IN THE BEGINNING
The story begins with Virtual Concrete, a physical installation with a World-Wide-Web component that appeared at the Huntington Beach Art Center for a show entitled "Veered Science," and again at the University of California, Santa Barbara's faculty exhibition. The installation consisted of nine 3' x 2.5' blocks of 4" thick concrete, with two 8' electrostatic prints of a male and female body bonded to the concrete's surface. When the paper from the digital prints was removed, only the pigment remained.
The pathway was surrounded by white noise, interrupted by the user stepping onto the concrete, triggering light sensors. These sensors algorithmically controlled an ambient composition consisting of a mix of synthetic backgrounds, and processed voice recordings of habeas corpus legalese (RealAudio sound file) and MUD and MOO sleaze (RealAudio sound file). Text was superimposed on the microchip covered bodies at a size so small that visitors had to crawl over the pathway on hands and knees to effectively read it. All the while above the path, a camera kept track of visitors' movements and sent their live images out to the Web.
Online, viewers could not only see real-time projection of those in the gallery space, but they could also talk with one another live, place an order for a virtual body from a pre-determined set of parts, view live images uploaded from the physical installation, engage in a public discussion about the art piece, access others' orders, or read a critical essay about the project. At this point, the body-order form was nothing but text entry fields and check buttons, but at least it allowed for the "virtual" audience to have an active engagement with the piece (just as those walking the "concrete" had). Surprisingly, it struck a chord with the public, and orders began rapidly rolling in.
THE NOT SO HOSTILE TAKEOVER: Virtual Concrete morphs into Bodies© INCorporated
Victoria conceptualizes the next step for Virtual Concrete, and decides to write a proposal for SIGGRAPH96, soliciting Robert Nideffer and Jason Schleifer's help. In early Fall of 1995, Robert and Victoria write out the first draft, with Jason's assistance regarding technical considerations. In a brainstorming session to come up with a title, Robert, working off one of Victoria's suggestions, proposes "Bodies INCorporated," and she enthusiastically approves -- though with the addition of the "©" symbol after "Bodies." It sticks.
The project is discussed in three phases, with only the first being proposed, and accepted as one of 10 funded artist's pieces, for a collaborative installation entitled "The Bridge." The Bridge is part of SIGGRAPH96, taking place at the Contemporary Arts Center (CAC) and the Morial Convention Center, late July and early August 1996, in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Victoria's vision is to allow people logging onto Bodies© INCorporated to build out bodies in 3-D space, graphically visualizing what were previously bodies generated as text-only. At this point, Robert, Jason, and Victoria have next to no idea about how this could happen. But this, due to Victoria's determination, is not allowed to be perceived as a problem. Victoria makes a key contact with Viewpoint Data Labs, who agree to give her free and unlimited use of 3-D models that their company creates and sells. She begins paging through their extensive catalog of wire-frames in order to place her order. Kenny thinks of ways to transpose the interactive sound experience of Virtual Concrete into something that will work online. It is at this moment that virtual acoustic environments become his new obsession.
During Fall of 1995 and Winter of 1996, Victoria, Jason, Kenny, and Robert meet on several occasions to further conceptualize the project. Working closely with Victoria and Robert, Jason begins to implement some more elaborate CGI scripts to force users to log onto the site with e-mail ID and password in order to become active members of the newly forming organization. All three periodically battle with the problem of how to graphically visualize what are now nearing 3000 ordered bodies. Many body owners are getting frustrated at seeing no images of their "alter-egos," "significant others," or "desired sexual partners" for over half a year. Because nothing much is happening to the bodies, Victoria starts referring to this gestational holding pattern the bodies are in as "limbo."
The task of visualizing all of the ordered bodies is becoming truly monumental. It is during one of these meetings that Robert proposes the idea of unleashing a virus that randomly wipes out ALL of the existing bodies held in limbo, in effort to force body owners to log on again and order new ones that will conform to whatever method of visualizing the bodies gets developed. Based on conversation he had with a collaborator on a variety of other projects named Jason Brown, Robert suggests that the place the infected bodies get sent to be called "Necropolis." (This idea emerged at a time that both Jason and Robert were working with Victoria on an UC-wide online exhibition and conference entitled Terminals: Considering the End, that was organized by Victoria and Connie Samaras in conjunction with a physical conference being held at the Santa Barbara campus called Terminals: the Cultural Production of Death. There is even talk of linking "Necropolis" to Terminals as part of the exhibition. The linkage never happens.)
