The fragility of life


When I set out to create a work of art, whether a performance or installation, a painting or collage, I normally don’t have any plans. I might have some thoughts and ideas written out but I do this particular project because it is something I have to express – an idea I have to communicate, some dialogue I have to start, a notion that I have to challenge.

The last few projects/performances I have done have been dramatic and extreme: I shaved my head; I did a photography project of 2000 Avatars; I built a huge immersive installation for people to float around inside; I became my Avatar for my Masters thesis and I turned an L.A. Gallery into a 1920s dining room – even the curator called that one ambitious.

I have to be ambitious. I am a new artist to the LA scene as well as the digital art world and I am a woman artist. I have to compete to get noticed. This is what I do, so I have to do whatever it takes.

But as I do more and more art projects, I find myself becoming braver. I am actually planning to do a nude performance. How much more brave can I get??


When I started thinking about doing “Binge and Purge” my newest project, I had a few thoughts. If you haven’t had a chance to read the last post on my blog, in this performance/installation I am going to rez my whole inventory (virtual closet) onto a sim and delete all its contents over a five month period.

My thinking is: What if I left Second Life? What would happen to all of my stuff – all that artwork, clothing, furniture, books, houses, toys, etc.? It’s a virtual lifetime collection of stuff. (I’ve been in SL for seven years.) But it’s a collection of what?

Of course, I love everything I have acquired in Second Life. Of course, I value the art and clothes and furniture, the amazing trees and buildings, the gifts from friends. These items are very dear to me. Plus they are valuable in their own right. The original, limited edition, one of a kind art in Second Life IS valuable. For the owner as well as the creator. It can have the same financial and sentimental value as any object in the physical world.

I did consider all of the above while thinking about this project. I wondered what it would mean to destroy/delete so many one-of-a-kind items: clothes from stores that are no longer around, art that is limited edition, furniture and gifts that were given to me and only me and buildings that are one-of-a-kind.

While I was rezzing some items today, I came across a Japanese Armoire that was given to me by my friend Greg who passed away a few years ago. While a few friends may have this same piece, he never sold it. It was just for us. Yes I am very sad. But how long was that in my inventory before I found it buried under some furniture folder? Years — I had forgotten about it.

I was also thinking about reality TV. I don’t watch it but constantly hear people talking about Honey Booboo, or the Housewives of this place or that, or Big Brother. People watch these shows for entertainment yes, but they are also voyeuristic moments in peoples lives. Why are they so popular? What is the appeal of wanting to look into somebodies closet? Warhol started this conversation in his art many years ago when he screenprinted car accidents. People slow down to look? The society of spectacle?


This project is also about the fragility of life. I work in an Emergency Room as my full time job. I see life come and go and everything in between on a daily basis. I see minutes; hours; days; weeks; months and years pass by in the blink of an eye. Do you think the patients I see are thinking about their cars, their art, their clothes, and their money in the bank? No. No, they’re not.

I want to touch on some of the comments/critique I have received about the project. I have the utmost respect for every single artist and creator in Second Life. There are some wonderfully talented, brilliant people doing high quality work. Second Life is ripe for this creativity.

When well-known artist Robert Rauschenberg erased a Willem de Kooning drawing, it wasn’t about de Kooning. It was about the boundaries and definition of art. Ziki Questi used a Marcel Duchamp quote in her blog post about my project, “destruction is also creation.”

Yes, this is an extreme act. No, I can’t sell the important pieces. Yes, it is emotional for me and many others who look in their inventories and can’t imagine in a million years doing this. While I rezzed the objects yesterday and ooohhhed and ahhhhed over the long lost items, I didn’t cry. Well, ok I cried once, but that was only when I opened a folder and wore it, inevitably leaving me standing nude in front of 20-30 people. I was crying because I was laughing so hard. I expect it will be more emotional when I actually delete these items in 3 weeks.

