The Performative Space in the Virtual World: A Consideration of the Meeting of Architecture and Performance in Second Life

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This paper looks at how the culture of virtual communities like Second Life is changing the way in which audiences relate to art in real life. Traditions of authoring and reception have been challenged by the advent of digital interactivity and put into process a major re-envisioning of the paradigms surrounding artistic production. This paper will focus on the work of architect Peter Ireland and writer/theatre director Elizabeth Swift, who, working as Void Projects, have a twenty year history of collaborating on installation and performance projects in Europe and the US, as well as in virtual space. Recent work has used Second Life as a context for creating new environments which move away from real world models and manifest themselves as interactive structures, or narratives, which respond to avatar presence. The paper suggests that as virtual spaces become performative through the interactions of users, the roles of artists and audience have to be reconsidered. On one level the virtual spaces appear to lend more creative control to the user, on another the environment becomes an immutable framework where all interaction is anticipated and controlled and creativity limited. Using visual material and examples from Void Projects’s work the paper will examine some of the questions raised concerning the role of architecture and the performative space in virtual worlds and its implications for artistic production more generally.


Keywords: Virtual Worlds, Architecture, Performative, Narrative, Second Life
Stream: Media Arts Practices: Television, Multimedia, Digital, Online and Other New Media
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: , , Performative Space in the Virtual World, The


Ms Elizabeth Swift

Senior Lecturer, Drama and Performance, University of Worcester
Worcester University, Worcestershire, UK

Liz Swift has a background in multi-media theatre. She is a director of the performance group, Void Projects, and has written and directed work which has been presented throughout the UK and in Europe and the US. She has an interest in hypertext fiction and her interactive digital text work 'Singaporeasy' is published by '391 Journal'. She has presented papers on Void's work at several international conferences and publications include a chapter in 'Site Specific: The Quay Thing Documented' published by 'Studies in Theatre and Peformance'. Liz is currently studying for a PhD in hypertext and performance practice at University of Exeter. She is a senior lecturer in Drama at University of Worcester.

Peter Ireland

Visiting Tutor, School of Architecture, Birmingham City University
Birmingham, West Midlands, UK

Peter Ireland has been a practicing Architect for 20 years, with interests in sustainable design and multi-media theatre, and long experience in computer modelling. He is a Director of Void Projects, and has designed all their performance projects, involving substantial multi-media and video work alongside more traditional design. He has collaborated on several of their previous Conference Papers and presentations. Also under the name of Void Projects he runs an architectural practice. He is currently a Visiting Tutor teaching 3D modelling alongside general architectural design. He is currently researching modelling approaches for Virtual Worlds, and their variance from Real World modelling.

Ref: A09P0446