in the city as per their own vision. Beijing’s Ullens Center for Contemporary Art already has a building and another is in the works for the influential Swiss collector of contemporary Chinese art Uli Sigg. Buildings, however, are reported to cost around $100,000.

This is not RMB City’s first appearance at a large-scale art exhibition. The project made its debut at the 10th Istanbul Biennale in September of last year and held a “virtual real estate sale” at Art Basel Miami Beach that December. Nor is access limited to the art world, if you have a high-speed Internet connection, a sophisticated enough computer, and a Second Life login (free), you can visit RMB City anytime from any part of the world. Videos of the project’s development have even been posted on YouTube.

Considering the Triennale’s theme of ‘Time Crevasse,” which seeks among other things to examine the simultaneity and multiplicity of time and space and, through an emphasis on live performance, the singularity of the artistic moment, Play with your Triennale makes a striking contribution by bringing in the virtual world, along with universal themes like urbanization and identity, to the discussion table. Never mind that the majority of the art establishment may not know what to make of it: navigating Second Life requires a set of skills not found in an art history textbook.

RMB City also takes a rare, enthusiastic stand on the influence/invasion of technology in contemporary society, showing just what potential it holds. If the title Play with your Triennale is being at all facetious then it is more than likely poking fun at the solid, staid institution of the triennale itself. Although in many ways the goals of Yokohama and RMB City are similar: to brand a space as a global art capital and attract the requisite international collection of artists, curators, critics, and fans to demonstrate its relevance. Play with your Triennale however, by not only imploring audience participation but also by hanging its very outcome on that contribution, makes itself measurably vulnerable to viewer caprices, and that, despite the slick digital veneer, wields a certain fragile beauty of its own.

Press — Ume Freiman, October 14, 2008 @ 2:04 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, @ 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

How a RMB City member spend the workday

RMB City archive editor compared the data from one of the computer in the RMB City workday before and after the National day. In the late Sep and early Oct, you can see that in daily work, the visual software and the word processors are the major applications occupying member’s work.

At October 5-6, Communication was prior than System Utilities at August 28-30, even though Categories of Business/Design were the same top 2. Following were the similar categories like Reference/Personal Productivity/Fun.

Then when comparing the applications and sites, the former one were similar, Word or Excel, Photoshop or Illustrator/ Powerpoint, Finder was always open. The latter one varied a lot.

Blog — Sinohkapa Fhang, October 9, 2008 @ 10:52 pm