10 August 2013

Binge and Purge

As I write this, there are 35,831 items in Gracie Kendal's inventory. (35,832, actually, because I just handed her something.) But soon there will be next to none, because over the course of the next six months, during her installation Binge and Purge, everything will be deleted. The process itself will be simple: she will rez as many items as the sim (LEA16 in this case) can hold, and those items will remain there for a couple weeks, and then they'll be permanently deleted. Then the process begins again, with another set of objects (up to 15,000 prims), and so on until there's nothing left. The artwork will commence tomorrow, Sunday, August 11, at 9:00 am slt. (I'm sure it will take quite a while for each set of objects to be rezzed, and Fuschia Nightfire will create video documentation of each wave.)

It seems a drastic thing, to delete one's entire inventory. In a sense, our inventories are our histories: the objects we have collected are reminders of people, events, and other things, but in most cases we probably haven't seen them in months or years—we really might not even know what we have. (Gracie remarked, "I have a wedding dress in here somewhere...the one time I almost got married in SL.") We also associate value with all these objects: while some might have been free, many others we've paid for, and the thought of erasing them might be painful. Then, too, are those unique items, those treasures, whether special gifts, one-of-a-kind items, or artwork, that we might think twice about placing in the trash. Such is the case for Gracie with the middle item shown here, The Red Queen Teahouse, a little item given to her by Zeality (Zealous Nightfire), an "amazing Japanese piece my friend made...years ago...and it is really beautifully done," adds Gracie. To read more about this project, visit Gracie's (or Kristine Schomaker's—her human's) blog here.


  1. Awwww lovely article!! Thank you so much Ziki!!!

  2. I'm having a hard time here. Gracie is my friend and I think she is lovely... and in SL, we have a hard time being critical of art, even when it isn't our friend's. So I am going to be cowardly and make my comment here, rather than on her blog directly to her, although she and others can certainly read this. And I mean this in the spirit of criticism, as I've been stewing on this for a few days.

    If Gracie wants to delete her inventory as some sort of statement, I suppose we can call that art (and I know there will be those who argue 'Art can be ANYTHING; I am not amongst them, and I won't debate that here). I do see the interesting aspect of this, certainly in encouraging debate... my decision to speak up is evidence of that. Gracie is performing an daring idea, and that deserves kudos.

    But, wearing my virtual art historian hat, I have to say that I am pretty appalled that she is going to be deleting unique works (of art, architecture, whatever items others have created). If she wants to delete her own work, that is fine. But things she has that others have made? I find it pretty disrespectful.

    As I said, I've been stewing on this, and even tried to consider it terms of other contemporary practice. For example, when Jake and Dinos Chapman bought a set of Goya etchings and 'improved' them by painting them with clown faces, many were outraged. I personally like those works, but what allows me to like them is that there are OTHER sets of Goya etchings out there. Yes, they are rare, precious, and lovely, but the Chapmans did not forever alter the only extant Goyas.

    Perhaps the artwork Gracie will be deleting is not of Goya standard. Perhaps no one will ever see it. Perhaps no one really gives a damn. But in this 'edgy' performance, she is essentially taking control of the fate of unique works and killing someone else's creative output. Perhaps the artists don't give a crap (I wager some have even left SL), but it doesn't sit well with me. I also find it puzzling since she has recently blogged about trying to find ways to make virtual art made in SL more accessible to the wider public, and even (at first) said THAT was the reason for this project. Deleting said art helps to achieve that goal?!

    I'd have more appreciation if she gave away the art, or even auctioned it then 'binged' the money (or better, gave it to charity)... but I realise that some items may be no transfer. I also get that she can't say 'I'm purging everything except for unique artworks,' as that kind of misses the whole point of her concept. But everytime I see a comment of 'That's so brave!', I admit, I'm shaking my head (and my fist) a little.

    It feels the same kind of sensationalist-to-be-provacative approach of artists like Tracy Emin (for whom it has admittedly worked) that, in my opinion, lacks. It is art-as-therapy, as Gracie has even admitted (saying this work is about her eating disorder, as the title suggests). So is this artistic anorexia then? I really hope the deletion of original artwork helps her on her road to recovery.

    Anyway, I'm going to stop biting my nails and leave this comment... again, it is hard to be critical of our friends, but this one has been really bothering me. Maybe I'm alone in it, but... maybe this comment can open a conversation, and I know Gracie always hopes to do that with her work. So, can the deletion of unique artworks not of your own making be called 'art'?

