What Kind Of Art Does An Avatar Make? Q&A With LaTurbo Avedon
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, Vine…the list goes on. Social media platforms increase in number every day, allowing users to explore new ways of creating an online identity. In the process, reality and the virtual world continue to collapse in on one another, blurring the already fuzzy dividing line between them.
This notion is central to the work of LaTurbo Avedon, which offers new and ambiguous modes of interaction between the artist and her audience. Simply put, the artist keeps her real identity unknown, but promotes and creates her web art using the screen name "LaTurbo Avedon." This "avatar" is actively involved in most popular social media networks and exists as a sort of ongoing performance piece/persona cultivated by the artist. The relationship between her online and offline personalities is unknown, but LaTurbo has certainly captivated many curious followers online.
LaTurbo Avedon, Self Portrait.
The projects created by LaTurbo, who is both a real and virtual person, are largely inspired by the visual world of Second Life, and then reworked by 3D modeling software. Her work can be described as a research into dimensions, deconstruction, and the explosion of forms. It offers us abstraction in digital form.
We chatted with the mysterious artist to better understand both the existential ambiguity of LaTurbo Avedon and the details of her current projects.
The Creators Project: Hi LaTurbo. I tried to look up information about you…it's hard to find any reliably true info. I even had trouble determining your gender. Why do you use an avatar? What are you hiding?
LaTurbo: Surely you could get wrapped up in a pursuit of information that you find to be true or real, but my experience and identity is only connected to what I have done online. As a render, I am making my character not much different than most people, sharing pics, making things and chatting via social media. Not hiding at all, just enjoying a straight connection with how I make and how I communicate in digital space.
It's true, to use your words, everyone today can invent a personality through social networks, photos, status, chats. This is a recent but massive phenomenon. In your case, how long have existed as an avatar?
I've been making work in digital environments since 2008-2009, though I've only been using social media for about a year now. Since I can't go out and mingle with people, it has been quite nice to use social platforms to share my work this way. I can be IRL as much as people allow me to be.
Okay, correct me if I'm wrong, but your responses to this Q&A are as an avatar. If you have one, could you share with us your mission in this digital world? Does your virtual existence carry a message with it?
You're right, but I wouldn't exactly say I have a 'mission.' I don't really look at my existence as being much different than other people, but I suppose that could be a message in itself. There is also the suggestion that digital and physical worlds are separate--it is an idea that I am very interested in. Does/will the whole 'digital dualism' argument still stand?
Well, it's true that this split should be questioned more. Now regarding your artistic productions, can you tell us a bit more about what is central in your aesthetic research? Which artists, movements inspire you?
When it comes to research, I try to spend twice as much time playing video games than I spend looking at art online--both take up quite a bit of time. I'm often thinking about how I could install my sculptures in Deus Ex or Mass Effect. I'd love it if I could just show my work as DLC. There's a lot for me to learn from gaming and CGI, so its very much a note-taking process. I really enjoy the work being made by Tabor Robak, V5MT, and Kim Laughton to name a few current artists. I'm peeking on a lot of architecture blogs as well.
Yes, your interest in architecture is quite apparent in your work. From a technical point of view, how do you go about rendering your art the way you do? What tools and softwares do you use?
For the New Sculpt project I begin by converting digital images into 3D files. The process is basically misusing tools to create sculpted prims (primitive shapes) for Second Life, though I've found ways to replicate this process using other software since the beginning of the project. I realized each image had its own unique translation going from 2D to 3D, and it gave me a very unexpected interest in working with sourced images. I am currently working between a few different applications, but mostly Blender, Cinema4D and Unity.
Now let's take a closer look at your current projects. You recently curated the latest SPAMM exhibition online, which you are also participating in. Could you share with us the origin and the details of this project? What is the subject and common point between all the selected artists? (other than the medium, of course)
I had participated in the previous collection of works for the Super Modern Art Museum in February, and I was very excited by the possibilities of these large online exhibitions. I had considered starting my own online exhibition space at the end of 2012, so curation of SPAMM was immediately something I wanted to do. Michaël Borras (Systaime) and I had a series of conversations not long after the show, and we decided to co-curate the next collection together. We had the idea of SAFARI as a prompt for participants--would it become a show about nature and the hunt? Or would it become a show about a browser? We wanted the show to be a survey of many different practices within digital media, not a just consolidation of similar aesthetics into an exhibition container. I'm very pleased with the selected works as they appear now, and even more-so about how they will be considered as time goes on.
After this online exhibition, we noticed you're preparing your first solo exhibition at Transfer Gallery in NYC, which will also be your first show offline. Can you tell to us a bit about what we might expect to see?
A lot of people working digitally are against the idea of their work being printed, but I see the export of digital files as being a very separate, and equally interesting, level of translation. I've been working on a collection of pieces that is able to be distributed without my physical involvement, employing third-party services for them to reach the exhibition space. It surprises me how much I can do from here, and I am excited to share with you when my show opens in July. I hope you come take a peek. :)
From “here," you mean from “the digital world”? This exhibition must be more challenging for you, though, since usually you don't present your work in the "real world" and there are new technical constraints. Will you be "there" at the opening?
As much as I can be! I'll be chatting with everyone during the reception using various devices, but as you can imagine, I have my limitations. I enjoy the challenges of creating a physical exhibition, rendering my own space and work can often give me too much control for how I make and present my work. I will only see the work as documentation, putting a unique restriction on my process and capabilities. I could build you an entire museum digitally, but this time I am going to have to handle all of the obstacles that come with IRL exhibitions.
Fun! We can't wait to see it. Before we finish, any information on new projects coming up after this exhibition ?
I'm working on a pretty large project right now using the Unity game engine, building my own environment from the ground up. I love the idea of these works being able to be explored by other users, it will be a rewarding to be able to present them in an interactive virtual state. Later in the year I'll be participating in The Wrong Biennale, that will be opening November 1, 2013. I've also got some collaborative projects in the works, and those should be popping up over the next few months. We can be Facebook friends if you want to see what I'm up to. :3