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Mary Flanagan, Ho Chien Chang, & Wu Fu Che

Oregon, USA
mary@maryflanagan.com
[ unnatural elements : avatar portraits ]
30" x 20"

Artist Statement: [unnatural elements] presents images of researcher|artists from Taiwan and the USA which demonstrate that the conversion from the image of the physical body to the image of the virtual is not a typical smooth computational process.

The images featured in [unnatural elements] show the effects of the creation of a digital nature and digital elements. Most researchers working in 3D technologies strive for "perfection." However, our team was interested in the translation process. The digital prints we created are collaborations developed while working to create software for 3D "instant" avatars. These representations are more interesting than the perfection later achieved in the development of the software tools, however, because they show that the translation between the real and the virtual does indeed have seams, gaps, and bumps.

The images were created by using 3D head scans of the artists from composited images produced by a video camera, and stitching them together in custom software. Interestingly, the process generated "natural" eruptions inherent to the heads, and each scan seemed to take on forms reminiscent of "natural" eruptions we see in earth, fire, water, and wind.

Cyberspace is a socially - mediated construction, made clear through the use of avatars, or personal representations in virtual worlds. By putting ourselves into digital worlds, we lose the self and become one with virtual spaces' new elements. Digital culture's construction of landscapes and bodies has been a way to create new cosmologies, new elements. By putting ourselves into digitally constructed realities, we call into question the nature of the self in a digital culture and the ways the new selves are created. What is our relationship to our own data, our bodies sampled with the latest digital technology?

Here, our new bodies erupt with artifacts and take on unexpected resemblances to earthbound natural elements like naturally occurring algorithms. Thus the computer, in creating artifacts, is effectively doing nature's work. Offering us a way to critically examine the body in cyberspace and our conventions and ideals of interactive avatars and the drive for 3D art "realism," these pieces work to provoke a dialogue about the real and "natural" we try so desperately to produce in digital space.

This collaboration was made possible by funding from the U.S. Fulbright Scholar Program and the Foundation for Scholarly Exchange, 2001.