Tuesday, July 30, 2013

the machine - machinima shoot

Fau and I are working today on Odyssey to create the last machinima sequences for my upcoming release "the machine". Here are a few close ups of the Fairy and WYSIWYG (played by Fau) on one of our virtual sets (designed by Fau).

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Aurora Virtualis

Aurora Virtualis: The Virtual Light of Liz Solo
an essay by Patrick Lichty

image by Rhonda Pelley
In many cultures there are sayings that are related to confidence between friends – between this and that, you and me, bark and tree, etc. – that I see in a completely different context from what is normally thought. I see the ‘me’, in the case of the artist as subject, as the body, the flesh; and the objective “other” as anything that we use to ‘clothe’ ourselves, such as raiment, technology, and society. By this, I also mean any artifice that augments the body in any social or creative way, and in so doing, enables the individual to create. This is especially relevant to our contemporary era in that the “things” that surround humanity are exploding at an exponential rate. The space between this subject and object, you and me, is where artist Liz Solo works. 

Performing in this space between poles evokes a kind of duplicity, a necessity to straddle worlds or be an inherent polymath in order to encompass the proliferation of genres and media that bombard us. The same is true of artists. Today, so many technologies and modes of expression place the artist in a difficult interdisciplinary embarrassment of riches that challenge the potential for formal and technical exploration against the conceptual. The dawn is both an exciting and difficult time for the artist, and places many in a state of hybridity. Many artists claim this ground, but few do it successfully. 

Liz Solo thrives as a hybrid. She is a technologist, rock musician/producer, theatre practitioner, performance artist, festival organizer, and more. To describe her work, it is almost like looking at Dick Higgins’ Intermedia chart that describes how various art disciplines intersect, trying to decode where the different genres on the diagram meet and intersect.  In the case of Liz, her diagram is complex; including dance, rock music production, virtual performance with groups like Second Front and Avatar Orchestra Metaverse, movie and festival production. If we step back from the individual genres of expression, what one sees is that her practice explores performance in all its forms.

At the foundation of much of Solo’s work is her musical practice in various incarnations of what is now The Black Bags project with her long time collaborators, Mike Kean and Marcel Levandier.  A Newfoundland cross between PJ Harvey and The White Stripes, Liz sings and plays drums while Kean and Levandier wield guitars. This is the definition, as rock musician and indie producer, that this writer first was familiar with Solo. Songs like Raining Hammers have a darkness born of the Canadian Maritimes, but songs like this bleed into the virtual as she has applied her sonic palette as accompaniment for virtual performances. One example is in Second Front’s Infamous Tommy Lee Incident where the band’s rendition of Michael Wade’s You’ll Get Yours sets the scene for a raucous concert, call for the band’s helicopter pilot, and subsequent apprehension by the authorities. Her sound creates a mythology for the Second Front performance, sculpting a rock ‘n roll cultural frame like none other in the group can do.

This musical aspect of performance, as seen before, emerges in the virtual and the physical. Her work as one of Avatar Orchestra Metaverse takes her experience as a rock music performer and producer and expands that to New Music, founded in 2007 to explore aleatoric music based on the real-life work, Vicky’s Mosquitos, by Harold Schellinx. The group contributes various musical pieces, performed by the use of programmed sonic devices worn on the back of the avatars on the screen. AOM follows the tradition of John Cage by questioning the nature of sound, music, and performance, but in virtual spaces. To date, AOM has performed tens of spatial sound pieces in festivals around the world.

image by liz solo
Liz’s involvement as a co-founder of the virtual performance art group, Second Front, has been essential to the development of the conception of performance in virtual worlds. Second Front was created in 2006 as a 9-person group, exploring the potentials of avatar actions in the 3D virtual world, drawing from sources like Dada, Futurism, Surrealism, and FLUXUS. Her winged blue persona has remained consistent throughout the life of the group. Her fairy-like persona is both lyrical and absurd in works like The MoFos of Invention, a performance where Second Front portray themselves at australopithecines from 2001: A Space Odyssey that first invent various objects and devices and then club their inventions into destruction until praying to the great Kubrick monolith. This presentation also worked particularly well in The Gods Play Pong, where Second Front are “The New Gods” who inhabit a Parthenon-like structure that reveals its walls as giant pong paddles when they supplicate themselves at the brazier at the centre of the temple.  And, in the group photo afterwards, her visage was an ideal virtual sylph. The continuity yet versatility of Solo’s “Lizsolo Mathilde” avatar continues to explore the boundaries of virtual embodiment and notions of virtual narrative and identity.  

This transfers to a third virtual group that Liz has been pivotal to - Third Faction, a group performing in the online game, World of Warcraft.  One of the most notable performances by TF is /hug (pronounced “slash-hug”) which questions the nature of possible actions available to players in multiuser online games.  /hug places TF members as a kind of barbarian Red Cross, where they roam the land, “to prevent and alleviate humanoid suffering wherever it may be found." The name of the intervention comes from one of the key acts, hugging and conferring game health points rather than rampaging and pillaging the landscape. This action also shows a theme of humanity in Solo’s work. 

