Bodies INCorporated, is a public space on the web (VRML/Java) that occasionally emerges in the physical realm. It will be exhibited from July 8 to August 11 at two network-linked sites — The Contemporary Art Center (for a show entitled “The Bridge”), and The Ernest N. Morial Convention Center (for SIGGRAPH 96), both in New Orleans. After this, the show will be exhibited at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, and the San Francisco Art Institute. Initially, the participant is invited to construct a virtual body out of predefined body-parts, textures, and sounds, and gain membership to the larger body-owner community. The main elements of the online site are three constructed environments (subsidiaries of Bodies INCorporated), within which different sets of activities occur: “LIMBO INCorporated,” a gray, rather non-descript zone, where information about inert bodies that have been put on hold — bodies whose owners have abandoned or neglected them — is accessed; “NECROPOLIS INCorporated,” a richly textured, baroque atmosphere, where owners can either look at or choose how they wish their bodies to die; and “SHOWPLACE!!! INCorporated,” where members can participate in discussion forums, view star/featured bodies of the week, bet in the deadpools, and enter “dead” or “alive” chat sessions. Events occurring within each of the zones ignite a range of emotional responses, and raise a variety of issues related to online community dynamics. For example, how does the graphic representation of the body amplify our relationship to it? What sort of psychological commitment and attachment do owners exhibit toward their “virtual” bodies? What happens when people find out that, with neither their knowledge nor participation, their body has been publicly altered in some way? How does the body become a source of pleasure and anxiety as it moves through changes and permutations out of the hands of the owner? What sort of emotional dynamics result from bodies being displayed as public spectacle? These are the types of questions Bodies INCorporated actively explores.
- Victoria Vesna, USA, Associate Professor, University of California, Santa Barbara