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Ambiguity of Identity: The Caerleon Museum of Identity

Note: I will be posting pictures from the show later. If you have images from the opening event you are willing to share, please contact me inworld (IM FreeWee Ling) or email freeweel@gmail.com.


The Caerleon Museum of Identity is a massive sim-wide installation constructed by a team of 18 of SL’s most thoughtful artistic talents.  The opening of this show was Saturday, October 2, and it runs at least through the end of this month. (SLURL)

The opening was a real thrill for me. This is the largest project by far that I have had the opportunity to lead. We had a strong PR effort with a media preview event the previous Tuesday. As a result, a great many of the names I’ve admired from the blogosphere and from the SL art world were there. The sim was at its maximum capacity (50) for the entire two hour event with an amazing performance by the great Mommaluv Skytower . Due in large part to the listing of the show on the SL Destination Guide, we had a flood of visitors beginning early Friday which continued through the weekend. (We had over 700 unique visitors over three days.)

I was privileged to inherit the leadership of the Caerleon team after our dear friend and colleague Sabrinaa Nightfire had to withdraw for health reasons. The team was distraught at the loss of Sabrinaa’s most capable leadership, but we regrouped and determined to make her proud of us as we dedicated the show to her with our continued love and best wishes.

As with all of these large scale collaborations, there are many who contribute work, but a few who go the extra mile to ensure a great show. In particular, I would single out (in no particular order) Fuschia Nightfire, BotGirl Questi, Pixels Sideways, Artistide Despres, and Gracie Kendal as especially involved, engaged, and helpful throughout the year-long planning and implementation. (See complete list of artists/works)

Creative Identity

One result of the engaging discussions we had during the long planning period is that some of us thought it would be cool to continue talking about identity and creativity beyond the show. We have created a new SL group for this purpose (not related to Caerleon) called Creative Identity and we invite any interested individuals to join us for casual talk and/or to collaborate on future relevant  projects. (The group joiner sign at the exhibit was not configured correctly and led you to the restricted Caerleon Isle group. It has since been fixed.)

Ambiguity of Identity

N.B. As of this writing, Georg Janick has not yet seen the production. He has been occupied with serious family concerns and will return when he can.

Georg Janick’s thesis relating to the Ambiguity of Identity was the impetus and inspiration for our project. The team had weekly discussions for several months about the conceptual basis and how to express these ideas artistically. It’s clear that what the thesis meant was different for each artist. As the team leader, my role was to help clarify the essential concepts and to support these differences in approach. Each artist was pretty much given carte blanche to express the concepts in any way they found inspiring.

Here are some of the essential ideas I hoped to show:

  • Though the thesis about the Ambiguity of Identity is more narrowly focused, as artists we decided to embrace the idea of Ambiguity as a fundamental value of sorts. If ideas seemed in conflict, they could be seen as indications of ambiguity, allowing for a certain freedom. The exhibit’s title “Caerleon Museum of Identity”  is not strictly titled after the thesis, but deliberately leaves off the ambiguity aspect (though including it in the introductory text) in order to let visitors discover the themes for themselves.
  • Identity is contextual. Herein lies ambiguity. Fuschia’s exhibit explores how we identify ourselves in context. “I am a…?” We are different things to different people, but we also perform different roles determined by need or preference. I have to be mommy now, or I am making art now, or I am now a driver operating a machine to transport myself home.
  • Identity is a two-sided issue. Who am I? vs. Who are you? When I am a driver, I present myself to others in that role. They see me as a driver and don’t know that I may also be a dancer or an artist or a dishwasher. Similarly, when I present myself in virtual worlds, I am this thing. Some aspect of my personality that I choose to share in this way. This tells others some limited thing about who I am, and it allows me to explore that aspect of my personality.
  • Our corporeality allow us to explore aspects of our rl personalities.  Because our corporeal expression is so entirely a matter of choice, what do we choose and why? If I can be anything, why be what I am? How can I not be what I am at some level? Some people choose to present themselves very much as they are in rl, even including imperfections or disabilities. Others choose alternative genders or species, sometimes even many different representations.  What we choose to reveal is as telling as what we choose to keep hidden. The questions we’re exploring are about the thoughts behind the choices we make, not so much about the choices themselves.
  • How do we relate to others who are making their own choices? Some people are very uncomfortable not knowing anything about the rl operator behind an avatar. Why should we invest in a relationship that isn’t “real”? Others decide that, since we cannot know more than what anyone is willing to share, we must accept them for what they appear to be.  We accept a degree of ambiguity for the sake of coherence within the virtual interaction.

In sum, the Museum of Identity is about questions, not answers. The particulars of Georg’s thesis were, frankly,  not deeply considered. The show more properly evolved from the many hours of thoughtful, unrestricted discussion we had about how we express ourselves in this world and what that means to us as individuals. I think it does illustrate the thesis as well, but we did not feel particularly constrained by it.

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Etiam pulvinar consectetur dolor sed malesuada. Ut convallis euismod dolor nec pretium. Nunc ut tristique massa.

Nam sodales mi vitae dolor ullamcorper et vulputate enim accumsan. Morbi orci magna, tincidunt vitae molestie nec, molestie at mi. Nulla nulla lorem, suscipit in posuere in, interdum non magna.