Last year I was asked by the hosts of the radio show The Infinite Mind if I would do a performance for Second Life. They had created an avatar that looked like me, and I would have to learn to move and play the guitar in cyberspace. I already knew what an avatar was. But what was Second Life? Would I have to wear a special heat-seeking suit against a blue backdrop while I sang? No, nothing like that. I clicked on a website and saw my avatar in an online alternate universea doll-like, cartoony figure that did resemble me, though I made some changes to the sneakers. She was sort of uncoordinated and kept wandering off into corners. But I could also make her fly. In Second Life you can see the back of your own head. Like a dreambut a shared one, since others can fly with you.
In the real world, artists look for ways to connect with other people. Philip Rosedale, 38, has created a surprisingly intimate way online to do that in Second Life. We broadcast from a radio studio, so the performance was real. We had technical problems: at one point my hand went through the guitar. How embarrassing. Still, the exciting thing was seeing the 60 or so avatars in the audience from all over the worldSouth Korea, England. People could type in their responses, so it was a live performance with a genuine response. Like a TV show with an added dimension. All of us in our imaginary bodies, sharing an invented reality.
If I invented another avatarmaybe a black-haired, skinny, tattooed gothI might be more comfortable wandering the Second Life homes and gardens, meeting the imagined selves of people I have never met. My first life is taking up most of my time these days. But I would love to do it again.
Vega's new album, Beauty & Crime, will be out this summer
Next Ho Ching