A New Media Artist’s 365 Days of Adventure in Second Life

The brave soul plans to spend a year living in and exploring its outer limits, creating a very long, very conceptual piece of performance art.

A young man sets off into the (digital) wilderness

Portland-based GIF and new media artist Michael Green first came to prominence/infamy when he tried to sell an animated GIF version of Jeff Koon’s famous Balloon Dog on ebay for $5800. Although “Balloon Dog Deflated” eventually sold for a fraction of that price ($202.50) the project raised a lot of interesting questions about the value and monetization of digital art, and the rampant commercialization of the physical art world.

Green has now turned his eye to Second Life, the somewhat antiquated online virtual world that has long been typecast as a refuge for weirdos and freaks. He plans to spend a year living in and exploring its outer limits, creating a very long and conceptual piece of performance art. Green documents his adventures daily on Twitter (#secondlife365) but to see the art first hand, or even become an interactive part of it, track down “officialmichaelgreenv6” on Second Life and say hello.

We asked Green about what drew him to this virtual world, and what his plans are for his year spent within it.

There will be much danger

When did you first become aware of Second Life?
The writings of Ray Kurzweil and his theory of the Singularity eventually led me to the world of Second Life way back in ’09. I thought, this is where i’m going to live one day, just wasn’t expecting it to be this soon.

What was it about second life that inspired you to do this project?
Second Life has always been endlessly fascinating to me because of all the surreal situations you find yourself in. Virtual skin mesh stores, Eyes Wide Shut ceremonies, furries discussing Plato, meditation gardens etc...I thought it would be fun to illuminate people to the weirdness of what you can only experience in a virtual reality environment.

What you are trying to achieve with it?
#secondlife365 is an investigation of virtual reality, the ‘self’ and time perception. I chose to work a full year because I am getting older, and am trying to change my perception of how I view time. For me, the project is like a meditation. A way to slow things down a bit, and I perceive time slower as a result. 2015 is taking forever and this is a good thing! Second Life, like real life, is what you do with it, and a year is a long time in there, so my goal is to do what it takes to survive. And there is a little death in there too, because I will deactivate my account on New Year’s Eve, 2015.

Courtesy of the artist

Have you discovered an art scene on Second Life?
I am disappointed in the art scene there (if you would even call it that) although I have yet to fully explore everything. You have to keep in mind that Second Life is 10 plus years old now, so the artists have already done their work there. I am interested in past Second Life works, including Jon Rafman, who gave tours in a Kool Aid avatar, LaTurbo Avedon’s “New Sculpt” exhibition, and the Fluxus collective Second Front, who recreated the Last Supper with Second Life avatars and even built a Large Hadron Collider!

What's the strangest thing that's happened to you there?
I invited myself into the private home of a wealthy couple and asked if I could stay at their house for 2 weeks until I could get my feet on the ground and make some linden (Second Life currency), but they insisted I should leave. I photographed them and they asked not to take pictures, then there was a heated argument, resulting with the husband trapping me inside a spherical cage. I was disoriented and it took me 15 minutes to get out. I have a revenge plan, but cannot reveal it in case if they are reading this article.

The artist faces adversity.

What kind of people have you met?
Most avatars I run into have social disorders and creepy sexual vibes. Sometimes herds of them just stand in the same position for indefinite periods of time and say nothing. They are there for apparently no reason.

What have you got planned for the upcoming months?
There is a art venue/living space in Portland called Xhurch, which is an actual church run by artist Matthew Henderson. I met him last Christmas eve when he had an Oculus Rift exhibition where he was virtually baptizing people. There are potential plans to collaborate with him and have an interactive ‘real life’ exhibition at Xhurch, designed for two people to wear Oculus headsets, and explore a virtual modeled Xhurch world in Second Life—making it one of the first Oculus Rift worlds ever developed in Second Life.

The quiet solitude of Second Life

via David Leavitt / Twitter

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