Victoria thinks that instead of creating the mass slaughter that Robert is proposing, current body owners held in limbo should be able take their bodies to Necropolis, where they are able to select from a variety of death methods, and decide how to delete their original orders. Victoria starts researching online crime archives and medical facilities for inspiration about ways members might put themselves to rest. She works ceaselessly (or for as long as her mind and body can handle it) and begins cutting and pasting hundreds upon hundreds of ways of dying, all of which are documented from actual "real-world" situations.
Then the day of darkness. Thunder (Victoria's personal SGI server) crashes. She loses absolutely everything and is set back at least a month's worth of work, if not more. The painstakingly researched methods of death are gone, as are all other personal files. She is really thrown out of whack, and Robert tries to provide some support. Thankfully most of the critical files had been backed up on the main Arts server on campus, so hope remains.
Time passes. Not much happens on the project, other than body orders continue to roll in (passing the 4,000 mark) -- as part of the still operative "Virtual Concrete" site. Jason implements a bit more functionality to the user log in procedures. Victoria lets things simmer in the background as other projects take front stage. Robert pretty much turns the stove off, though an occasional spark jolts him, creating free-floating anxiety about a vague something that's been proposed, funded, and committed to. Usually the spark is Victoria worriedly mentioning "Bodies© INC." But because she and Robert are so busy, it's easy for it to, yet again, recede into the background.
Victoria is prodded into occasional activity through communication with SIGGRAPH organizers wondering about shipping arrangements, space and lighting requirements, and so on. She starts sending out feelers to potential project sponsors in effort to secure additional equipment. She has marginal success. April approaches. Victoria arranges a series of meetings with Robert, Jason, and Kenny to discuss what to do. The work remains conceptual at this point. Victoria proposes attempting to model the project along the lines of a tightly run, and even more tightly controlled, corporation. She also wants to develop multiple spaces for members to explore. Her goal is to create an active community of Bodies© INC members.
Victoria and Robert collaborate on "Under Re-Construction: Architectures of Bodies© INCorporated," an extended essay that is consciously written in a fashion that will allow it to transition into a hypertextual space, laying the foundation for what will eventually become the Bodies© INC MOO/WOO. During the writing process, Victoria elaborates on the breakdown of Bodies© INC into four distinctive domains. The idea of Limbo and Necropolis get further refined, and two additional spaces get proposed. She begins calling these spaces "incorporated subsidiaries" to the parent corporation. They consist of: Limbo (where previously ordered and/or inactive bodies are put on hold); Necropolis (where members go to delete their previously ordered or currently active bodies), Showplace!!! (where bodies are put on display, chatted about, and interacted with), Home (where members start their explorations from).
Victoria presents this text at "Veiled Histories," a week long conference at the San Francisco Art Institute dedicated to exploring the topic of public art. It is here that she meets Krzysztof Wodickzo, who, along with many others, graciously becomes an enthusiastic supporter of the corporation. Kenny, thinking about how to achieve decent data compression, hacks small looping MIDI files to be implanted within the four worlds. At Robert's suggestion, he opens QuickTime Musical Instruments (a Macintosh system extension) in ResEdit (a Macintosh resource editing program), in effort to tweak the standard musical sounds into something with a bit more edge. This idea is short lived.
At this point, due to contact made through Kenny, Robert had been working with a very talented and self-motivated young programmer/music student named Nathanial Freitas on creating a 3-D space using VRML and Java as part of a special issue of an ongoing journal he co-founded with Benjamin Bratton called _SPEED_. He introduces Nathan to Victoria, one thing leads to another, and before long Nathan begins playing a pivotal role in conceptually developing the way Bodies© INC can be realized in 3-D space by using VRML and Java. Nathan, Jason, Victoria, and Robert, start to brainstorm about ways to link what Jason, Robert, and Victoria began with CGI/Perl scripting, to what Nathan was beginning to propose with VRML and Java. Victoria decides that bodies should be constructed from textures, in order to shift the tendency to perceive the project from a strictly sexualized one (as frequently indicated by peoples orders and comments) to a more psychological one (where matters of the mind are actively contemplated and encouraged). Before long, each of the textures is given detailed symbolic meaning. Down the road, Victoria's idea is to embed text, sound, and artificial life into them.