This quality of the humane is most evident in her performance where she invited Second Front and the whole of the online community to participate, called Alien Home Birth. In this performance, Liz’s avatar, Lizsolo Mathilde, went through a period of gestation after alien impregnation. She then gathered her friends and colleagues around her, and straddled a delivery couch shaped like the Earth, and proceeded to give birth to everything and everyone who wanted to be ‘born again’ in the virtual. 

This work refers to many sources in art historical parlance, especially Courbet’s L'Origine du Monde/The Origin of the World, which places the woman as the progenitor of the universe. This is also referred to in the artwork for British singer Kate Bush’s Never For Ever album, where a plethora of wonders, birds and monsters stream from beneath her dress. One last referent that could be brought into play is that of Carolee Schneeman’s Interior Scroll, in which Schneeman read from a scroll that unfurled from her vagina. Alien Home Birth revisits the powerful narrative of woman as existential origin and returns it to question viscerality in the disembodied through Second Life.

In addition to her artistic practice, Solo also manages a virtual art centre called the Odyssey Art and Performance Simulator, and in the physical, The Black Bag Media Collective in Newfoundland. Therefore, Liz is not just a practitioner, but a director, curator, producer and administrator. She works on both sides of the fence, creating context for hers and others’ work as well as creating. This is another testament to her passion and humanity for the arts, and is an analogical double to her avatar’s gesture in Alien Home Birth. She embodies the gestures of creation and production.  

As with any intermedia artist, curators and critics may find a trajectory like hers hard to track, as it spans music, performance art, dance, theatre, and film, and equally difficult to encapsulate in anything less than a book. What is more remarkable is that she has managed to garner recognition for the work even though she is based in St. John’s, Newfoundland, a less-known area in the art world. I called this essay Aurora Virtualis as a play on Aurora Borealis - placing Solo as analogous to other women artists in Canada, like Emily Carr, who represent a light in the North.  But in this case, I believe that the light comes from the virtual, alluding to the title of the classic William Gibson novel. And this is what Liz Solo is – she is a creative light coming from unexpected spaces.
 Patrick Lichty, 2013

Patrick Lichty is a Chicago-based critic, curator and artist who has been involved in media arts for over 20 years. He has worked with many collectives, including The Yes Men, Second Front, and has shown in the Whitney, Maribor and Yokohama Biennials.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

AOM coming to St. John's

Here is a set of photos of Humming Pera/Tina Pearson, Maxxo Klaar, Frieda Korda and I setting up on Odyssey for the upcoming Avatar Orchestra Metaverse performance at this year's Sound Symposium. The performance will be a hybrid-reality concert that bridges the gap between real and the virtual space and will feature original Avatar Orchestra compositions, including a brand new piece by Tina Pearson and I - "In This Far Now (A Cyber Song of Longing)"Tina is travelling from Victoria, B.C. to present workshops and performances.

The public is invited to attend a workshop on the Avatar Orchestra Metaverse in the hours leading up to our Sound Symposium performance.
Sound Symposium Event Details: 
Workshop with Liz Solo, Tina Pearson and the Avatar Orchestra Metaverse - a workshop in virtual reality sound. Saturday July 14, 1 PM NST, LSPU Hall, St. John's, NL.
AOM Hybrid Concert Performance - Saturday, July 14th, 3:30 PM NST, LSPU Hall, St. John's NL
For more on this and other Sound Symposium events please visit their site : Sound Symposium Home

Tina and I have been collaborating via the Internet for five years and I am stoked that she is travelling to Newfoundland to be a part of this event in real space. We are going to have a time!

Following the Sound Symposium, Tina Pearson will be Artist in Residence at the Black Bag Media Collective studio July 16 to 21! Details to follow shortly.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

UpsideDown World

Lately I have been exploring different processes in the creation of hybrid reality work, seeing if I can merge real life theatre, film, animation, dance, movement and choreography with virtual performances. At the end of a year of exploration I was surprised to find that I am most at home with the kinds of processes and results that dance has to offer - organic, responsive, exploratory. The theatre ways of yore aren't cutting it for me anymore - partly because the old collective theatre ethic no longer really exists and so, it seems, the support for ideas that question or inquire no longer exist (here). Also, performing in online spaces has changed me. Theatre feels rigid and contrived when compared to the experience of locating the expression within the moment, as dance can lend itself to do, as virtual performance, by the nature of the platforms and their limitations, requires. It seems I have come to need this immediacy and the risk to be a part of the performance or else it just isn't as satisfying. 

Dance has proven more receptive, in my experience, to incorporating new technologies and virtuality than any other traditional discipline. In these photos by Justin Hall I am working without a net in a very spontaneous performance piece that took place last summer - Upside Down World, Pearls for Pigs - at the BBMC studio in St. John's and simultaneously at the Odyssey Contemporary Art and Performance Simulator in Second Life. 

