Tool Shed Days, 2008
A FUSE Commissioned Residency for the *2nd Biennial 01SJ Global Festival of Art on the Edge*, ZERO1, CADRE Laboratory and the Lucas Artists Program, Montalvo Arts Center. Wayne Madsen, Student Team Manager; James Morgan, director Ars Virtua; Ethan Miller, Web Developer; John Bruneau, Web Developer, Ars Virtua Co-founder, Second Life builder/coder;
James Stone, Web Developer. Additional Second Life builders: Bennett Goble, Agatha Man.
01SJ Biennial: Superlight
San Jose Museum of Art
May 10 – August 31, 2008
Beginning in the fall of 2007 Red76 started a FUSE: collaboration, cadre/montalvo artist research residency. Collaborating with the students and staff at the CADRE Research Laboratory for New Media at San Jose State University, the collective began to explore the possibilities of Second Life as a platform for investigations into radical social histories and the often invisible roles that these histories play within society as a whole. With Second Life serving as an entry point, the project aimed to utilize the platform as a pragmatic tool to help broaden dialogue surrounding relevant social concerns relating to the histories of individuals and groups. Red76 and the CADRE students sought to use Second Life as a meeting ground and a jumping off point, a place to realize and formulate ideas and plans before bringing them out into the real world. Simultaneously, they brought the real world — personal histories, reenactments, social forums, and the virtual embodiment and the examination of real-self — into Second Life. They continuously shifted back and forth as needed or as desired depending on the nature of each history examined.
The role of radical social histories lay at the crux of these investigations, with Second Life acting as a tool for understanding various aspects of each history in question. With this in mind the group went about developing a recreation of a U.S. Army Recruitment Center within Second Life. At roughly the same time that work began with CADRE, Red76 entered into a collaboration with IVAW (Iraq Veterans Against the War) on a project entitled Befriend a Recruiter. A counter-recruitment initiative, the goal of the project is to clog the military’s ability to enlist new recruits by having as many people as can be galvanized pose as individuals interested in joining the Army. By flooding recruiters and recruitment centers with phone calls, appointments, questions, and smiling faces, recruiters are forced to occupy their time and resources on lost causes, so to speak. Enlisting the public to call and ask every question they can think of steals time away from recruiters’ to successfully recruit.
With these goals in mind, Red76 and the CADRE students built our replica recruitment center within Second Life as a means to help create a geographically indifferent site wherein persons interested in this initiative can learn more, and get involved. Serving as a meetinghouse for geographically displaced veterans and anti-war activists to meet virtually, the site within Second Life allows individuals, located in cities across the country, to discuss counter-recruitment strategies, and for veterans to discuss their own recruitment histories and their experiences in the field. The center, in this fashion, helps to facilitate new and unique strategies for the Befriend a Recruiter initiative, and creates a geographically indifferent site wherein persons interested in this initiative can learn more, get involved, and speak freely about their ideas with others interested in taking steps to combat America’s policies in Iraq.
Along with current, and continuously unfolding, histories the group has devoted time to stories of the now distant past that still hold resonance within our contemporary context – such as the history of Home, Washington, the Pacific Northwest’s oldest Anarchist/Free Love/Free Thought community, founded in the late 1800’s. Home, Washington served as a safe haven, a community of free choice in a time when those with divergent sociopolitical views from the general public were often shunned, or worse (as sadly they often still are today). Not a Utopia, or even a Commune, in the truest sense, Home served as an experiment in cooperative living on the shores of the Puget Sound, as well as a site for freedom of choice, and educational experimentalism.
With its initiative Second Home the group has recreated key sites from Home’s past – such as Liberty Hall, the town’s meeting house and destination for visiting speakers (which were numerous), such as Emma Goldman – to use as touch stones to investigate histories relating to the cooperative, its members, the context in which they lived, and the links that the cooperative’s history forms with contemporary issues. Individuals may tour through Second Home, visiting sites, and exploring documentation and oral histories relating to the communities past. As well, they may venture into Liberty Hall to hear a guest speaker expound upon any variety of topics. Guests to Second Home may visit the projects website, containing, among other items the projects web-newspaper and archive to dig deeper into its past, or become members of the Second Mutual Home Association as a means to actively participate in the build-out of Second Home and continue the discussion that began on the shores of Joe’s Bay in the Puget Sound some hundred years ago.
The discussions that developed between Red76 and the students and staff at CADRE will be presented at the 2nd Biennial 01SJ Global Festival of Art on the Edge this spring and summer. As the work is about the intricacies of everyday life, the exhibition component to the 01SJ Festival will be oblique, and poetic; largely focusing on the algorithm – in the form of a large wall drawing – of Home and its associations. The exhibition component was created by the group to act as a sniffer for a keyword search around the web, helping to create a nebulous archive of the community’s life and its context, in its time and leading up to today. Apart from this gesture within the museum proper, guests may obtain a car key at the admissions desk, for old van across the street from the museum space. Inside the van is the minutia of Red76 collaboration; newspapers relating details on Home, Washington, and its counterpart Second Home; other printed materials on Befriend a Recruiter, IVAW, tapes of vets recounting their recruitment histories and time served; and countless strategies for the creation of shared space, of ad-hoc educational structures, and the promotion of Free Use will be found within the van outdoors.