Using the body models supplied by Viewpoint Data Labs, Nathan starts to build a reduced polygon 3-D body, a prototype of what will hopefully be dynamically generated on the fly as members enter Bodies© INC and place an order using the (yet to be scripted) body-order form. Jason virtually disappears from the scene after graduating and getting hired off by Alias/Wavefront, a Bodies© INCorporated sponsor. No one knows what Kenny is doing. Victoria and Robert are continuing to focus on a variety of other ongoing development projects, including one in collaboration with noted physicist Stephen Hawking exploring "Life in the Universe," and another on the history of art and computing (affectionately termed HAC). About this time, they co-author "Bodies© INCorporated: Theoretical Appropriation for Somatic Intervention," an experimental essay that is submitted to CyberConf5, and ends up getting published in the annual proceedings of ISEA96.
Victoria must soon leave for one of her thrice annual three week long research trips to Europe, part of ongoing work she is doing on fellowship as a doctoral candidate (along with Joseph Nechvatal, Bill Seaman, Miroslaw Rogala, and Jill Scott) at the Center for Advanced Inquiry into Interactive Arts (CAiiA), a program initiated and directed by Roy Ascott, a pioneer in the field of telematic art. Victoria determines that Bodies© INC now form the core of her research. Her trip is scheduled for mid-July, at exactly the time the first part of the SIGGRAPH installation (at the Contemporary Arts Center [CAC] in New Orleans) must be conducted. After minor (though characteristic) hesitation, Robert agrees to direct the first phase of the installation at CAC.
Feeling tremendous pressure, and having committed (in the original proposal) to an installation that required far more technical resources than were given, or than Victoria was able to secure, Robert proposes to reconceptualize the second phase of the installation, to be done at the Convention Center as part of the SIGGRAPH conference proper. The idea is to go minimalist. Because SIGGRAPH is a bastion of high-tech, where industry technophiles comes out full force in order to pet all the new machines, Robert wants to have an installation that does just the opposite, and consists of nothing but a poster advertising Bodies© INC in the other space at CAC, hanging behind a corporate desk, lit with a small brass lamp. Victoria is supportive of the idea. However, due to the physical layout to the space, it doesn't quite happen this way.
Around this time, Victoria learns that she been invited to have Bodies© INCorporated be the culmination of "Figuratively Speaking," a show lasting for three months at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art (SBMA), as well as do a solo presentation of Bodies© INC at the San Francisco Art Institute in the beginning of 1997. The pressure mounts. Everyone feels it. Robert decides to sit down and storyboard the project structure that Victoria and he laid out in their text. Victoria calls a board meeting consisting of Nathan, Jason, Kenny, and herself, and Robert presents the storyboard for the group to critique and fine-tune.
Nathan has continued to forge ahead with the technical implementation. He is ready to meet with Jason to work on the specifics of Jason's CGI/Perl scripting interfacing with what he's done in VRML/Java. Victoria begins creating 3-D graphics using Alias/Wavefront Software in order to establish the proper aesthetic. Robert takes what Victoria does and begins to lay it out in HTML, forming the general structure of the Bodies© INC site. Kenny is determined to plug his synthesizer directly into the HTML architecture. He is saved by the new VRML 2.0 specifications which can localize and position sound within a sphere of influence. He decides that each VRML world will have 10 characteristic sounds, scattered in a coordinate system triggered by the member's entrance.
Several others who are working on various projects under development in the lab become involved: Travis Boyle, a talented modeler with lots of good ideas; Bjorn Hildahl, another modeler who's doubles as a consummate PR man, and Nick DiNapoli, a 3-D guy with a real talent for taking tough critique. Bjorn takes the master of a postcard advertising the project, designed by Victoria and Robert, to be sent off and duplicated for distribution in New Orleans.
Victoria reluctantly leaves for Europe, excited about her research, but upset about creating such a distance between herself and the day-in/day-out prep work necessary to get Bodies© INCorporated ready for installation at CAC. One of Victoria's big coups before leaving was to secure funding to fly, not only Robert, but Nathan and Kenny out to New Orleans as well. Robert was much relieved. Robert and Nathan begin to work very closely on integrating the HTML, Java, VRML, CGI and Perl, with Victoria staying in touch via e-mail and frequent electronic talk sessions. Kenny is once again wrapped in a self-imposed sound cocoon of late night composing sessions.
