Cynthia Davidson, Stony Brook University
Nana's build in Burn2
When I attended Burn2 last October, I came upon a build by an avatar named Nana, who was sitting in her site when I got there. It was a rectangular plot, open on one side and with a canopy above, with many brilliantly colored shapes forming walls and painting-like images displayed along them; music by “The Doors” was playing through the parcel’s audio feed. The central focus was the canopy that directed one down a pathway bracketed on both sides by pulsating bars. She spoke to me:
Nana: welcome to my build
Serena (me): hi it's very nice
Nana: make sure your music is on it is all part of it
Nana: and check it at day time and midnight
Serena: is this connected to the music?
Serena: the bars?
Nana: it represents that even in a metropolis we have stressors
Nana: even in our own minds
Nana: and this is a place to go to destress
Serena: a city in your mind?
Nana: the paintings r some of the stressors we always take with us
Serena: that's cool
Serena: so the 2d stuff, the paintings, are from reality?
Nana: things we wont let our minds let go
I was impressed by her articulation of goals, by her instructions on how to best access the full potential of the environment, and by how eager she was to share her insights and connect with an unknown audience. This was a multimodal composition; its focus held the observer, yet did not take away from the complexity of impressions that the build provided. From the perspective of Bolter and Grusin’s study of remediation, the new media (the three-dimensional, multimodal build site in which we met) provided an immediate experience of immersion in the senses—the shapes, color, music, and even the artist’s “immediate” and “real” presence through virtual embodiment and chat. At the same time, the “older," two-dimensional media—the "paintings"—were provided a gallery by this "newer" media. Not only that, but the artist associated that "older" media with the stresses of the real world that this entire build was an escape from. In her case, the new media did hold the promise of reform for the old (which carried the symbolic significance of stress from the old life before the new media) and therefore provided a catharsis for her.