Selavy Oh Residency Commentary


Last week HUMlab hosted an exhibition of works by avatar artist selavy oh. The exhibition followed a two and half month artist-in-residency on the HUMlab Island in Second Life by selavy oh as part of the Yoshikazi Up-In-The-Air Residency project. Since the vernissage and exhibition, which closed yesterday, there has been attention given to the exhibition both in the virtual world of Second Life and in other media.

From the blogosphere, Dividni Shostakovich comments;

“One might describe CONSTRUCT as a thinking machine, a machine that thinks, which one can watch as it ponders images, observes its own perceptions, making and unmaking connections unceasingly. To call it a “machine” is not a criticism. On the contrary, there is an significant history of art-machines, not least among them those created by Marcel Duchamp: “Bachelor Machines,” optical illusion machines and many others.”

Of course Marcel Duchamp is the source of the name of our artist in residence, Rrose Sélavy. Oberon Onmura of Second Life Arts and Entertainment [SLANE] has written a long post at New World Notes about CONSTRUCT, stating in relation to the complexity of the work,

It’s all there, and much of it is purely magical. All of it is important for every artist working in SL to explore. You will be disoriented for a while, but that’s OK. When you visit, you’ll probably see me there, wandering about. Visit with a friend so you have someone to toss your reactions around with. If you pay attention, it could change your (second) life.

Finally Mab Macmoragh has dedicated several posts to CONSTRUCT, and describes the work in a ‘dreamed’ interview with salevy as

Morton Feldman: …we don’t know where the passage begins, and where it ends; we don’t know we are in a passage… The overall experience of the whole composition becomes the passage.

Mab: If you zoom out, Morton, you can see that the passages interchange

Robert Irwin: It’s a psychic build-up, but it’s also a pure energy build-up.

Mab: and a day build-up too

Robert Henri: …not only in the pleasure it inspires, but in the comprehension of the new order of construction used in its making.

Evelyn Underhill: …it is not strange that certain maps, artistic representations or symbolic schemes, should have come into being which describe or suggest the special experiences of the mystical consciousness…

Mab: I’m pretty sure that Selavy Oh would not say that about this construct

Carolyn Forché: …language breaks, becomes tentative, interrogational, kaleidoscopic. The form of this language bears the trace of extremity, and may be composed of fragments: questions, aphorisms, broken passages of lyric prose or poetry, quotations, dialogue, brief and lucid passages that may or may not resemble what previously had been written.

Following the time of CONSTRUCT on the HUMlab Island it will be moving to Mab’s Island where is continue to mutate and evolve.

From the world of online radio, CONSTRUCT was featured in on Soup Radio, where

Arahan Claveau is joined by Second Life artist Selavy Oh whose new works ‘CONSTRUCT’ and ‘LPDT2’, both open this month. Selavy talks about his experiences creating the projects and how they will integrate with visitors to the physical gallery spaces in Sweden and London. (Duration 59 mins)

There is a detailed interview with salevy done by myself and the curator of the Up-in-the-air Residency Goodwind Seiling aka Sachiko Hayash, where a lot of the technology and concepts behind the work are explained in some detail. The diary form of the work, with the code from each of the 75 days displayed as part of the exhibition (see image below), made the work a document in time, an interactive manifestation of the architecture of the work that includes the visitor;

The visitor is a participant; the permutations provide freedom of interpretation. As mentioned above, the days are created like entries in a diary, but then transferred into a three-dimensional structure like a stack of boxes. But is that initial order the most meaningful? Was it meaningful at all except for its occurrence in time? Instead of understanding the diary as a storyline, we can read it differently.

Perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of selavy’s residency on the HUMlab Island for me is how much I have learned and how it has provoked considerable thought. The materiality of time, bringing the image into the realm of change, in this case according to the passing of days and the visits of avatars, is something I will consider in my own work and research for some time to come.


Thanks to Selavy Oh, Sachiko Hayashi, Karl-Erik Enqvist Johan Lindskog, Toby Reid, Jon Svensson and the general HUMlab crew for making this exhibition possible.

UPDATE: Lori Landay, Associate Professor at the Liberal Arts Department, Berklee College of Music, gave a presentation on virtual art at Media in Transition 7, at MIT, May 15, 2011, with presentation slides:, featuring CONSTRUCT.

This entry was posted in architecture, Art, Digital Arts, HUMlab-SL, Second Life. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Selavy Oh Residency Commentary

  1. Jenna says:

    Fantastic! Very impressive and well done.

  2. Jim says:

    Thanks Jenna.

    With each residency we are building knowledge

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