THE TRIP TO CAC
The postcards didn't arrive on time. It's hot and humid in New Orleans. Spicy food and good jazz. Nathan, Gladina (Nathan's partner who came along for the ride) Kenny, and Robert see very little of it. All stay in a room with a single bed (which goes to Nathan and Glady). Kenny sleeps until mid afternoon. Glady watches TV, tours New Orleans, and checks out the Voodoo Museum. Nathan and Robert work ceaselessly in the air-conditioned space of CAC, in effort to finish building out the site in time for the opening of "The Bridge."
Bodies© INCorporated is given two SGIs and a table in a 20' by 20' room, and no method for data projection as initially proposed and promised. Soon the organizers decide that they want to move Bodies© INC from the space unless a projection unit is secured. With a bit of reshuffling, the networking guys find an extra data projector (one that had been set aside for an installation by Christian Moller that, for complicated reasons, was no longer happening), and the organizers are willing to pick up the thousand dollar tab, but there is no way to hook it into the SGI. Robert thinks fast. Kenny has a friend's video-8. Robert asks to borrow it in order to hook the camera directly into the data projector and shoot off of the computer monitor as the audience moves through the online space. It works ... but not in quite the way the organizers of the show were imagining.
Robert has to convince the powers that be that the grainy low-res shots of the installation itself are an unexpected, though conceptually advantageous "feature," since they dynamically visualize the 'incorporated bodies in the physical space.' It feels a bit like a thesis defense. The main curator, Jean Ippolito, reluctantly concedes after Carol Gigliotti kindly runs interference. Kenny has a serious problem with it. In addition to being unhappy with the projected aesthetic, he is on his way (via 24 hours of Greyhound) to Chicago to present Bodies© INC at a Christian Buddhist conference, and fears he has no presentation without the camera. Robert is genuinely concerned. So they decide to videotape the project carefully before installing the camera. Kenny will take the tape to Chicago and dub it to VHS. He seems satisfied with the arrangement, and bids his camera, wrapped with wire and dangling precariously from the rafters, goodbye.
Nathan furiously tries to configure the SGIs, which require complete system reinstalls. He also needs to set one up as a web-server. Of course, par for the course, an exhibition about networked bridges has no live Net connection until several days after the stated install date, and no plans to allow participants past the SIGGRAPH firewall once the overdue connection is in place. This does not bode well for Bodies© INC. Luckily, Nathan, by far the most competent technician there (save perhaps for some of the SGI people on call), strikes up a friendship with an on-call network specialist who is taken with the project, and decides to help circumvent the impending firewall.
Nathan and Robert talk Will Scott (the main architect of the installation space, and their saving grace) into letting them work through the night after the center closes. Glady comes to visit and falls asleep curled up in the curtains on the floor. The guards come by periodically to hang out and watch progress. Three days and two nights pass. At 10:58 am on the last day, two minutes prior to the show opening, Nathan has the machines configured, and he and Robert have "finished" building out the VRML/Java and HTML portions of the online site. Kenny's "textured sounds" fill the space, as a Korg synthesizer automatically plays MIDI files embedded in the HTML. Mixed into the foreground are transposed voices and processed audio files that get triggered by users flying through the VRML worlds. Unluckily, much of Kenny's work is never heard due to a Las Vegas artist who's next door installation has an unusually loud air compressor perpetually bouncing a blow-up sex doll around inside of a glass cage. Exhausted, Nathan, Glady, and Robert fly back to Santa Barbara.
AT HOME IN SANTA BARBARA
Victoria returns from Europe, inspired, re-energized, and ready to work. Nathan and Robert are still tired. After several days break, she, Robert, and Nathan continue to build out the Bodies© INCorporated site. Nathan is forced to manually perform several remote reboots (a harbinger of things to come). The connection to New Orleans becomes increasingly slow, speculation is that it is due to cable routing through Atlanta where the Olympic Games/Bombings are taking place. It is impossible to log on from Santa Barbara to do systems maintenance.
