One Avatar's Trash is Another's Treasure

The world is full of junk. Why should Second Life be any exception? In fact, something about the technological impetus to always create new, more advanced gizmos and realities makes this online virtual space a perfect site for the consideration of trash. The New York-based German art collective eteam are doing that now, in their project Second Life Dumpster. The duo's work often revolves around land-use issues and other socio-spatial interventions, and in this case they purchased 4096 square meters of space in SL to start a plein-air dumpster. The artists visit freebee sites throughout the virtual world and bring the detritus back to their space, and also encourage other users to drop their garbage at the site. Snippets of chat sessions with other avatars posted to the Second Life Dumpster blog reveal the humorous social challenges of keeping such an operation running. The project received a 2008 Rhizome Commission and their original proposal was to carve out a new type of behavior on Second Life. The site's owners, Linden Labs, say that exploring the world (including crafting one's persona and visage), creating objects, and selling those objects are the primaries forms of activity there, but eteam wanted to ask what happens after self-actualization and the ultimate disposal or withering of the ephemera exchanged in this process. After all, virtual junk is still junk, and its weighty presence online is but a mere token of the refuse our high tech lifestyles generate in "first life." If you're in the real world city of Brooklyn, this weekend, you can visit Smack Mellon to see the artists' physical rebuilding of decaying Second Life objects. Otherwise, check them out online or even consider joining the cadre of dumpster divers now hanging out at Fearzom. - Marisa Olson

Image: eteam, Second Life Dumpster, 2007,

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