The Vienna Museum of Applied Arts (MAK) presents this summer an unconventional exhibition: “Pardon Our Dust”, a set of sculptures and virtual landscapes created by “LaTurbo Avedon”, an avatar not binary who designs his art in the metaverse.
On display until September 25, the virtual gallery describes how the privatization of digital spaces and government surveillance are incompatible with the free nature of the Internet.
“Pardon Our Dust”, a reference to the slogan used by the first Internet pages of the 1990s to indicate that their website was “in the making”, serves as a metaphor for the creation of a free digital world under construction.
The collection, created by an unknown artist who manages the avatar in the metaverse, features five synchronized screens that function as mirrors of a central projection.
LaTurbo Avedon criticizes the supposed decentralization of the Internet, the privatization of cyberspace and the perpetuation of the mercantile legacy of the physical world, which is also perpetuated on the Internet.
METAVERSE NO BINARY
All the sculptures and landscapes in the exhibition are inspired by popular video games such as “Final Fantasy” or “Minecraft”, and are part of a simulation created in the metaverse, a virtual universe where users design their own reality.
For Marlies Wirth, curator of Digital Culture of the MAK, the avatar does not assume the gender ascriptions of the visitors, alleging that the potential of fluid identities is much greater in the metaverse and in a world “where the differences between the real and the virtual They are getting smaller.”
As if it were a futuristic film, LaTurbo Avedon, with a short platinum blonde haircut, addresses visitors speaking in inclusive language from a flooded gas station, projected on the screen, from where the simulation begins and ends.
While visitors walk through the simulation, the avatar recites a poem narrating the origin of the relationship between virtual realities and the creation of their own identity.
“Most interactive games ask you to design and name your character before you start the game. For me, choosing what I wanted to be and what I could become was always more important than playing,” explains the avatar itself.
From the flooded gas station hangs a sign with the word “Lete”, an allusion to the mythological Greek river in which the dead drank to leave behind their past lives before entering Hades; a kind of baptism that LaTurbo Avedon followed before leaving the real world to become an artist.
Water, a symbol of fluid gender, is the guiding element of the exhibition, which also has a robot algorithm that takes control of the simulation to create abstract images on its own.
LaTurbo Avedon does not exist outside the Internet: he is a virtual artist born in 2008 from the online game “Second Life”, a server where users manage personalized avatars and interact without the limitations they face in the real world.
The avatar is a virtual being that is not tied to a human body and its anonymous creator does not recognize any identity beyond the one assumed by the public.
The museums that contract the works of LaTurbo Avedon are unaware of the true identity of the person behind the avatar.
For Wirth, knowing what kind of person is behind the avatar is irrelevant. “The meetings we had with Avedon are no different from the ones we normally have,” the commissioner told NCT.
“With most artists we communicate through the screen. Nowadays, we discuss the details by mail or by message, so it is not important to know the identity of the artist,” he says.
“In ‘Pardon Our Dust’, separating the art from the artist is impossible; the artist is the art project,” Wirth concludes.