Kenny remains in Chicago. In less than two weeks, Victoria and Robert go to New Orleans together to do the second phase of the installation at the Convention Center where the SIGGRAPH conference will be taking place. Rumor has it that Kenny will meet them there at some point on his way back from Chicago. Until then Nathan, Robert, and Victoria monitor body building activity at CAC from a distance. Around this time, Victoria and Robert collaborate on "SPEED, BODIES, DEATH," an installation for "Dirty Windows," shown during the month of August at a subway station in Berlin. Hundreds of bodies have been built. Victoria is quite pleased with the progress. A few preparatory calls get placed to the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, where Bodies© INC will be installed next.
BACK TO NEW ORLEANS
August 5th, 1996. Victoria and Robert fly back to New Orleans to complete the installation. While in New York on her way back from Europe, Victoria got Cactus R&D, a digital output research firm that had supported her work in the past, to sponsor the project. They had just invested in some new technology, and were willing to use Victoria's files as test cases. As a result, she and Robert took 10 6' x 8' identical prints of the Bodies© INC copyright head logo with them to the convention center.
As soon as they arrived at the installation site, it was clear that their plans would need to be modified. The art gallery consisted of black and silver sliding walls and similarly designed stands that were to function as display tables, arranged in a tight, maze-like fashion. Not an environment particularly conducive to the elegant, corporate, oak desk and brass lamp layout they were imagining. Thankfully, not ones to easily give up, they ran into Will Scott, who in the middle of utter chaos graciously offered his truck to go out to local second-hand stores and antique shops to look for the proper accessories. Unfortunately, though not surprisingly, Will ended up getting side-tracked, so they went with another kind soul named Tom, and purchased a small wooden end-table that never actually got used.
By the time they returned, Will was ready to make a run to the local hardware superstore, so Robert and Victoria went along to get additional supplies -- wooden slats for mounting the giant copyright head posters, a brass lamp, and a few other odds and ends. Victoria decided to add a head poster to the installation at CAC as well, which, unfortunately, was now having non-stop problems with the server. Amazingly enough, even with all the technical resources gathered for SIGGRAPH, no one was available for general troubleshooting and maintenance ... and Nathan was all the way back in Santa Barbara.
Given the floor plan of the convention center, and the discovery that there was some extra hardware floating around, coupled with the fact that Victoria was no longer particularly thrilled about the idea of no technology in the convention center proper, she decided to try and get another computer and have it connect to the CAC from the Morial Center. After much false hope, it was determined that the only available was the pre-secured Mac, which was incapable of displaying the VRML scenes that were an integral part of Bodies© INCorporated. Victoria and Robert decide instead to set the Mac up as a kind of promotional station, that serves as a kind of electronic ad for the actual site running up the street at CAC. Robert pulls down some files he'd prepared for a "best-of" CD-ROM that was produced as part of FIVA Online, held earlier that year, and runs them locally from the Mac.
Victoria gets Will Scott to agree to locate some mounting board in the eleventh hour in order to hang one of the copyright heads above the computer (the wooden slat solution won't work, since there is a sharp angle in the wall, and the head is too large to mount flush). She convinces him by promising that he can keep the print if he secures the board. He finds one. No small task on a Sunday afternoon. It's a self-adhesive mounting board, which seems to be a good thing, but with a 6' x 8' poster, it proves virtually impossible to get a smooth adhesion. Air bubbles and creases appear everywhere. After much pin popping and squeezing and rubbing, and with just the right amount of angling and point lighting, it's passable. Both of them hope Will won't be too disappointed when he finds out how shoddy the mount is. Victoria leaves piles of Bodies© INCorporated postcards at both CAC and the Morial Center. They disappear fast.
Meanwhile, Kenny is training in various eastern meditation techniques, and fantasizing about peaceful takeover of Tibet. The monks were not prepared for the manifestation of avatars in virtual reality. Only one, Gudo Wafu Nishijima, an old and revered Japanese Zen Monk wanted to know more about cyberspace. Robert and Victoria both receive occasional "Peace and Love brother and sister" e-mails from an unknown e-mail account Kenny's accessed to the north. They become a bit concerned.
