A V A T A R S

a r t i s t  s t a t e m e n t

In 1989, after taking a test drive in “Reality Built for Two”, a virtual reality simulator built by Jaron Lanier and VPL Research, I began to speculate upon how we might appear to one another in Multi-user Virtual Environments (MUVEs). The potential for choosing non-consensual, mutable, or hybrid self-representations led me to create a series of images called 'identity constructions', to design prototypes of identity creation interfaces, and to write speculative theory about the ramifications of this process. The decade hosted the emergence of the World Wide Web and Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML). Online spaces like AlphaWorld™, WorldChat™, and WorldsAway™ combined MUDs with 3d virtual worlds. The popularity of Neil Stephenson's novel Snow Crash brought the term avatar into public acceptance, and a plethora of cinematic efforts beginning with Disney's Tron (1982) including Lawnmower Man, Brainstorm, Until the End of the World and the television mini-series Wild Palms warned us of the dangers of our inevitable virtual futures.

In 1999 I published “An Avatar Manifesto”, an essay that posited a historical and theoretical definition of the avatar, contextualized the avatar among other types of representation, and articulated a set of poetic strategies for building avatars intended to resist the inevitable construction of virtual space as a new utopian shopping mall. The essay referenced Donna Haraway's “Cyborg Manifesto” of 1986 and used Artaud's trope, 'The Body w/o Organs' as a point of reference for the construction and articulation of representations of the self within digital, virtual space. In 2011 I wrote “Avatar Manifesto Redux” in which I revisit the definition of the avatar, and bring specific trajectories of the the avatar to bear on current state of avatar research and construction.