When I talk about mixing realities, bringing the virtual into the physical world, I consider how to make the art of the internet, of 3D worlds such as Second Life accessible to the real art world. This was never the sole intention of this project. It is always on my mind as I am an artist in both realities. I use Second Life as a real world tool to expand and communicate my ideas. I am a performance artist following in the footsteps of Marina Abramovic, Chris Burden, Vito Acconci, Vanessa Beecroft, Coco Fusco, Cheri Gaulke, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Suzanne Lacy and Yoko Ono, these artists are provocative. They are bold, brave and committed.

I understand, Angel Kingmaker’s comment on Ziki’s blog about comparing this performance of “Binge and Purge” literally to an eating disorder. I never really thought about it until now, but my art has never been literal. My work, my performances are continuously made up of instances, a multitude of concepts, ideas, thoughts, layers and especially meanings. They are very multivalent. My eating disorder is only a small part of this performance/installation = project.

I am neither anorexic nor bulimic. I know many people who are. I am a medically diagnosed binge eater. I may eat a couple half gallons of ice cream in a day or two. I purge in other ways. I may clean excessively, organizing and simplifying to extremes. Or purging my wallet by spending money that I shouldn’t. (I am getting much better thankfully and working my way towards recovery.)

As I said above, my life is about extremes. I don’t go half way. What’s the point? To make an important statement, I have to put myself out there and go for  it. Wasn’t the slogan in the 90’s, “No fear?”

I have always had fear and worry in my life, more so the last few years after having a panic attack and realizing I had an eating disorder. I worry every day that I may have a heart attack like my dad who passed away at 50 years old. I am 40.

When I plan a project, I try to think about logistics. What will make the biggest impact, the biggest statement? What will get people to think, talk, act? If I had just deleted my own artworks, how would people know? What proof do they have? I didn’t want this project to be about me. Of course, it is about me, but I didn’t want people to think it was about me. I DID want people to consider their own lives, their own inventories, their own memories.

This is a VERY personal project where I am facing a huge fear of loss and the unknown; death and deletion; memory and emotion. It is, about the fragility of life, whether virtual or real.

Thank you very much for your love and support.

6 thoughts on “The fragility of life

  1. Thanks for taking the time to make a thoughtful post on the issues I (and Angel) raised elsewhere (not sure if others also said anything in other places). I know much of this was responding to the comment I made on Ziki’s post (… and it was Ziki’s response to me in which she made the Duchamp reference. But as I said to her, while that is true, Duchamp did not deliberately destroy unique works of art made by others, at least not unsanctioned. As to your reference of Rauchenberg/de Kooning, I think you will find that Rauchenberg specifically asked de Kooning for a drawing that he could erase as creative process, and that de Kooning was not at first eager to oblige. So I’m not sure that was the best choice of comparison… unless of course you are going to get permission from all the artists whose work you are about to delete.

    I know that your work often changes and evolves from the original concept… a couple blog posts ago, when you announced that you received the sim, you said:

    ‘The concept has to do with the idea of spectacle, curiosity, voyeurism. exhibitionism, temptation, public vs private, memory and nostalgia. It is also about the collections one creates in Second Life. The life we live here and the items that we buy/obtain and the meaning behind them.’

    If it is about our virtual collections – a concept I find very interesting – then surely deleting your unique collection goes against that notion. But then, in the previous post, you specifically said: ‘It is about my eating disorder. It is about recovery and letting go. It is about change and rediscovery.’ That is suddenly a rather different purpose, and I again think Angel’s comment (on Ziki’s blog) is very astute in this regard.

    I know you respect the work of others, and you said above that doing this act is a huge sacrifice… but I will go out on a limb (again, in the spirit of criticism and discourse), and say it is also incredibly self-serving and places a higher value on your own artistic expression over the creative output of your peers. And maybe you (and others) are ok with that. Personally, I’m not ok with that – and I don’t need to be, and you certainly don’t need my approval. But as you say, you like to get people talking, so here I am. I’m hoping that you might reconsider… and I realise that you (and others) might see that as only going ‘halfway’ and not taking the full risk of what you mean to do. But maybe, in your ongoing creative process, the meaning of this work will again shift, and decide that the salvation of the creative output of others is of more import than the destruction of it for your own artistic statement.

