In Three Dimensions

I12 h

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Frank Popper’s 2007 book “From Technological to Virtual Art” makes an important distinction between modern and postmodern technical art and “virtual” art. The latter, he insists, invites participation, and both celebrates and “humanizes” technology. He examines holography, computer art and the Internet, but ignores the socially engaged three-dimensional art made in Second Life, which has slipped below the radar of academic scrutiny. This article attempts to remedy that omission by drawing attention to three communities that come together by means of the University of Western Australia and its virtual art gallery: 3D artists, the filmmakers that take their art as inspiration for their films, and the outside sponsors and judges of the regular challenges the UWA offers. Machinima (film made in “real time” in games and virtual worlds) is emerging as a hot critical topic, but almost nothing has been said about the mutual dependence of Second Life filmmaker and artist that is fast becoming a genre of its own. We explore the combination of play, aesthetic, representation, and virtuality as these are fostered in a participatory environment meant for users to experience together as “avatars.” We also address the ephemeral nature of art in a digital era, and how machinima films preserve and re-present its impact on outsiders. Finally, we address the relevance of this phenomenon to external study and the importance (and difficulty) of making it known to those who regard Second Life as a play-ground only and not a site for artistic experimentation and participation.