On Friday, October 24, we had a really neat event at the Global Kids’ International Justice Center in Second Life, featuring digital artists / activists Peggy Weil (Ping Rau in SL) and Nonny de la Peña (Nonny Writer). Thirty-some avatars logged in to listen to Nonny and Peggy talk about their innovative art installations in SL that explore themes of due process / Habeas Corpus, immigration, nationalism, and civil liberties.
You can listen to the audio here:
A more complete report on the event follows…
Peggy and Nonny began by describing "Gone Gitmo", a virtual re-creation of the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center operated by the US government to detain suspected terrorists. The installation combines avatar animations, voice acting, screen effects, clothing, real life video from Gitmo, and a 3D build to immerse the person in the experience of being detained and deprived of your basic liberties. Nonny talked about how strong people’s reactions were to the installation, from anger to fear.
They are working on a "Camp Delta" expansion of "Gone Gitmo" that shows in an interactive way how the Habeas Corpus rights of prisoners are denied. Nonny described how the experience would work. Your avatar would be placed in a holding cell. When they tried to ask for a lawyer, a guard would inform them that they don’t have right to counsel. Through interaction with the guards, the avatar would find out that they don’t have a right to visitors, to make outside calls, or access information about why they are being detained.
Lastly, they are building a "Contemplation Area" that would centralize media on the struggle to close Camp Gitmo. The Contemplation Chamber will display poems written by detainees, listings of prominent world figures who have called for Gitmo to be closed, and audio recordings by the detainees and actors reading transcripts from detainee hearings, sponsored by the ACLU.
Then Peggy and Nonny introduced their newest work-in-progress, "Mauerkrankheit/Wallsickness" an evolving art installation depicting current and historical walls dividing nations. It begins with a section of the proposed "border fence" dividing Mexico from the U.S. and continues with segments from the Gaza Fence, the Melilla Fence (the E.U. funded wall to separate Spanish territories from Morocco), the Berlin Wall, the Great Wall of China and other important political and historical border walls.
Intended as a collaborative effort, Peggy and Nonny announced that they would love to work with other groups to build out "Mauerkrankheit" with their own concepts of walls separating nations and peoples. Several audience members expressed interest in participating. I could easily imagine my own group Global Kids working with teens on the Teen Grid to build their own version of "Mauerkrankheit" — since after all there exists a virtual wall between the Teen and Adult Grids of Second Life.
We got a guided tour of "Mauerkrankheit/Wallsickness" by Peggy and Nonny, which was really powerful for both the artists and the visitors. "It’s really moving for me to be standing here with a lot of people," Peggy commented in the middle of the tour. "This has been a very private thing that we’ve been working on. We’ve
been doing it in fits and starts. It feels far more real to have a
group of people here looking at it. It feels really supportive and I’m happy that you are all here."
Avatars flew around to different parts of the wall, and mused on how to use the installation in different ways. Someone suggested that the wall area should be a "no fly" zone so that avatars would have to contend with the limitations of being blocked by the walls. We also talked about having a "graffiti" wall that people could tag with their own text, images and video, or maybe even animated hammers that avatars could use to break through the wall.
To close the discussion, we talked about ways that other groups could use the powerful creation tools of Second Life to explain and expand their missions to new audiences. The virtual Camp Darfur was an obvious example, which In Kenzo talked about. We provided in the sim a list of other virtual artwork all over the grid that deals with social and political issues:
- "Every Day We Tend the Flame of Justice" by Tuna Oddfellow and Shava Suntzu (teleport link)
- "Gone Gitmo" by Ping Rau, Nonny Writer (teleport link)
- "insideOutJail002" by Tooter Claxton (teleport link)
- "Katrina" by AM Radio (teleport link)
- "Mauerkrankheit/Wallsickness" by Ping Rau, Nonny Writer (teleport link)
- "Photo Exhibit from Kenya" by Konrad March (teleport link)
- "Voice for the Voiceless" by Flithy Fluno (teleport link)
- "The Wall" recreation of Vietnam memorial: (teleport link)
It was a really remarkable event that demonstrated the emotive and motivational power of artwork and interactive virtual installations to highlight important political and social issues. Thanks to Peggy and Nonny for sharing their vision and gifts with us, and the world.