Sunday, January 29, 2012

Kristine Schomaker's "My Life as an Avatar: The Gracie Kendal Project" & "1000+Avatars"

Yoshikaze presents Kristine Schomaker's

"My Life as an Avatar: The Gracie Kendal Project" (

via Skype Video

4pm on 30 January 2012, RL HUMlab, Umeå University, Sweden

In "The Gracie Kendal Project" Kristine Schomaker investigates our obsession with the notion of the physical ideal, through her own relation to her alternative ego Gracie Kendal, the Second Life avatar.  The interaction between Gracie Kendal and Kristine Schomaker has resulted in virtual dialogues between the two, revealing the conflicts and even dependency of her dual selves, as well as the influences and impacts one has upon the other.

"1000+Avatars" is an off-shoot project from "The Gracie Kendal Project", however, in its own right.  By documenting individual portraits of more than 1000 avatars in Second Life, the project bears a testimony to the avatar constructions of our time and witnesses the unique composition of our desires in the pursuit of that construct.

Gracie Kendal/Kristine Schomaker is a new breed of Second Life artist.  Rather than pursuing the futuristic vision of the technological possibilities of the virtual, her projects firmly place themselves within the social, historical and psychological context in which ""[t]he avatar becomes a vehicle for personal and public reflection."

Yoshikaze is proud to organise a presentation by Kristine Schomaker on 30 January, 2012.  The presentation will be held from 4pm at HUMlab, Umeå University,  via Skype video connection with Kristine Schomaker in her location in Los Angeles.

Yoshikaze curator: Goodwind Seiling/Sachiko Hayashi.  Yoshikaze is part of SL HUMlab activity. 


[Description of the Projects by Kristine Schomaker]

In 2006 I began using new media to bring more attention to the obsession our society has with physical appearance. The media is often the hub of this obsession, typified by stars and models with eating disorders, reality TV shows about plastic surgery and advertisements defining the paragon of beauty. This results in an internal conflict between our reality and the idealized.

The Gracie Kendal Project is a close-up daily view of a personal, social and psychological co-existence with my virtual persona. My work deals with the process of becoming self-aware while living in a society obsessed with physical appearance. It is symbolic of the personal anxiety and loss of identity occurring in a world where visually aggressive advertisements dictate who you are supposed to be. In this environment I find it difficult to be comfortable in my own skin.

Every day I would take pictures of both myself and Gracie and place them next to each other comparing the physical with the virtual, the real with the ideal. After observing how we were interacting with each other through photos, I realized there was a dialogue forming. The natural extension in this story was for this dialogue to be realized through actual conversations between Gracie and I.

Through written chat and eventually comic-like banter, we express our inner dialogue in a public way. We have developed a co-dependent relationship in which each of us wishes she were the other. I yearn to have the life she does, the beauty, the success, and independence. She yearns to be free from the constraints of pixels.Using Gracie as a form of self-presentation, I started to explore my relationship with my body as well as question my own identity. I realized that everything going on in my life was manifesting in my body and in the figure of Gracie. Both were becoming a site for anxiety, fear, stress, grief, loneliness and depression. My body and that of my avatar became a source of autobiographical material in which a story was being written.

Comparing the ‘perfect’ Gracie with my real self, I will bring more attention to the obsession our society has with physical appearance. I am hoping to engage with every person who believes they are unattractive, overweight and afraid. I hope young girls will see my project and feel empowered to be brave. I plan to videotape my performances with my avatar and post them on YouTube. I hope to give talks about my project to appropriate organizations and schools, boys and girls clubs and eating disorder groups.

While working on My Life as an Avatar on a personal level, I was compelled to expand my project universally to explore notions of online identity in the construction of other people’s avatars. My 1000+ Avatar project consists of individual portraits of over 1000 avatars within the virtual world of Second Life. This project also questions and explores commonly held assumptions about stereotypes, judgment, self-awareness and those marginalized by race, gender, sexual preference and physical appearance.

The 1000 Avatar portraits zoom in on the complex social and cultural conventions that determine our identity. The avatar becomes a vehicle for personal and public reflection. This series of portraits is a contemporary anthropology of a cross section of avatars from the virtual world of Second Life in the early 21st century. In these portraits, I explore the representation of the avatar as a construct, distinct from any traditional notion of the ‘self’. I examine the sitter’s identity and probe below the avatar surface to reveal and comment upon their character, personality and their diversity.

The subjects are neither simulacra nor characters in a game: they are people, complete, complex identities with defined social roles. The avatar becomes the projection of our identity. Each portrait represents a different personality, a singular life. These people entered the brave new world of virtual environments as explorers, searching for anything and everything, finding a new empowerment- and a new freedom to be themselves. Experimentation is welcome. As an avatar, they are provided with a safe environment which allows everyone to divulge and consider boundaries and barriers that aren’t readily accepted in the physical world.

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