Requiem for MacGrid

macGRID has closed down.

BBMC and the Odyssey project have been very grateful to enjoy access to online space on macGRID, multidisciplinary simulation research network and platform — a project of MacMaster University¬† — and are sad to see it go the way of all virtual worlds. Odyssey members enjoyed access to space on the independent grid as both a studio and presentation space. Many thanks to Ian Murray and David Harris Smith for their generosity and support of the work of BBMC/Odyssey artists.

Over the last years, Odyssey artist Alan Sondheim created work prolifically on macGRID. The following piece, “Requiem for MacGrid by Alan Sondheim, offers thoughts, documentation and insights from years of working on this platform as a performer, musician and artist.

Requiem for MacGrid

by Alan Sondheim

Gone now, whole worlds disappeared…
Thanks to David Smith, Ian Murray, many many others
Some notes, from all forms, all times, thinking the MacGrid –
There were anomalies
Large-scale installations
visual data representation – empathetic identifications – the mocap
work social experimentation – four dancers into one avatar for
example psychological experimentation – “reading” the modified
avatar –
identified as human or organism?
identified as wounded or dancing?
governance issues – how may an ultimately pliable space be justly
governed? issues of permissions, power, secrecy, disruption.
GLITCH: 1, the use of glitch in virtual
worlds and how it extends avatar possibilities; 2, where glitch
kills – errors which give glitch an abject edge; 3, glitch in my
motion- capture work; 4, psychoanalytics of glitch; 5, glitch and
programming – ‘not a bug but a feature.’
First explorations of MacGrid: The Albatross
The MacGrid is a massive server farm, I entered
into alien territory, albatross have colonized
there already, towards the eastern end of the
small experimental space _which they will not
relinquish,_ placing instead mournful cries of
ontological containment at the very edge of the
seawall-landwall; it is here that I found them
and traveled among them, in such limited space
that it were not possible I would return home-
ward, or that the comforts of home were even
among the possible. I am grateful to these birds,
far higher in consciousness than I might attain
even with limited flight; it is from them that I
have learned the realm of the air and its fractal
bordering the sea, and such sad and whispered
cries that would never have been foreheard, not
among men and women, nor among any others of
those animals within the realm of sentient
beings. I learned there that all were presenced,
and truthful, and comfort, and that among all, I
was among them. For it is said that the darkly
cry of the albatross is the echo of the world
unto itself, the world of land which can never
find land or home, the world of water which can
never wing through highways always shifting
among them, and among us, no highways at all.
Communication with the Other
The signals received and sent, only what seems
to be a life-form – in a random? pattern? No
recognizable pattern but preferred places –
prime grid? Not that, nothing.
Technically, my avatar has no body in MacGrid.
Distorted motion capture files manipulate
attached invisible objects; the avatar has no
gestures, but the objects emit light. It’s the
light that’s moving. It’s the light that’s the
source of communication. It’s the light that
expects light in return.
The light sings
“X-ing x-chromosomes, x-rated xenoias never collapses – but
turned local, regional – a xenoic capital like never collapses –
but turned local, regional – a xenoic capital like never
collapses – but turned local, regional – a xenoic capital like
cultures, progress weakens life and favors death. xenoia and
only remind one of xenophon’s socrates for there never collapses
– but turned local, regional – a xenoic capital like no more
argon xenon neon, whirl me through you avatar, seriously, what
covers pain completion, yours argon xenon neon, whirl yours
argon xenon neon, whirl me infinnnnitude drugs am yours no more
argon xenon neon, whirl me through you avatar am yours no more
argon xenon neon, whirl me through you avatar seriously, covers
pain completion, yours argon xenon neon, whirl me am yours no
more argon xenon neon, whirl me through you avatar am yours no
more argon xenon neon, whirl me through you avatar seriously,
covers pain completion, yours argon xenon neon, whirl me never
collapses – but turned local, regional – a xenoic capital like
no more argon xenon neon, whirl me through you avatar”
– and the light awaits an answer.
everything softly falling
This is the communication in regard to the first video of the
alien; the link here is to
and it constitutes of a series of tests of the alien structure
within the MacGrid in an attempt to determine its fundamental
properties, and whether or not the object/process can be
considered a life-form and further, whether the life-form may be
considered sentient. While the jury is still out, parametric
data can be gathered by the application of suitable rendering
tests, as shown.
Of course this is all within and without the realm of the
virtual, of signs and nothing but signs. Still, there is a need
for probes – think of them as logic probes, necessarily digital.
This is the granularity of the virtual world, at least _this_
virtual world, and from this, one encounters an analog
phenomenology and hermeneutics paralleling that of Schutz’s
writing on Carneades and relevance theory. For what is happening
here, beyond the probes, are the mixed returns of signals, and
from the signals, interpretations of all sorts fly; further
