Live Stage: Becoming Dragon [secondlife Second Life]

Becoming Dragon, a mixed reality, durational performance by Micha Cárdenas in Second Life and at Calit2 :: Beginning December 1, 2008; 7:00 pm; runs for 365 hours :: The Center for Research in Computing and the Arts (CRCA), Atkinson Hall, Visiting Artist Lab #1613, University of California San Diego.

Becoming Dragon questions the one year requirement of Real Life Experience that transgender people must fulfill in order to receive Gender Confirmation Surgery (Sexual Reassignment Surgery), and asks if this could be replaced by one year of Second Life Experience to lead to Species Reassignment Surgery. For the performance, Micha Cárdenas will live for 365 hours immersed in Second Life with a head mounted display, so that all she will see is Second Life and a motion capture system to map her movements into Second Life. The performance space will be open to the public for the duration.

Second Life is an online 3D virtual world, where users can create their own avatars in whatever form they like. It is not a goal oriented game, so its users refer to it as a metaverse or a MUVE, Multi User Virtual Environment. There are over 15 million registered users of Second Life.

The Free Software / Open Source licensing of Second Life also provides a code base for modification, and a number of modifications have been made for Becoming Dragon. Kael Greco has patched the Second Life client to include an updated version of the stereoscopic code from the University of Michigan. For the duration of the performance, Micha Cárdenas will wear a Head Mounted Display (HMD) with stereoscopic display to simulate an actual 3 dimensional experience of Second Life by displaying a different image in each eye.

To further explore becoming as an embodied process and Second Life as a Mixed Reality Performance, Christopher Head has added code to the Second Life viewer to read live motion capture data from the Vicon motion capture system in the performance space. This code, along with scripts in Second Life allow the avatar’s movements to correspond to Micha Cárdenas’ movements. In Second Life, the performance will take place in a to-scale model of the actual performance space, to allow the performer to navigate that space over the duration of the performance.

A number of other modes of Mixed Reality will be included in the performance, including a live video feed from the lab into Second Life and 3D printouts of Second Life objects in the actual performance space. The performance space will also include an HD stereo projection of Second Life which visitors can see and interact with.

The project seeks to explore the shift from subjectivity to becoming, to examine the subject in transition, as opposed to a clearly defined identity. The choice of a dragon for an avatar is related to the history of dragons as magical creatures, able to shapeshift into different forms and teleport through space, well suited to Second Life. Dragons are also part of the large community of non-anthropomorphic avatars in Second Life, which are not easily limited to either male or female binary gender categories. The project seeks to explore the possibility for using mixed reality environments to construct new genders outside of the limitations of the male / female spectrum.

The performance is one stage of an ongoing investigation of the transformative potential of technology, inspired by artists such as Orlan and Stelarc. During the year of research and development of this project, Micha Cárdenas has begun her real life hormone replacement therapy and has been writing poetry and prose about the experience on her blog. This writing will be included in the performance of Becoming Dragon.

Second Life is being used as a networked, mixed reality platform. The massively multi-user nature of Second Life, with over a million users, allows an exploration of online public space, becoming as a process of social feedback and the subject in transition as the subject in transmission.

Becoming Dragon is receiving support from the Center for Research in Computing and the Arts, CalIT2, University of California Institute for Research in the Arts, Ars Virtua, the gallery[at]calit2 and the b.a.n.g. lab.

Artist Bios

Micha Cárdenas is an MFA candidate at the University of California San Diego. Micha holds a Master’s degree in Media and Communications with distinction from the European Graduate School and a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from Florida International University. She is a researcher at CalIT2 and CRCA and is currently working at inSite on their video archive. Her interests include the interplay of technology, gender, sex, desire and resistance. Micha is a transgender, genderqueer media artist, theorist and trouble maker. Micha is a founding member of a number of art/activism collectives including Sharing Is Sexy, the borderlands Hacklab and the City Heights Free Skool. Micha is the performer and technical and artistic director of Becoming Dragon.

Kael Greco is an M.F.A candidate and researcher at CalIT2 at UCSD. His research focuses on space and its representation through computation; how cities, territories, landforms are processed and understood as datasets. Kael’s work has been exhibited across the country, from gallery shows in NYC (most recently at Apex Art) to technology conferences in Southern CA (a featured exhibitor in the 2007 O’Reilly Emerging Technology Conference). His work has also been seen in publications such as Engadget and Glowlab. Kael Greco holds Bachelor Degrees in Computer Science, Mathematics and Art from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Kael has ported the stereoscopic code for Becoming Dragon.

Christopher Head is a software artist and MFA student at the University of California San Diego. Much of his work focuses on the intersection of software design and art practice to produce projects that take a variety of forms including computer visualization, simulation, games, and hardware hacking. Christopher received his Bachelor of Fine Arts from San Jose State University while working in the CADRE Laboratory for New Media. While at SJSU he also participated in the ISEA2006/ZeroOne festival as part of the Montalvo Arts Center visiting artist residency with Antoni Muntadas as well as a series of exhibitions and shows within the SJSU Art Department. Christopher has written the motion capture code for Becoming Dragon.

Benjamin Lotan received his BS in cognitive science from the University of California at San Diego in 2008 specializing in Human Computer Interaction. His past research has been supported by Calit2, CRCA, and the Embodied Cognition Lab. He now works as an interaction designer and documentary filmmaker in San Diego. Benjamin is working on documentation for Becoming Dragon.

Born and raised in Berkeley, California, Anna Storelli is now attending the University of California San Diego as an Undergraduate in the Visual Arts Department. Studying a broad spectrum from computer technology to film and video to traditional studio art, she explores the intermixing of traditional mediums with digital media. She has been nominated to present her work in several exhibitions, such as The Waiting Room Undergraduate Art Exhibit at UCSD. She has worked as a graphic artist for an interactive flash-based website, Earthguide, in partnership with The Institute of Oceanography. She now does production work for Warner Brothers Entertainment Company, DC Comics, assisting all aspects of pre-press preparation for the Wildstorm/CMX comic lines, including scanning, detail cleaning, color editing, and lettering from concept to completion. She plans to finish her degree in Bachelor of Fine Arts by 2010. Anna is working on 3D modeling and 3D printing for Becoming Dragon.

See the performance in Second Life here:

Read Micha’s live blogging from Second Life during the performance at:

Read more at:

Nov 19, 17:21
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