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Second Front's Tower of Babelfish

Fri Apr 27, 2007 00:00 - Tue Apr 24, 2007


On Friday, April 13th, Patrick Lichty (Man Michinaga) and Scott Kildall *Great Escape) along with Second Front opened for ‘Crossmediale 2’ an international new media event held at Chicago’s Gosia Koscielak Studio and Gallery. Both Second Life audiences and real world gallery visitors enjoyed a projected online performance that had Second Front avatars enact textual performances that were ‘communicated’ through the avatar spirits of four dead performers - Tristan Tzara, Ana Mendieta, Charlotte Moorman and Rudolf Schwarzkogler.

Online sources of Dadaist and Surrealist texts were entered by the avatar performers into the Altavista’s translator engine, Babel Fish, which were then processed through numerous times to produce often confused and ludicrous meanings. Appearing on the projection in Second Life’s chat history window, the translated text was assigned to each of the four dead performers which then appeared next to the corresponding dead perforrmer’s names; the text also appeared in thought bubbles above the heads of the performing avatars depending on who entered the original text.

Sources of text included French Surrealist poetry of Andre Breton and Picasso and excerpts from Neal Stephenson’s highly-celebrated Science Fiction novel, Snow Crash, in which its characters delve into the origin of languages and the biblical Tower of Babel. Second Front avatars also improvised their own textual scripts that provided a responsive immediacy to the work that further produced the disconnections and ruptures between language and meaning.

This reprocessing of text through a language translator generates a cross-hybridism of natural human language and computer coded language which in turn, remind us how it is software, not we as human beings, that ultimately shape our online interpersonal experiences and communication.

A video of Translations/Tower of Babelfish will show at the Bridge Art Fair in Chicago, April 27 - 30, 2007

Second Front

keywords: virtual reality, avatar, performance art