I'm On The Computer

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Way back in the 1950s, sociologist Erving Goffman proposed in his study The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life that the very warp and woof of the social world consists of carefully constructed dramaturgy, albeit of a manner that most performers were unconscious. Our daily lives and cultural rituals provide all the settings, costumes, props and scripts we need to take our roles. The same logic underpins our movement through digital spaces and online communities, but unhinged from the necessities of physical limitations, and with a greater promise of self-transformation -- the dream of a complete rebooting of the self. Such notions may emerge at "Avatar: the New You," an exhibition at the Australian Centre for Photography that mixes the Web 2.0 vernacular of user-generated images with parallel but more self-critical art projects. The show includes fan-created screenshots from massively-multiplayer games like World of Warcraft, Habbo Hotel and Second Life and documentation of SimGuys.net, a virtual emporium of fashionable dude wear for Sims characters, but also media installations by artists Claudia Hart, Myfanwy Ashmore, Melissa Ramos and Rhys Turner, and Tobias Bernstrup, as well as photography by Daniel Handal and performance documentation by Justin Shoulder. Two artists' works that themselves gained a foothold in greater internet culture are also included: screenshots from Tale of Tales' gentle multiplayer game The Endless Forest (2006), in which players take the roles of deer, and Aram Bartholl's First Person Shooter (2005), a pair of custom specs that give you the look of Doom. - Ed Halter


Image: Arahan Claveau, Lupus Delacroix, Second Life 2008