Interview by Difficult ConundrumI first became acquainted with Marina all the way back in 2020. It seems both a lifetime and a mere blink of an eye ago when I opened my first exhibition here at the GBTH. During this time, I came to know Marina as an amazing artist, a mentor, and a friend. Her interview with me became the first in an ongoing series of texts that give artists a means of contextualising their work and practice on their own terms. Today, the first interview of the new GBTH will be written by me for an exhibition that Marina is opening on February 24th at 1pm SLT. NON-PERISHABLE is the exhibition that laid the groundwork for the GBTH to become what it is today. It is only right we return to where it all began.
Screenshot by Marina Münter
Screenshot by Marina Münter
Difficult Conundrum: NON-PERISHABLE is where it all started - your journey as an artist and curator. It was also what set you into gear to found the GBTH. Can you take us back to the days before it all began and share what was it that made you consider SL not only as a leisure tool but also as a platform that can be used for work?
Marina Münter: Ha, yes! I mean, technically it is where I first saw myself as an artist and decided to work as a curator as a consequence of it. I was involved in the art world before, so to speak, but my presence was below mediocre - worked as assistance and mediator in a few exhibits. My mother is an artist, and I think that helps create some sort of familiarity with this world from an early age, altho my main focus wasn’t being an artist per se, but understanding the context we live in and seeing how it was translated into contemporary art.
Non-Perishable came to me as this strange obsession that I had to make happen and I guess it was the kind of thing that you just shrug and follow your guts. Coincidentally it opened on the same day I completed 5 years in Second Life. Being very honest, my interest in this platform didn’t start based on the things I could/wanted to do here, it started with a curiosity as a spectator. I had read about in this book about digital art organised by Wolf Lieser published in 2008. There were quite interesting screenshots of works by Gazira Babeli and Eva + Franco Mattes (none of them seem to be inworld anymore), and even though Second Life was still fairly new, the tone of the article about it wasn’t exactly optimistic - something that had its moment in 2006 and then the interest in it was gone.
Add that with the fact I didn’t create an account until I, the person behind the avatar, was almost 19 years old. The laptop I used at the time was old and not exactly the best to navigate through the grid. I wanted to see art that was being produced here but I wasn’t an expert in using the search tool and just gave up. My good old newbie days were sparsely spent walking around naked, rocking my flexi hair, without bothering having any connection with my avatar or Second Life for what it matters. It was until I met William Weaver, a couple of years later, that I finally understood, through the live photo classes he used to make, that I actually could use the grid as a creative platform. He was extremely patient and encouraging, showing workarounds to the bad graphics I had. In fact, when I first started putting together the containers in my platform, I invited him over and he designed the lights inside the containers, showing A+B how the lights work in Second Life. He also introduced me to Megan Prumier, who taught me a lot about building inworld and did a fantastic job putting together the environment where the containers were placed in the first time I’ve displayed them.
So I think we can say it wasn’t a conscious decision from the start. I took my time tapping the waters here, learning from other residents, building confidence and proximity in a world that can seem quite cold and impersonal when you first sign in.
DC: This will be the third instalment of NON-PERISHABLE. Has anything changed in your approach throughout the years? I remember you mentioning that you feel a lot more comfortable with the struggle that comes with art-making. Could you walk us through your creative process for putting this installation together?
MM: Oh gosh, so much has changed. When I first assembled the containers, back in 2017, I didn’t have the cash required to load in some lindens and purchase the items I wanted to have as part of the exhibition, for example. And my inventory was quite empty at the time, so I ended up poking my friends to see if they could rez for me some objects in the color I was working on, and they were kind enough to not only rez them at the platform, but also to transfer them to the final location where the exhibition happened. Not the ideal situation, but I was happy enough to see it coming to life and so grateful for having their support during this time. Also I started Non-Perishable not knowing even if any gallery would be interested in having it. My Flickr wasn’t popular, I barely knew anyone in the art world here and to be fair, the land impact of the containers narrowed down a lot the possibility of finding a venue that would host it. Most of the galleries I knew (and there weren’t many), focused on showcasing 2D art, which are much more flexible and “lighter” to set up. From all the possibilities I had of displaying - just the screenshot of the containers to the full thing, I was lucky enough to be able to present them in what I called the “best case scenario”: containers with all the objects, the screenshots I took of my avatar inside them and in an environment that would resemble a port. GBTH was founded right after this exhibition opened, having its official debut on October 17th, 2017.
