Good Grief

Mila Kunis was not impressed when her presenting partner Justin Timberlake declared at the 2011 Academy Awards, “I’m Banksy.” Apparently even the man who “brought sexy back”… not cool enough to be the world’s greatest living artist….

What do Banksy, Shepard Fairey, and for that matter, Mark Zuckerberg, have in common? They changed the world… without getting permission from anyone.

The pros and cons of street art can be debated forever, but it’s undeniable that illegal, stealthy, fast street art has an urgency and compelling power. Shown in a gallery, the aesthetics and virtuosity remain, but the in-your-face urgency is laid waste.

SaveMe's "contribution" to VB14. I thought it was partly amusing and partly disruptive. VBCO Managing Director Seasprite Destiny was less amused and told me to "tell your friend to knock it off," although I hadn't actually invited her. I think it was that trouble-maker Fau that TP'd her in! 😛

VB14 – Gingham

A somewhat more sedate SaveMe with our 2nd Managing Director Friday Blaisdale at MarkyMark and My performance of "Art / War" our recreation of Marcel Duchamp & Eve Babitz' infamous chess match at the Pasadena Art Museum

VB Duet C – Art / War

In our 24 major in-world performances, VBCO Multiverse has, especially in our earlier days, performed in a number of gallery and museum settings. Marvellous spaces managed by visionary curators. These were wonderful experiences, but still, it was all about permission. Even when we performed at the home of edgy performance, Odyssey, we had to ask Liz & Fau for dozens of things. It’s funny to think of Eva & Franco Mattes, art thieves, pranksters, and hacktivists, negotiating with Fau for the details of a performance at Odyssey.

SaveMe Oh doesn’t ask for permission.

SaveMe appears and performs intensely personal responses to environments. At least until someone bans her from the sim.

I was at an informal gathering the other day when someone started throwing a bunch of colored cubes our way. It was, I thought, a lot cooler than what we were doing. It wasn’t, to my mind, particularly disruptive. Then there was a big pencil. Then they were banned. Then there was much chatter about those horrible griefers.

At VB Flashmob #3 an unknown "audience member" "contributed" a few thousand ponies on our heads to our performance.

VBFM #3 – Starlight Flashmob

It occurs to me that SaveMe is the closest person to Banksy in all of SL. Of VBCO/Multiverse she said “just a thin excuse for parading naked.” IDK what she thinks of the myriad 2D exhibitions around SL.

In a world that is even more permissions based, even more regimented than FL, SaveMe is the one person who doesn’t ask permission. I don’t necessarily think her insights are genius. There’s certainly a repetitive quality to her work. But if street art is the lifeblood of the 21st century… then who is living that impulse in this world more than SaveMe and the other “griefers.”

It is true that “griefers” can expend a small amount of resources and disrupt a project that others have spent substantial time and money creating. No that doesn’t seem fair. Yes, negotiating the dynamics of street art is complex.

But in a fake world that is starving for authenticity… in a world where we define our individuality by the selection of corporate logos we choose to wear… it is the street artist… it is the griefer… who powerfully challenges our assumptions… who asks us to think differently.

In the physical world some street artists have codes such as “don’t go up over anything you can’t burn (do better than)” or don’t write on churches or schools or homes… or Write on Public Property…

SaveMe dancing at the ADD Party at Van's.

I’ve said before that while I appreciate “application art” like Lady Gaga, it’s “research art” like John Cage that questions our assumptions, expands our definition of music, art, and ultimately life. There’s some amazing 2D art in Second Life, I love a lot of it, I’ve bought some of it, but no one neatly hanging rectangles where they were told to hang them knows the power of SaveMe running shreiking thru a room and leaving a chaotically terraformed world in her wake.

Do we underestimate how much we owe the “griefers?”

Have you hugged a “griefer” today?

— VB

By way of full disclosure, I must confess that this is my InWorldz profile. It's a lot less exciting than it looks, all she ever does it tell me to cook dinner and take out the trash. Her culinary preferences are shockingly pedestrian.
As a virtual public artist my work invites avatar communities to express their identity, explore their culture, and demand their civil rights.

7 thoughts on “Good Grief

  1. Excellent post. I’ve been (reluctantly) thinking about SaveMe in a much similar way lately. Thank god you said it, now I don’t have to!

  2. there’s good graffiti art in the physical world and then theres plain old annoying tagging. Sl is a little similar.
    At least SMO lives in the moment and isnt the type to leave some annoying spammy particle emitter like most ‘griefers. there should be a new name for such artists. ‘Graffers’ or somthng.
    (the Matts weren’t really in sl ,merely physical worlders using the medium briefly, so didn’t understand the social dynamics of what it was all about. presenting just more ‘same old’ sl art but using their famous physical world names to get an audience & seem cutting edge)

  3. I like this post. several months ago, i watched a documentary on graffiti, then later i also watched the movie about banksy. one think that i remember noting from ONE of them, i forget, was the but about leaving your name places… and the urge to do that. that is what tagging is also about..(and it has been demonized by the bourgeois and pseudo bourgeois wannabes of the world.. so yes.. in many cases tagging has become aggression against rival groups.. or gangs, in my former homeland of the physical world). . and i was trying to think of a way to do graffiti in the virtual world that would not piss people off… people do get pissed off so easily it seems! i thought about the bird-head cubes that attacked me on Teal when i was making a brief stopover at the particle lab… i actually thought it was hilarious.. but would have preferred it stopped maybe a few minutes in.. but it didn’t piss me off, i thought it was entertaining in its own way.. and came back to the particle lab a little later for my errant.. no big deal. As for SaveMe, i often find her interruptions and some of the reactions even more entertaining than the event being disrupted. I even blogged about her antics and the emotional responses from members of the audience resulting in more interesting and honest remarks than i usually hear at gatherings of artists. and i, too, was thinking of banksy. destructive aggressive behavior is not good street art altho it may be street art to some, but yes, i agree, many griefers are the street artists of the virtual world… and i dont think they should be automatically grouped in with the ones that sneak in while someone is not on their sim and destroy the terraforming.. now that is annoying… but easily fixable if the sim owner keeps a raw file of their sim. I am still trying to think of a way to join street art.. as the artsy things i do are more “outsider art”.. not considered art at all by most. of course i usually limit myself to making fun plants. but sometimes even that can get boring 🙂
    ok, i just woke up so i hope this makes some kind of sense.. i am not going to go back and check it.. i am not awake enuf :))

  4. Timberlake really impressed me with his off-the-cuff wit during his time on the stage. I agree with Pye, there are artists out there and there are people who abuse artistic license, but we just have to suffer the fools so the geniuses can work. It’s almost a necessity to allow total freedom if any environment is going to be truly creative.

  5. Very cool article, an often overlooked and much more constructive view on (some) griefing, as an art form coupled with civil disobedience.

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