Equipment continues to malfunction back at CAC. Both of them make frequent trips to troubleshoot. After phase two of the installation is completed, but prior to the actual start of SIGGRAPH, Robert leaves to go back to Santa Barbara. Victoria stays until the end of the conference, to present and moderate a panel she co-organized with Perry Hoberman called "Webbed Spaces: Between Network and Exhibition," and to make sure the equipment at both installations continues to operate. Not an easy or pleasant task. Communication continues electronically. At the airport, Robert, totally unexpectedly runs into Kenny who is returning to Santa Barbara after his extended stay at the Buddhist Christian conference. He has been inspired, and is unusually talkative. They have a delightful flight back.
AT HOME AGAIN IN SANTA BARBARA
Robert immediately meets with Diana DuPont (yes she's related) to continue discussing installation of Bodies© INCorporated at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. The space is huge, and the project has already been promoted in the local press and through museum mailers ... so again, the pressure mounts. Step 1: get the museum wired. Nathan and Robert meet with the museum staff. Many possibilities are proposed. Ultimately the museum takes a relatively conservative approach -- an ISDN line that GTE provides, through RAIN (the Regional Alliance for Information Networking), a public interest Internet service provider, and another consistent sponsor of Victoria's work. This comes after extended 'back and forth' about what technology makes most sense, with options ranging from frame relay to 28.8 modem. (Of course, actually getting the service to work proves to be another story entirely.) Step 2: figure out how to project what's happening online into the physical space of the museum. Diana starts to get increasingly nervous, she wants to know exactly what, when, and how. Robert wishes Victoria were there ... repeatedly.
Victoria Returns from New Orleans, inspired, re-energized, and ready to work. Nathan and Robert are still tired. Nobody knows where Kenny is. Victoria and Robert immediately meet with Diana to continue planning the installation. Victoria needs to see the space again to make any decisions regarding data and slide projection. Suddenly Robert realizes that the hundreds of body orders that were placed at SIGGRAPH were never ftp'd from the server in CAC. On the morning of the show's breakdown, he logs on to try and retrieve the crucial file. Unfortunately it's too late. Victoria is depressed. They try every possible channel, even calling SGI, but the machine has already been repurposed and sent off to another venue.
Several weeks prior, the museum staff had worked with Robert to create two hanging screens out of a diaphanous material Victoria had ordered that allowed for rear-screen projection. The problem now was that the screens were dwarfed in the space ... literally looking like tiny postage stamps hanging from the vaulted ceilings. Diana gets more nervous and upset. She's incredulous that the decision to cut the original screen in half was made without her prior approval. Robert is beyond caring. Victoria, as always, the excellent though no-nonsense diplomat, gets pushed to the point of saying "Look, we don't have to do this show." Diana backs off. She makes it clear that she's already "invested a lot of time and money" (though neither are "an issue") into promotion and materials. However, she nevertheless remains genuinely enthusiastic about the installation.
Victoria notes the nice curvature of the museum ceiling, and decides to start convincing Diana to think about using the architecture of the museum itself for the projection. An idea Robert wholeheartedly supports. With great skill, enthusiasm, and perseverance, she does it. Not only does she do it, but she gets Diana truly inspired. Bodies© INC ends up being projected on not only two, but all four sides of the interior walls and ceiling. Two copyright head logos are slide projected onto the North and South facing ends, another slide projector cycling through high-resolution images of body orders is shown on the West side, and data projection of the online space appears on the East.
With the addition of Kenny's newly reworked sound (RealAudio sound file) being pumped into the site from six speakers, four of which are the museum's internal sound system, the installation quite literally dominated the show. Unfortunately, most staff and visitors are clueless about how to access and work through the project. Throughout the duration of the three month long show at SBMA, Victoria, Robert, and Nathan continue to progressively "dumb it down." Nothing seems to help, even Robert's reducing it to the point of providing instructions on how to point and click with a mouse, and scroll the windows. Nevertheless, the body orders keep rolling in. Victoria appears religiously (Nathan, Kenny, Travis, and Robert sporadically) on Thursday nights for three hours to provide assistance, give public lectures, and observe users' interaction with the piece (except for a brief stint in Rotterdam where she goes to promote Bodies© INC to the international electronic art and theory community at ISEA 96; it is here that she realizes she and the project are now something of a commodity. She returns after giving a workshop, two papers, a poster session, moderating a panel, and providing color commentary to a variety of interested parties).