    • When John Baldessari burned his work it was important and powerful.

      When Tony Shafrazi splattered paint on Guernica, well, he did have something important to say too, but I think the way he chose to speak wasn’t so great.

      This isn’t exactly either of those.

      I find the concept of the “Digital Limited Edition” to be total bullshit. We live in the age of “Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge.” Yet giant corporations, and world governments at their behest, are working hard to create an era of “government enforced scarcity.” That artists would go along with this 20th century model of privilege and marginalization instead of celebrating the power of new media upsets me to no end.

      When Rembrandt dragged an etching needle across a copper plate, the lower numbered prints were actually better. And at some point you had to stop printing the plate.

      Limited edition photographs are not art, they are market manipulation. Limited edition digital objects are only more ridiculous.

      Having said that, I’m fine with you deleting your limited edition digital objects because I reject them in the first place.

      • Huh…well for me, limited edition has nothing to do with, privilege and marginalization. If they were expensive maybe….My purpose in my art, and it is still art, if I make 1 or 100, because it’s just like if someone made 1 painting and never reproduced it….is several fold….yea it is marketing…people market their work…that’s how they sell it….or should we just barter? That would be like calling Gracie’s performances sales schemes. Also photographers, digital or otherwise, often produce alot more than traditional painters for obvious reasons. Limited Edition gives me a reason to turn over more. Because I got tons of material I hope to get out there. But flooding any market with it at once would be detrimental. And yea I like the idea of being the keeper of a one of a kind or one of only a few in the world special things no matter what they are. Does that make someone privileged? In the simplest form of the word yes. Not in the your definition though, unless like I said it was highly priced. But then what is highly priced….in RL mine range from $77- $333 for medium to large pieces. But a 8×10 for $400 is pretty common on the art world. So in my opinion it’s price that makes things segregated for the privileged. To follow this concept of avoiding marginalization would be to say that nothing should be rare….and that’s world politics and socialism, not art sales.I have to say I have thoroughly enjoyed the discussions revolving around Gracie’s performance. Thank you Gracie:) My reply to this one though was to be sure and share the other side of the coin on this topic so readers would not just be offered Vanessa’s “concept”.

      • Er, I think that misses the point for several reasons.

        In the example of cancelled plates, that is done (unto this day) by etchers for a very specific reason: so that new prints cannot be made from them, usually to avoid forgery. Plates we reused and sold, and there are certain cases (Whistler for example) where lines of cancellation were rubbed out and printed. An expert can usually tell the difference as Whistler (and other master etchers like Rembrandt and Manet) had very careful control over how they made their prints. So I’m not sure what you mean by the lower number prints being better… often plates were reworked, creating different states of a print. I’m not sure the artist would agree that the lower number (so earlier prints) were better, often they weren’t finished. But cancelled plates were to prohibit future, non-authentic prints.

        That feels like a huge digression, so I’ll get back to the point. I have in my inventory several unique pieces. These are not ‘digital limited editions’, but works that were created no-copy-mod-trans, to be one-of-a-kind. The original artist didn’t even keep a copy in some cases, so that’s it. Now, it might be argued that such concepts are irrelevant in a digital age, and in fact the very nature of Second Life (limited access, limited shelf life) means that these works are inherently ephemeral. But that doesn’t mean I want to see them deleted, in fact I desire the opposite. Just like I wouldn’t go crashing through an Andy Goldsworthy leaf or ice sculpture, I’d like to see these works last as long as possible. I think it is my duty in fact, and shows respect for the work.

  2. I loved to read your reflections. Some of it had strong similarities with problems I ponder with in my real life : How important are the (too many) objects we have in our lives, what is important for us…
    Thanks for sharing.

  3. Pingback: What does it mean to be one-of-a-kind in the digital world? | Kristine Schomaker

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