[NetBehaviour] Alan Sondheim's Avataurrors / terrae

Johannes Birringer Johannes.Birringer at brunel.ac.uk
Thu Jul 6 21:40:54 CEST 2017

Here some short reflections, on the work in the Furtherfield show, and the Sondheim talk. 

Furtherfield seemed a small house, an intimate space, I realized I didn't know it well. Finsbury Park a mess, segregated, fenced, prepped for a big rock concert. Secured. I walk in strange loops.

The wall of the small chamber, white, here are Alan Sondheim's "Avataurror" 3d printed avatars, frozen tiny slimelike creatures (painted green) on gray support or they's tumble off the wall.
But they look dead, not wounded, not distorted, just strangely "printed" in my mind, lacking the force and furor that the animated avatar contraptions, these wild copulatedtwised creatures
that fly in their colorful virtual worlds emanate.

The next room is a small darkroom, I stand, and quickly become animated myself by the mellow sorrowful quizzing voice (Azure) that sings, to the first of three short animated VR films (Sondheim), 
on opposite wall. To the right, five small tablets, with further avataric compositions, some slow, some still, some moving; when I asked Mark about these tablets and how he wanted to curate this, he said they function as small
portraits of avataric choreographies, trans-species compostures. I largely ignored them as I kept watching, mesmerized, the larger filmic images of these wild naked centaurs-taurrors, half of the other half,
orbiting in the landscape, and later the terrae incognitae tumble too, twisting?  "Maya Maya Maya," sings the voice, "what remains after the filters, what remains after the protocols, what remains
after the deluge?"

indeed. what remains after the splatter?

the title of the show, "Children of Prometheus," made little sense to me, I'm sorry.  But that is less relevant than what I wanted to ask, namely how to read these small 3d prints, they seem the
opposite (ironic sad comment? brittled?) of the dynamic motion world and incessant stream of music and writing with which Alan has given us such rich sources of thinking and sensing. 

In his talk, he delineated a long and consistently impressive history of work and creation-experimentation, and when watching the dances (Foofwa d'Imobilité) and then the mo-capped avatars dancing, the
avatars affecting the human dancers and vice verse, the collaborators helping Alan to twist digital bodies further, stretch combine and contort them (Cunningham would have loved it), into what I consider a perverse extended choreography, alife-forms, obviously richly provocative for any imagination of "bodies" & avatars whirling the mapped data, spaces, architectures, whirling completely out of alignment and anatomical logic, bursting into transmorphic shapes, amazing  work really. Alan gave us a deeper insight into how he develops stuff, constantly, writing through and over it, working all the time i guess (who cares about access to institutional labs, Alan, you seem to
have these VR worlds and second lives at your fingertips, in your dreams?).

Then someone today posted the comment about edge space and the audience being annihalated (Furtherfield facebook) by push of button, this disturbed me; so they dropped off? inconsequential game? joke?  there was debate about US politics and neo-populist right wing discourse (something about Nick Terra) which escape me because I don't read these right wing blogs. How did we get to Terra?  

Alan's work of course has a political dimension and is a grim commentary on current obsessions with fluidity (gender, less so regarding race, social class); and yes, genocide, violence, terror. The little avataurrors do not connect me into these larger concerns. But maybe I was just too surprised to see them. On the other hand, all of Alan's relentless work has moved in and out of forms, media, contexts, and so these lively daemonic, nearly formless
avatarbodies that fly through the VR words, maybe they become slime, and fungal, they crawl to inhabit the ground, the walls, the ceilings of our nightmares. 
Outgrowths everywhere? 

Johannes Birringer
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