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Tess Baxter

out of isolation came forth light



Out of Isolation and into Supernova 2020 (Denver Digerati, 2020)1 is a video of my video art showing in Denver as part of the Supernova Digital Animation Festival in September 2020, and reflects the changed form of mobility through that time – immobile and mobile and connected. In 2019, I stood at this location and watched several videos before my selected work, Repeat Hikari (Canucci, 2018)2, was shown in the competition section. However, in 2020 we were locked down and I could only see my selected work, out of isolation came forth light (Canucci, 2020b), showing on a screen in my home, after the event.

Yet this video summarises a culmination of research-creation (Loveless, 2019) that negotiated the mobility and interactiveness of bodies into and across virtual and actual space, between the online and the ‘real world’. The avatars showing on the LED screen are recordings of virtual bodies moving in the virtual world of Second Life, but they represent actual bodies, breathing human beings, chatting to each other using text and controlling their virtual movements with their hands. That dynamic was re-presented in another place, in Denver, where the virtual bodies are being passed by people and vehicles with an obvious actual physicality. The people who filmed this event subsequently emailed me the link to the video while I was isolated a third of the way round the globe. In turn, I watched this virtual representation of an actual event using my actual body. This is life as an embodied experience (Merleau-Ponty, 1969), something which is as true in virtual space as actual space (Haraway, 2003; Hayles, 1999) and we bridge between them in our imaginations and actions.

In Becoming Virtual, Pierre Levy (1998), argues that it is not about dividing digital from real as if digital is unreal – we never leave reality. Instead, the relationship should be seen as being between virtual and actual, where the virtual is our imagination, from which we create the actual. It is a cycle, as when we view the actual, it becomes virtual again in our imaginations, which may lead to further ideas, and further actualisations. It is an action that is continuous and transforming, and never immobile.

Indeed out of isolation came forth light was ‘filmed’ at an event in virtual space, held at the art exhibition isolation by CapCat Ragu (2020). Here isolation was inverted – the outside world isolated in towers navigable with one’s virtual body (Canucci, 2020a)3, while one’s actual body was isolated. On screen in Denver, CapCat’s virtualised form is visible dancing, while she is present in the actual world as Catarina Carneiro de Sousa (2021), a Portuguese artist and researcher. She is far from immobile, having created the work in one space, shared and transferred it to another, where I picked it up and reworked it, which was then reproduced in yet another: a cycling between virtual and actual that reconfigures our sense of im|mobility.

1 Reproduced in Vimeo with permission, which extends to this event.
2 Tizzy Canucci is my pseudonym in Second Life.
3 This is a video I made just of the exhibition.

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