New life for old spaces?

I just got done recording the raw “footage” of our next podcast, this time with my friend Cyrus Huffhines. As part of that, we decided to go over and check out the decimated remains of the American Apparel store which, when it was built in Second Life, was greeted with much hoopla. It now stands as a shell of its former self, with “ripped” posters, a vacant space save for old counters and changing rooms, and chains on the door.

Interior of trashed American Apparel store

Interior of trashed American Apparel store

As I was walking around with Cyrus, I brought up to him an idea that I’ve been thinking about over and over lately. From where I sit, it seems that Second Life has pretty much resoundly failed as a corporate space (I’m sorry, but the evidence that marketing to avatars is a silly idea is all around you as you cruise through SL) but still holds much potential as an artistic space.

I recently sat in a communal area at SVA and overheard a professor I much admire tell a student that she feared the biggest struggle artists face now is the lack of a place to hang out. That, when she was a young artist, she could practically stumble into any loft in Soho and find there a group of artists hanging out, talking about their work, helping each other out, and how that sort of proximity is gone in today’s art world. I didn’t say anything as I hadn’t thought it through entirely, but I tend to think that the way in which a community like that exists now is online – maybe (or maybe not) in a space like Second Life, but at least SL offers a potential that you could have some sort of closeness to other people working on similar issues as you are.

So having said all that, standing there in this essentially abandoned store, I was reminded of a much-beloved art exhibition in NYC a few years ago, where a group of street artists took over (with the owner’s permission and blessing) an old building that was about to be converted to high-end condos. The space, at 11 Spring Street, was open and free to the public for about three days and the line to get in snaked around the building. It was this dilapidated space not at all spruced up for the exhibition, and instead left in its raw state which provided not only a really fitting backdrop for street art but also a challenge for artists used to working on the fly – by having been given the space and more time than they were accustomed to, the artists were able to take on ambitious projects they normally wouldn’t have been able to complete.

So I’m wondering – as corporations move out of Second Life and this space is just left barren, why shouldn’t those corporations make their land available to artists? The American Apparel store offers a great opportunity as there’s already a building and a history there that artists could work with, but a totally empty sim could hold just as much potential.

The gentrifying potential of art has been widely noted in real life (ie, take a run down neighborhood, add art galleries and artists, and watch property values soar), so why not in Second Life? Wouldn’t a cool installation at (just to use it as an example) the American Apparel store just be so much better – in terms of generating traffic to the surrounding sims, getting interest in SL up and rolling again, and the like – than what’s there
right now?

I want to do this. I want to take over these spaces and put SL art in them. I know there’s all sorts of questions to be asked about who gets permission to do what, how much the corporations want to be involved, etc., but the way I look at it is this: something in a space like that is better than nothing; if the bill is being paid to keep it going anyway, may as well turn it over to a well-meaning curator (HINT HINT) and her band of artists.

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~ by amyfreelunch on October 27, 2008.

8 Responses to “New life for old spaces?”

  1. That’s a really great idea Amy and it could work if handled the right way. It would appeal to certain corporations that feel they need some sort of presence in SL but are unsure in what capacity, so being associated with a burgeoning art scene might be quite appealing.

  2. That IS a cool idea, Amy. I think that’s kinda what happened when the Cow sim was loaned to me for 2 months — it had been some kind of marketing company’s sim, & they must have been paid up through a certain time period (I am not sure why they would have donated the space otherwise).

  3. The only obvious foreseeable problem would be Corporate Censorship, which I can only guess would be as restrictive as Linden Lab’s no nipples at SLB5. Other than that it’s a great idea.

  4. Yeah, Dekka — there is that factor. Corporations + Art makes me really nervous. 😛

  5. oh – totally, totally true. but just bear in mind that SL as a whole is already a corporate space…

  6. Depends on the corporation providing the space or sponsorship, they’re not all totally hopeless.

  7. I did say it was a great idea. And one can make art without nipples 🙂

  8. This is very true Sir!

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