    1. I just finished a blog post touching on a bit of your comment :) http://kristineschomaker.net/2013/08/12/the-fragility-of-life/

  3. You're welcome, Kristine/Gracie.

    Rowan, thanks for your thoughtful reply, which poses quite a few questions. While I'm playing more the role of arts "reporter" here than "critic," I do fall into the "art is a way of thinking about things" category, although that's not always the same as "art can be anything." And this made me think of Duchamp's "destruction is also creation" remark.

    I really have no idea what unique works might be in in Gracie's inventory, although she did mention that her own works—including Ce n'est pas une peinture and 1000+ Avatars of course—are in there, and they'll be deleted in the process. (Parts of those are now rezzed.) It seems one thing to destroy your own works and something else to destroy someone else's, although it's curious that we view it that way.

    1. I agree with you that art can be conceptual. I also think it is a shame that she will also be destroying her own work - but that choice I respect. If I recall, Duchamp never destroyed another's unique work (but correct me if I'm wrong, I'm no Duchamp expert). He was more into scribbling on post card reproductions. I've related the Chapman's work to that elsewhere...

      The only documented cases of the destruction of other's work I can think of are vandals. Most of them are nutcases. I'm happy to be corrected if I am wrong though!

    2. I'm writing up a new blog post talking about all of this, but wanted to mention Rauschenberg actually destroyed a de Kooning drawing by erasing it :)

    3. He did at that... I'll respond to that over on your post.

  4. Wow....it is a brave but mind blowing concept. Sometimes I think my inventory should be purged, but I could never do it entirely. My opinion is that yes it is sad to delete artwork...if it was me I would have donated it or auctioned it first. But her statement has been made, might be to late to go back on it. I think tho there might be some bias here. I know some who would say what about her clothes. I mean some fashion is art.Some architecture certainly is art.
    Now, it is the general practice in Sl to sell artwork No Copy. But few sell it limited edition. I do and I suggest it to other artist who usually give me a hesitant "I don't know about that." So it is highly likely that whatever "art" Gracie has exists somewhere else. Wouldn't it be fun if people viewing her inventory purging could list or announce somewhere, "Hey, I have that."

    So although it is my opinion that it is sad, it's Gracie's choice. People delete or never see stuff again from their inventory that is probably important.Pixel stuff comes and goes. I don't say that to make any of this or what we have or what we do unimportant. It is all very important. But it just is that way.

    As this may relate to personal issues of Gracie's,ie: her eating disorder.
    The purging, cleansing of her inventory is like the cleansing that is done in the disorder. To feel freer. Imagine the feeling of your sl life with an empty inventory and starting over. It could feel like a fresh place. Although personally I don't think it would feel empowering. Now although this sounds interesting and maybe appealing in some aspects....It is not actually the right behavior to achieve balance and self acceptance. Cleansing is a good thing. Full purge is not. It's not in eating behavior and it's not in life, SL inventory or RL. That is not just cleansing and balancing. Balance would be achieved by cleansing what is not useful anymore. So in my opinion, which is not intended to offend or scold Gracie...it's an observation, that this behavior is a mirror of the eating disorders behavior.
    True helpful healing behavior would be to rezz objects out as she is but set for sale those she doesn't find useful any longer or just throw away. And observe and appreciate those that are still useful and beautiful. Maybe make comments in some artists way about their source or creation. Share, appreciate and love what she still finds useful. And discard with thought what she doesn't need anymore..The same way we should with our personal internal inventory. To learn and grow from our experiences and let the good things we have created or acquired still support us.

    1. Yes, it is 'her choice', but I don't think saying that it is 'her choice' is justification that it is a good choice. And you have raised great points on the destructive nature of a purge, vs a cleanse (I believe Gracie has even attempted 'clean' eating in the past too).

      Props on the William Morris reference :-)

  5. My remark would be her choice doesn't actually have to be justified. It's just her choice. Not to say sometimes we shouldn't justify things. For whatever sake's are important to us...reputation, etc. I'm sure Gracie knew she would get mixed reactions to her "installation". But I think Gracie can definitely be called a provocative artist. And of course when you are an artist...well you put it out there for judging.Some more than others:)
    I would submit that sometimes we may not even know the "justification". We just feel like doing it. And that is part of the cycle of life. Making mistakes or making good. We all do.And who is to say which is which. It just is what it is.
    On the other hand, often artist do things to purposely provoke reactions or just observations, without offering any of their own "justification".