Following an upsetting gallery experience this piece about taking control of one's work and the context within how one shows work just sort of happened. It happened as a direct response to events occurring at the time. Avatar performers - Fau Ferdinand/Yael Gilks (UK) and Jo Ellsmere/Jane Leffler (USA) - interacted with me from virtual space via a large projection. There was very little script, only images and cues for certain actions to happen. The rest of the performance was an exploration, I followed my impulses and responded to the actions of the avatar performers, projected large on the floor in real time, I played with the visuals that they generated and sound that I generated. The avatars could see my actions via a webstream and so could also respond to me. The performance was a process that I went through with others, as opposed to being something that I stood up and performed, it was a direct response to the present. It marked a change in consciousness in my approach to live performance.

Since then I have been actively seeking experiences that feed these impulses to reach, to explore the moment, to expose the boundary. It's just more fun that way. I have been lucky to be able to work with dancers through programs offered by Neighbourhood Danceworks in contact improvisation and choreography. I am also working whenever I can with the amazing dancer/choreographer Tammy MacLeod to develop ideas. We are currently creating a new piece slated for a first viewing as part of Neighbourhood Danceworks' First Look series in July. 

Upside Down World (Pearls for Pigs)
 photos by Justin Hall

Here is a video of the performance and the avatar audience from the virtual side. The machinima is made by UK artist Arahan Claveau:

Upside Down World (Pearls for Pigs) made possible by the support of the Canada Council for the Arts Media Arts Section and the Black Bag Media Collective in cooperation with Roles for Women Theatre Company

Super Art League at Low Lives: Occupy!

Here is a machinima I recently made in DC Universe Online documenting the Super Art League! as we occupy the Metropolis Mercantile Bank in DCU as part of the 2012 Low Lives: Occupy! event.
March 3, 2012.

In this video: Jeremy Turner/Idea Cyclone, Erik Rzepka/zisuthra szepka, Joseph Delappe/NamJunePaikman, Liz Solo/Slizello, Ben Poynter/Doctor Atramentos, Ben Unterman/The Underliner, Patrick Lichty/The Projector (out of phase).

We are planning more interventions and there is talk that a comic book featuring the adventures of our super characters is in the works:))

the machine

I have just started to work on the edit for the machine - my next release. the machine is a multi-media piece that merges film, video and machinima to create a post apocalyptic fairy tale set in St. John's, Newfoundland. I had the opportunity to work with a fantastic crew during the shoot and learned so much. I also had the pleasure of working with the incomparable actress Melanie Caines, who played the part of the Clown, opposite my hacker character. 

Here are a few shots by Rhonda Pelley from the fourth day of the shoot. Melanie and I take a quick break on the fire escape.
 Gaffer, Tim Murphy, giving awesome input, as he did throughout the whole shoot.
 Asleep at the machine.
 the machine
 Beauty shot of Melanie Caines.

I am also working with Fau Ferdinand/Yael Gilks and Jo Ellsmere/Jane Leffler on the machinima portion of the shoot. A great experience, as always, and we are getting some beautiful stuff. A screen captured picture from the set by Fau Ferdinand/Yael Gilks.

Stay tuned for the release of the machine in the Fall of 2012.

Produced by Liz Solo and the Black Bag Media Collective. Starring Liz Solo and Melanie Caines with Lutius Elijah Whalen and Zoe Elizabeth Howard; Directed by Liz Solo; 1st Assistant Director Shara Desiree King; Production Design by Barry Newhook; Art Direction by Andy Pyne; Props by Jenn Brown; Costumes by Charlotte Reid; Hair by Mackenzie Geehan; Make-up by Andrew Squires; Camera, Bob Pope; 1st Camera Assistant Jay Hamel; 2nd Camera Assistant Stephen Lewis; Gaffer Tim Murphy; Key Grip Thomas Kelly; Sound Phillip Cairns; Boom Operator Marco Dolle; Continuity, Mitchel Bradbury; Design Consultant Geoff Younghusband; Production Assistant Jacky Cook; Production Assistant/Locations Mike Kean; Craft Services Joanne Stoodley. Online crew: Machinima by Liz Solo and Fau Ferdinand/Yael Gilks; Art Direction by Fau Ferdinand/Yael Gilks; consultant/bots and scripts by Jo Ellsmere/Jane Leffler. All machinima is being shot on the Odyssey ContemporaryArt and Performance Simulator.

Made with the support of the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council, The Newfoundland Film Development Corporation, and resources and sponsorship made possible by the Newfoundland Joy Award including NIFCO, Atlantic Studio Cooperative, KODAK, John Doyle and the CBC. Special thanks to Best Boy Entertainment.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Super Art League!

The Super Art League is a group of performance artist superheroes in DC Universe Online. The league is comprised of established and emerging virtual worlds/video-game performance artists from around the world – including members of the performance art group in Second Life known as Second Front.

Active members include: Idea Cyclone (Jeremy Owen Turner, Canada), Slizello (Liz Solo, Canada), NamJunePaik Man (Joseph Delappe, USA), Argon Flux (Patrick Lichty, USA), The Underliner (Ben Unterman, Canada), Pyegirl (Pyewacket Kazyanenko, Australia), and Kai Steamer (Colombia).

There are many other members worldwide (visit our Facebook group for more details -