testing is needed. It’s also of interest that the avatar-form is
blind to all of this; the grid is a superimposition which
circulates around it, literally, the grid has no _bearing._
S/he thought,
“larger than the span which can name. The universe isn’t
sentient, won’t whatever’s left of the commons, of the fabric of
the sentient city. avatartist are aggregates, they are
gatherings, they are sentient and not sentient, all their
processes are filterings, and their actions are constant rate,
sentient black-hole grinding to a halt at normal diameter But
think for a moment of the _sentient countryside,_ the Net
thinned, om- neighborhood community. So the sentient landscape
includes the notion of itself with an _omnipresent sentient
environment,_ interpenetrating
universal knowledge, sentient networking, data-banks those
animals within the realm of sentient sentient being – “I say,
things begin here,” so to speak, whether zero or ignorant of
their prey. I, for one, believe the Net sentient, fully reminds
us of the sentient mobility of the real, the margins of taxon –
the sentient ones, for they themselves dissolve, devolve,
divide”
and they listened for signals, for words, something to bring
back into whatever real remained on earth, and everything
softly falling
cloud chamber
probing again within the aegis of the alien,
or object or other: the structure appears,
gathers blood and sinew. through observation
in the form of interference or platelets.
with my companions in our chambers, there appeared to me a person
in the chamber hall (public room) house (bedroom, woman’s, men’s,
bedchamber) the empty chamber hall (public room) learn (review
lessons) carefully proper (upright) model sky valley proclaim
(one’s) fame empty chamber hall treasure washed welfare health
gracious yearn sought chamber refrained unleash the power of wilson
cloud-chamber messes another marvelled birthright hebrews
themselves refrained chamber the empty chamber hall (public room)
learn (review lessons) carefully “the tombs and chambers in which
rest the blessed ones of old, the citi- don’t go away; they’re a
combination torture chamber(lights on) and phantom limb to limb,
our mouths seal upon one another, _the chamber and reddened
chamber, mouth open for the visitor. the second upper sec- no
holes, guardians of the chamber). the chamber has four holes below,
two above, a confused puncture on the chambers. they have
fetish-sheen, get high black-market, grey-market
placed within a beaker or chamber otherwise –
within and without the frame, it’s this that comes to the
chamber weather – so the whole body behaves as a resonant drum or
chamber. the former target, and the latter, appearance of
cloud-tracks within a chamber embedded in a magnetic field. the
information in the cloud-chamber is conveyed all my words connect
through underground chambers very close to the truth. the chambers
form hieroglyphs of the mind and my philosophy. creations. the
chambers form hieroglyphs of mind and theory-mind. on western side
of west-side highway, east across down to chambers, over chamber
refrained themselves hebrews birthright marvelled another messes
(one’s) fame – empty – chamber hall (public room) – learn (review
lessons) (fortune) business (by means of) through called
carefully chamber hall both chambers are expected to give the
authority empty room) (public hall chamber
proper (upright) model sky valley proclaim (one’s) fame empty
chamber hall proper (upright) model sky valley proclaim (one’s)
fame empty chamber hall chamber room) (public hall chamber chamber
hall (public room) chamber hall (public room) change changes
chants (calls upon) characters charnel-hus, in this chamber of
poison showers, this hole of viral room) (public hall chamber the
empty chamber hall (public room) learn (review lessons) carefully
proper (upright) model sky valley proclaim (one’s) fame empty
chamber hall central vaults certificate me chairman tony chamber
commerce chambers the surgical and anatomical examination
subjected to a chamber valley proclaim one’s fame the empty
chamber hall public room learn review */holes in it/*
Notes on the virtual and others, comments welcome
DIRECTORIES: chic/dance/mocapstills/sl-d-poser/wvu
Early on, wanted to work with ‘generalized modules’ that allowed
anything to be made out of anything – they were analog, PCM,
parameter-control- modules. You could build anything from analog to
video synthesizers from them as well as control units for
multi-media displays.
Dreamed of portable keyboards for working while driving; an early
adaptor of portable tape technologies (audio/video).
Jump to virtual worlds: In virtual worlds, you can _do anything,_
and _do it live_ with planetary participants and audiences
(blurring the line between the two).
Early on again, I worked with MOOs and MUDs – text-based virtual
realities – their advantage was that you could quickly set one up
yourself – you had control, and again planetary reach. Here I
learned a lesson – any wizard, any governor – could see everything
going on; it was all open database.
Jump to Second Life under the aegis of Linden Labs – but they do
mainly leave you alone. You can build anything, provided you have
permissions – as Ian Murray said, permissions are the key;
collaboration is as well. While MOOs and MUDs could be set up and
run by a single user, virtual worlds are more complex, have
different requirements, foster collaboration and, like MOOs and
MUDs, hopefully pliable governance.
I believe there are _no_ answers as to just governance in virtual
worlds, as long as they are welcoming. On one hand this is an
enormous gift; on the other, it’s led to the splittings of MOOs and