The second time I revisited Non-Perishable was in 2020. I had been invited to place them in this art location and when I rezzed what I had left of the containers, it was almost sad to see how many pieces were missing because they weren’t objects owned by me, haha. This time I just felt like that should change, so I invested in purchasing the objects that were missing and also presented a brand new container, the orange. At that time the GBTH had taken the majority of my focus and time in-world. It joined Linden Lab’s Community Gateway Program in the start of 2019 and moved to its own region. And for this restaging I felt like the containers should be presented by themselves, no massive scenography. I also took new screenshots, which show a significant skill improvement from the ones taken previously.
Now in 2023 I caught myself revisiting the, once more, coincidentally creating these intervals of 3 years. The idea to do it once more came after I rebuilt the whole GBTH region. After allocating all the exhibition spaces, there was this little gap in a corner under the elevated road that just felt the perfect size to be, if not the permanent (I hate using this word), the ideal location for these containers to be. Like a full circle kind of deal.
Time in Second Life runs differently. It feels like a lifetime from when I started to where I am now, but the gap from 2017 to 2020 felt bigger than from 2020 to now. Does it even make sense? I mean, we had the pandemic and that alone could justify this feeling. As I’m answering this, I’m still working on the exhibition, so what I can tell so far is that the despairing feeling of anxiety is the same as when I first started, haha. My inventory is bigger though. Much bigger! To an extent that made the process now more convenient. What I’ve been doing is typing the color name on the search bar and rezzing all the objects that show up, then working from there. The two previous presentations required me to be actively visiting stores and digging on the Marketplace to find the pieces.
DC: Can you discuss the role of colour in this exhibition and what it represents for you?
MM: In Non-Perishable, the monochromatic aspect of it was the starting point, the fuel to the original obsession into making it happen. There is this severe discipline required in order to set up this installation that was very attractive to me, and when I staged it for the first time I was way more strict with the process than I was this time now.
The use of color in this exhibition has an emotional approach - I’m proposing an association with the themes assigned to each container, and my whole argument to convince the viewer is the assemblage of the monochromatic “mundane” objects inside each one.
For this restaging, I purchased one of the books I read as a teenager when I got the scholarship from the Brazilian government on a junior scientific research program along with the Fine Arts School of my state. The book is titled “A Cor no processo criativo - Um estudo sobre a Bauhaus e a teoria de Goethe”, by Lilian Ried MIller Barros. It helped me establish a framework on how to deal with color on this revisit of the containers.
Some previous works approaching the same path were also a source of inspiration, like Sophie Calle’s Régime Chromatique and Cildo Meireles’ Desvio Para O Vermelho.
DC: Ready-made objects are another integral part of NON-PERISHABLE. Many may say that unless one builds their piece entirely from scratch, it cannot be considered “real art”. What are your thoughts on this?
MM: Back in 2019, Squeaky Mole invited me to create an installation to be part of the Second Life Birthday (SLB) celebrations that year. I think it was the same year Linden Lab updated their definition of “builder” in their guidelines - now people that did assemblage were also considered builders in their eyes.
Overall I feel like the conversation about art in Second Life has a lot to catch up with the conversation that happens in the physical world. I mean, Duchamp’s Wheel is from 1917, a year before my great grandmother was born, so maybe that should happen a tad faster? The bit of art I could see in the 5 years I’ve been around Second Life before presenting Non-Perishable (and even after) seems to have this focus on craftsmanship instead of a stronger conceptual base.
Even the way the exhibitions I still visit these days seem to lack intentionality and knowledge of the basic tools available inworld on the way the works are displayed. A lot of the coolest aspects of developing art projects in a virtual world tend to get ignored. To each their own, I mean ultimately it is great Second Life is big enough to house a plethora of art spaces with different approaches. And here at GBTH I don’t gatekeep knowledge. I hope that each artist and collaborator that passes through is able to see the platform further from these standards that have been echoed for so long and apply these to their own practices.
DC: And lastly, I'm sure there are many people out there in SL who would be interested in using SL as a creative outlet but aren't sure where to begin. Do you have any advice?
MM: Grab by the horns!!!
Non-Perishable by Marina Münter will reopen at GBTH this Friday, February 24th 2023, 1pm SLT.