Friday, April 24, 2009

"I'm Not Here" by Juria Yoshikawa

"I'm Not Here" by Juria Yoshikawa (a.k.a. Lance Shields, RL name) is being shown as a SL-RL link up at CounterpART Gallery in Lowell, MA, April 24 to May 10. The artwork is located in SL at the Kennesaw State Univ. sim at:

Getting Lost in Yourself
Once you get used to the idea of yourself as an avatar and an artist (or whatever you choose to be) in the virtual world, you very quickly take it for granted that this is "you", this is how you behave around other Second Life (SL) avatars and this is how you see all things virtual. In a way taking it for granted is a little sad since many of us were and are looking for some kind of new otherness in our experience and creations in SL. But is this really me in SL? On the same note is this really me in real life (RL) when I go to work everyday? Thinking about these questions, I created "I'm Not Here" to be an immersive situation to enhance the avatar’s sense of self in SL through color, light, motion and audio while putting the avatar in the center of the art. When I say “I’m not here”, the work is asking what “being here” as SL avatars is really about. With this in mind, I created two large translucent, light sculptures for visitors to enter in, lose themselves and discover themselves anew as abstracted shapes in color. I also placed audio samples of voices in sculptures throughout the space that get triggered when people walk through them - creating a room size, multi-player musical instrument and echoes of disembodied voices. To further objectify the avatar body as a part of the art itself, I also provide animations that viewers can activate to move their avatars in perplexing ways. At the same time, participants are invited to take snapshots of themselves as colored silhouettes and post the photos to become permanent artifacts and a lasting part of the experience.

SL to RL and New Levels of Meaning
I've taken countless images in the two light space-sculptures since I first rezzed them two years ago. One of the ideas of this installation is that the art functions on many levels: virtual installation and space, 2D photos taken within the spaces and shown on the wall panels in SL and more recently as part of Boston Cyber Arts actual prints of the images shown in the RL gallery at CounterpART. If people buy some of the prints, they will be hung in their homes and this will be another layer. All of these are experiences in themselves and raise such questions as what is here and now, what is art, what is this experience I'm having right now?

But Who Am I?

I suppose I should use this blog post to introduce myself or should I say ourselves. I am Juria Yoshikawa and I arrived in Second Life in the winter of 2007 looking for a new artistic spark. Rather than bringing in rl artwork, I felt compelled to use mainly the elements that make up SL itself. A typical virtual artwork of mine mixes kinetic objects, animated texture, repurposed lsl script, ambient noise and av animations. I also usually work in large scales because I am interested in people experiencing the work in a physical way - flying through them, riding on them and socializing within the art. I especially enjoy remote collaborations between musicians, coders, curators from around the world who are brought together in the virtual space to create a new genre of artwork.

In my real life, I am also Lance Shields, a Tokyo based new media artist and designer. I have spent many years making digital art, installation art and performance. Sculpture and installation are where I started my creative career but I became progressively more involved in the digital and interactive. I see Second Life as a return back to my artistic roots yet at the same time combines my newer interests in the phenomenology in the virtual world. I chose to be a female avatar (after a short stint as a male avatar) not so much to be a part of the sexual dynamics in SL but as an experiment in creating a completely new persona as well as learning to make art from the point of view of a female. Juria is actually part of the art herself, often times wearing the art and appearing in many of the photos and videos I take of the art.

In the end, when I'm making art in SL I'm clearly both Juria and Lance. Do I get lost at times explaining whose work it is and what sort of person is behind the work? Yes, I do. But I also with little hesitation accept this layering of identity and world views and just want to keep making art. I may not be here but someone sure is.

My work has been exhibited and supported inworld at IBM sim, Princeton University sim, Visions of Global Justice (UCLA), Kennesaw State University, Brooklyn is Watching (Jack the Pelican Presents) and in RL at the Directors Lounge Festival in Berlin.

Past Juria Yoshikawa work online:

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