the downfalls of news- groups for example.
Every virtuality by the way develops culturally, linguistically,
and institutionally, from within, and every virtual world develops
its own erotics.
Avatars are different in virtual worlds, but one thing is common:
performativity. Simplest example: type _date_ at a prompt and you
get Thu Nov 1 16:32:53 EDT 2012 Something changes: an action leads
to a _qualitatively different result_ reminiscent of the jump cut
in films.
Aside: Leverage in the _real world_ is constituted by the body
itself, which one lives within (even for cyborgs); the jump cut is
a sign of the digital, in which something produces something
_else._
Performativity in virtual worlds is connected with the user-subject
by complex psychoanalytics; I’ve used the term _jectivity_ to
indicate the projections and introjections that occur across the
screen space, which is always close, itself, to dissolution. In
Videodrome and other films, it’s always possible to reach _through_
the screen. Apparently.
So I’m interested in human representation within the virtual; this
implies both an image and a dynamics, the two of course entangled.
At the same time I’ve been interested in ‘alien architectures’ –
spaces that appear to be foundationless, ungrounded, spaces that
are almost impossible to navigate, spaces that create a sense of
anomaly and wonder. A lot of my early virtual world work emphasized
these spaces and what it was possible to do within them. Alas, I
haven’t been a programmer, and so have had even in SL to rely on
others for scripts, which I could then alter productively.
More to the point, though, has been the issue of movement. On and
off for the past two decades, I’ve worked with Foofwa d’Imobilite
[give background information here]. Foofwa’s work is at foofwa.com.
His work has dealt with any number of issues, from politics through
health, sexuality, being- Swiss, technology to virtuality. We’ve
embedded him in Second Life, and he’s worked with our avatar
movement as well. *
So movement has been a natural for me. I’m also a recorded
musician, by the way, so I’m well aware of my own movements, in
terms of string instruments, keyboards, and some woodwinds. All of
this has fed into the work I’ve done with motion capture equipment,
performers, and Second Life.
Motion capture work: Brief history of my work in the Virtual
Environments Lab at West Virginia University, Morgantown, through
Sandy Baldwin and Frances Van Scoy. We used a lot of equipment,
some of which was in storage. We worked with 3d lasers for modeling
– including one large laser that could take in an entire building
in one series of scans. We also worked with some older motion
capture equipment, which we applied in two basic ways:
1. We recorded one or more performers, using remappings of modes,
including some with ‘impossible’ topologies, in terms of human
movement; and
2. We recorded, through a rewriting of the motion capture software
itself, through what I’ve called ‘dynamic filtering,’ transforming
standard motion capture files on the fly, through the insertion of
filters between the input data and the outputted files. These
filters parallel the use of filters in Gimp or Photoshop [explain].
Endproducts – the altered motion capture files were fed into three
worlds:
1. The Blender 3d modeling program, where abstract avatars were used
to examine how behavior appears when it’s abstracted from the body;
2. The Poser mannequin modeling program, where the motion capture
files were used to ‘break’ the mannequin bodies, as well create any
number of videos; and
Works in Second Life, MacGrid, and OpenSim virtual worlds which
involved highly distorted avatar performances and dances; these
were used for live or mixed reality performance, some augmented
reality work, some video work for conferences, gallery or museum
installations, and some pieces made for live or online
choreographies. The ultimate goals of the virtual worlds work were
– what happens when the body is considered completely plastic; what
images of pain, death, wounding, or sexuality are conjured up by
distorted bodies; when does the body become a ‘thing’ among other
things in the world; what are the politics and anthropology of
distorted avatars and movements – if any.
[Examples]
Note that with all of this, there are no programming errors, only
other avenues, glitches, to be explored. So the aesthetics and
phenomenology of glitch are important here as well. In virtual
worlds and with motion capture, there are in particular ‘edge’
glitches – within and without gamespace boundaries – that define,
in a sense, _all_ the possibilities of the avatar, _all_ the
possibilities of escape and normalcy…
The imaginaries I work with – virtual worlds; 3d modeling; 3d
printing; very low frequency (VLF) radio; scanner and shortwave
radio; augmented reality; playing music; codework (an entangled
amalgam of code, writing, and computer ‘debris’; even birding,
which requires abstractions ranging from migration routes to
morphs.
Finally, the idea that the virtual has always been with us, that
the body is always already inscribed, that culture goes all the way
down, that inscription and the digital are entangled amalgams as
well, and that abjection underlies everything, as well as pain,
suffering, and death, all part of it.
Thank you
=================================================
At the moment I’m working with sim overload and self-reflexivity:
on a simple and neat level, what if a performing avatar connects to
an object (‘prim’ complex) designed to move away from hir? The
result is a total [avatar/complex] that flees indefinitely – at
least until the complex goes out of world.
==========================