COMICS


By Donato Mancini, Jeremy Turner and Flick Harrison

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Selected Exhibition History of AVATARA:

CENTRE A (Vancouver Centre for Contemporary Asian Art), Vancouver, Canada
AVATARA produced for and run as a video installation in the exhibition [esc] - May 2003

Open Space, Victoria, Canada
Ran as a video installation as part of the exhibition Projects - July and August 2003

Finlandia Hall, Helsinki, Finland
Ran as a video installation in Summit of Micronations, curated by Lars Vilks - August 2003

Banff Centre for the Arts, Banff, Canada
AVATARA is featured in the present issue of Horizon Zero, the online magazine of the Banff Centre, and we've been invited to do a screening and workshop in the summer of 2004

HUMlab, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden
February 2004

Rocketshop, Berlin, Germany. Transmediale 0.4 media festival / conference: "Utopia - u build it."
Screened publicly as part of this exhibition - February 2004.

A-Space, Toronto, Canada
To run as a video installation for the second portion of [esc] - August 2004

Film Festivals:

Victoria Independent Film and Video Festival, Victoria, BC.
Interactive Futures Conference
Screening on January 31, 2004.

Machinima Film Festival, American Museum of the Moving Image, New York City, NY.
Festival screening in October 2003.
- nominated for best picture
- received a five-star rating in viewer polls

Conferences, Forums and Symposia:

Distributed Creativity, hosted by Eyebeam, New York, USA
We were participants in the Digital Karma forum, November 2003, invited on the strength of AVATARA, a book will be published containing the material in 2004

Interactive Futures, Victoria, Canada
We gave an academic presentation about AVATARA and the relation of VR to cinema - January 2004

CyberWorlds 2003 Conference, Singapore
Bruce Damer used AVATARA to introduce OnLive! Traveler - December 2003

Institutions where AVATARA has been used as a teaching resource:

University of Victoria, Canada
University of British Columbia, Canada
Tech BC, Canada
Concordia University, Canada
University College of Cape Breton, Canada
University of Regina, Canada
James Madison University, USA
University of the Arts in Philadelphia, USA
University of Western Sydney, Australia
The University of Texas at Austin, USA
Helsinki University, Finland
K3, Sweden
Institutionen för Teknik Och Samhälle Chalmers Tekniska Högskola, Sweden


AVATARA is not a cartoon. It's a documentary about an Internet subculture who spend their lives immersed in an online 3-D voice-chat program called "Digitalspace Traveler." Through a series of 14 interviews, we uncover the history, art, identities, struggles and emotions of this unique internet community who, since as far back as 1996 have mostly devoted their lives to this software

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First developed in 1993, Digitalspace Traveler and programs like it once promised, and still could deliver, a blueprint for a completely networked and intimate global future. AVATARA carefully documents effects that long-term immersion in cyberspace has had on the sensibilities of a particular group of individuals; by analogy it reveals much about the personal origins of our own attractions to 'life on the screen' and its potential impact on human social culture at large.

All of AVATARA was recorded in-world (ie. within the virtual environment), so our experience of the personalities is mediated through 3-D images (called avatars) of rabbits, pharaohs, seahorses, giraffes, the grim reaper, flowers, guitars, trolls (etc) which the subjects choose to represent themselves in cyberspace. (AVATARA is the world's first entirely 'in-world' documentary.) These talking heads and twitchy torsos simultaneously express the sublime and the ridiculous, but AVATARA lets their humanity, and the stunning, absurd beauty of their digital universe, speak for itself.

"Like Mardi Gras, avatar worlds are best experienced in person rather than seen through a keyhole. Conventional media fail to frame the participatory masquerade that animates avatar communication. The AVATARA video is the best attempt yet to convey a virtual community through the savvy artistic eyes of film-makers. Fresh and surprising!"
- Dr. Michael Heim, author of the groundbreaking books:
Electric Language (1987), The Metaphysics of
Virtual Reality (1993), and Virtual Realism (1998)

"Having captured plenty of online footage and recently meeting with several people about possibly adding an in-game "wrap-around" to "Avatars Offline", I was very impressed with the bold move of using in-game footage only. The footage looks impressive and even though the sound quality of the voice recordings aren't always optimal (due to the engine technology), the rawness adds to a sense of immediacy. What really appealed to me about AVATARA was a sense of watching art rather than a common documentary. The images and voices have an almost meditative quality, the stillness of the camera and delay between spoken words leaves ample time to reflect on this strange, beautiful, very primitive yet cutting edge application of technology and communication."
- Daniel Liatowitsch, director of the feature documentary Avatars Offline

"....may be one of the most original contributions to avatar research to date.... ...it most effectively brings to life some of the research done in this realm and documents one online community through snapshots. "My avatar doesn't need to breathe," as one of the Traveler inhabitants puts it, but 'AVATARA' makes clear that, despite defying the needs of the physical body, it certainly is a life form."
- Christiane Paul, adjunct curator of New Media,
Whitney Museum, New York City
Read the review in Intelligent Agent

"Avatara is an excellent resource for those interested in the sociology of online communities. It contains the breadth of human experience as expressed through the online world; love, war, compassion, art, and politics. Avatara represents an essential document for those interested in humanity as expressed through the digital medium."
- Patrick Lichty, editor of Intelligent Agent magazine and nationally recognised visual artist in the United States