It’s not often that you get a glimpse of the furtive creative processes and intricate working relationships of Second Life artists. They tend to be elusive creatures; happiest toiling away in splendid isolation, hidden away on secret sky platforms in closed sims, blissfully content when allowed total privacy to build alone with no interruption and usually they can be, well, just plain anti-social. So when offered the chance to have a sneak preview of a new installation – plus a rare insight into one of SL’s most well-respected artistic collaborative relationships – I couldn’t refuse.
Douglas Story and Desdemona Enfield are the pioneering and critically-acclaimed artistic duo behind some of Second Life’s most famed builds. In the four years they have worked together, they have produced outstanding works of virtual art such as ‘DynaFleur’, ‘Ripple’ and ‘StormEye’ plus have contributed their undeniable skills and vision to a host of larger projects. This week, they unveil their latest piece at the Split Screen gallery entitled ‘D.Construct’, which by using innovative scripting quite literally deconstructs world-renowned pieces of real life art.
Both being accomplished in their own real life careers, I wanted to know more about this, one of the most famous art partnerships in virtual worlds; to understand their personalities and to maybe, just maybe, get some inside information on any artistic clashes and diva tantrums. But spend any length of time in their presence and you soon discover what warm, charismatic and yes, incredibly humorous people they both are.
PB: Hi, Douglas and Desdemona. Explain how you started working together originally…
DE: Much as I would like to say that I decided to work with Doug after a long competitive process in which I vetted a series of exhibit creators and then went through a rigorous process of decision making, I have to say instead that I met Douglas by chance at a social event. “Oh,” said Doug, “I see you write scripts.”
DS: That night I met Desdemona and, as she says, noted in her profile that she was a scripter. She agreed to do the job for me, and I asked, “So, how much would you want to do this?” She replied airily, “Oh, I don’t know. Just buy me three dresses.” (Note to future employers: she now charges actual money.)
PB: The offer of free clothes in any life does it for me too. But four years of working together in SL is almost a lifetime. How do you both share ideas and creative input equally?
DE: It is an ebb and flow process. The basic pattern is that Douglas imagines the overall concept of an exhibit and presents it to me by mocking up a few objects and diagrams. He tells me about his ideas, I listen, adding a comment here and there such as “Yes, that is possible” and “Yes, and you could also do this…” As we work together the interaction is light hearted, free spirited, humorous and mutually attentive. He has a wonderful sense of humor and there is a lot of reciprocal, playful talk. Any interviewer who has suffered through one of our vaudeville acts has seen this process in action. Our personalities mesh. We are very fortunate.
DS: What is the process like? Well, my standard joke is, “Desdemona does all the work. I just stand around and look pretty.” Which at some point in each project, when the building is done, is not far from the truth. The standing around part. Not the pretty part. But the process is pretty much as Desde describes, though she understates her role in the ideation process. When we start talking about a new build we are typically bouncing ideas off each other like mad, and I feel that the core ideas of what we do are just as much hers as mine. I consider Desdemona to be a lightning rod for creativity; the ideas come much more readily in conversation with her than they do to me by myself.
PB: Sorry, Douglas; I disagree – you have a very handsome avatar. Can you tell me more about this latest work, ‘D.Construct’ please?
PB: Go on – I’ll buy you a beer next time I am in L.A.
DS: Oh, alright. Basically, we use Desde’s scripts to deconstruct famous works of art in an almost literal sense. The twenty-one works of art were chosen very carefully. I hesitate to explain too much for fear of losing a bit of the element of surprise. But part of what we’re doing is using technology as a sort of leveling lens. Gracie Kendal (who contributed one of the paintings – she’s the only non-dead artist in the mix!) commented that this piece is “like remixed music.”
PB: You are two of the most famous artists within SL. Any diva attitudes? Tell me your worst traits please?
DE: I am arrogant, solipsistic, inward directed, unsocial and unfortunately not as smart as I think I am. Does this qualify me for diva of the month?
PB: Definitely not – I have met far worse. Douglas, that must mean the biggest diva is you?
DS: I certainly can’t be the biggest diva. I am originally from Wisconsin, which is a state filled with soft-spoken cheese makers. This is in stark contrast to the arrogant, volatile, condescending denizens of Desdemona’s home state of Ohio. Watch out for that crowd.
PB: But surely all the hours spent together must lead to friction? What are each other’s most annoying quirks please?
DE: Hmmm… Well, Douglas, aside from stepping on my toes during the pro-forma dance at receptions and giving me really, really hard puzzles and design requests to solve, can be rather possessive and gets irked when I script around with other people which I do rarely… umm, well, once in a while – I mean, occasionally – OK… often.
DS: Well, Desdemona is currently working very long hours to finish the fine details on the D.Construct project, and still has a ways to go. So no! No quirks at all. She’s a perfect angel. A perfect, hard-working angel. I will say that she annoys me regularly by having far more insight into the deeper meanings of art than I do, and the ability to articulate it; I mean, she reads Kierkegaard for fun, for chrissakes! Generally, I play Bertie to her Jeeves.
PB: You obviously adore each other as friends and also as artistic collaborators, but do you have any future plans to continue working together?
DE: Oh, yes!
DS: As my friend Harper would say, “Mmhmmm.”
D.Construct is open now as part of a joint exhibit with Eliza Wierwight’s ‘FlowerDrum’ at the Split Screen gallery.