14 May 2011

CONSTRUCT by Selavy Oh

Selavy Oh has a reputation for artwork that makes unusual use of Second Life capabilities.  In CONSTRUCT, she has created what she describes as a performance, in which she built a cubicle every day for 75 days, forming a three-storied construction, a square of 25 cubes laid out at each one.  (She describes the process in her blog.)

Some of cubicles are static, with perhaps an image on the wall. In some cubes, things happen. Balls may drop to the floor and spill out of the building. Numerous blocks with the number "69" (for the 69th day?) fall up to the ceiling. You might fall through the floor. You might turn parts of the building invisible. You might find yourself ejected. There are two Selavy Oh bots, one named SelavyOh, the other OhSelavy; sit across from one of them, and you'll find yourself in a sync'ed animation in which one of you stands while the other sits, back and forth. One of the rooms has a chair that will give you a camera tour.

Not only do things happen in some of the rooms, but in a sense, the rooms themselves happen. They move. Stay in one place for a while, and eventually cubes change position as you stand. Return for a second visit, and the rooms will be in a completely different arrangement. Even their content seems to alter: you may find new rooms, while others will be nowhere to be found.

There is another level within CONSTRUCT. Some of the rooms present a question, all on the same model. "And what, for example, am I now remembering?" "And what, for example, am I now thinking?" "And what, for example, am I now seeing?" The last, undoubtedly the seed of the others, comes from Wittgenstein's Remarks on Colour:

What actually is the 'world of consciousness'?—That which is in my consciousness: what I am now seeing, hearing, feeling....—And what, for example, am I now seeing? The answer to that cannot be: "Well, all that" accompanied by a sweeping gesture.

Finally, CONSTRUCT presents various forms of self-representation. One cube contains a schematic model of CONSTRUCT itself, which (at least some of the times I went) showed your current position within the build. At other locations, you see the scripts operating the installation. The Selavy Oh bots are another form of self-reference, the constructor placing constructions of herself in her construction. One room contains a box listing artworks antecedent to CONSTRUCT, such as pieces by Sol LeWitt, Vladimir Tatlin, Bruce Nauman, and of course Marcel Duchamp (who named his alter ego Rrose Selavy). You can also pick up a mini-CONSTRUCT to take home with you, with the nine letters of CONSTRUCT switching about the face of a 3x3 box.

One might describe CONSTRUCT as a thinking machine, a machine that thinks, which one can watch as it ponders images, observes its own perceptions, making and unmaking connections unceasingly. To call it a "machine" is not a criticism. On the contrary, there is an significant history of art-machines, not least among them those created by Marcel Duchamp: "Bachelor Machines," optical illusion machines and many others.

CONSTRUCT is a highly self-aware installation, cognizant of its own transience and ongoing transformations, laying bare its own workings, self-aware without being self-conscious.  It is, one might say, a machine for making art -- that is making art -- with LSL scripts as its instruction manual and self-referential imagery as its illustrations.

Click on images to enlarge. [Post reconstructed from a draft after The Great Blogger Crash.]


  1. excellent. thank you very much.

  2. I enjoyed reading this Dividni!

  3. Of course, TODAY I find this perfect statement by Sol LeWitt: "The idea becomes a machine that makes the art."