At the beginning of November, after three full months, the Santa Barbara installation comes down. A number of magazines and newspapers have done articles and several reviews have been written, including an essay by Joseph Nechvatal, one of Victoria's cohorts at CAiiA; the piece is starting to gain more public and professional recognition. Thoughts about how to turn the project into something more akin to a truly collaborative multi-user environment start to get kicked around. Toward the end of the month Victoria has to return to Wales for another of her research trips.
Again, she's a bit torn, since she's leaving during finals week for her two classes (Robert covers), and has promised the San Francisco Art Institute she'll produce the CD-ROM catalogue they have enthusiastically agreed to fund as part of the upcoming January installation. At the same time, she's excited at the prospect of having ten uninterrupted, though intensive, days to focus on nothing but conceptualizing and reconceptualizing the project. She makes great progress, and it starts to feed directly into phase two. She also sketches out a flow chart for what to include on the CD-ROM, and organizes a Board of Directors meeting, where she, Robert, Nathan, and Kenny discuss Bodies© INCorporated's past, present, and future plans. Most of the meeting is recorded, and minutes are kept (RealAudio sound file). Finally, she secures an agreement from Christopher Newfield, who studies conflict in corporate culture, to write an essay placing the project in a gallery of corporate body types.
Nathan gets truly inspired, and single-handedly does an incredible amount of Java and VRML implementation. He begins by laying the foundation for the next generation, what promises to become a truly multi-user Java/chat environment, where there is a direct relationship between a text-based, line prompt chat window, and a 3-D VRML scene placed directly above it. As members log on and enter their e-mail, their VRML body (if one is on file) is drawn into the space, they can check to see what other members are currently active, and they can begin traveling through the different VRML and text spaces that form the project. It's a wonderful start.
In addition, Nathan reworks each of the existing VRML environments in order to streamline and improve them -- Home (which gets reduced from an expansive chipboard to a spinning "quote" cube with sound and proximity sensors, and floating microchip billboards linking to the different VRML zones), Limbo (which morphs from rows of inert bodies, into a smaller number that dynamically expand and contract, and finally, at Victoria's interest in having members in Limbo displayed as text files, becomes spinning transparent text cubes), Necropolis (now a single resistor tombstone with animated lighting, ghosts, and rows of graves that dynamically update and represent a graveyard of recent "deletions") -- and creates a new one for Showplace (which now displays the latest body ordered on a pedestal that lights up when the member approaches). Perhaps best of all, each of the spaces get compressed to under 20k. Finally the Bodies© INCorporated VRML scenes are accessible over a 28.8 modem.
The VRML scenes are now embedded into the Web pages, alongside their respective HTML descriptions, and take up only a portion of the monitor screen, and a fraction of the memory and processor power of the prior ones. Nathan codes a routine for using the member's body as a navigational tool by keeping it in a fixed camera position while moving through the 3-D environments. He develops a search and retrieval engine for getting accounts information, institutes a "beta site" for testing a body parts market where users can trade in unwanted parts, or upload their own creations for the Bodies© INC Board of Directors to review, creates the foundation for distributing "shares" (which Victoria has wanted for ages, and has recently been conceptually fine-tuning), scripts a Java/VRML construction applet for quicker body creation and far more flexible manipulation (though still not useful for body-order generation), and adds RealAudio sound, which Kenny starts to compose, to many of the pages.
Victoria returns from Wales, inspired, re-energized, and ready to work. Nathan and Robert are still tired. Nobody knows where Kenny is. San Francisco remains five hours North, and less than a month away. Victoria has spent the last ten days doing nothing but thinking about the future of the corporation. She develops the corporate structure, formally institutes the Board of Directors, establishes a number of key Advisory Boards, lays out recent research efforts to date, and proposes ideas and timelines for where Bodies© INCorporated will focus its R&D over the next couple of years. She also starts to investigate the etymological roots of the word "Avatar," and begins serious rumination on the relationship between avatars, artificial intelligence, left-wing utopianism, right-wing entrepreneurism, and esoteric spiritualism.
TO BE CONTINUED ...
CREDITS: Bodies© INCorporated
PRESIDENT AND CEO Victoria Vesna: ARTIST/PRODUCER/DIRECTOR
VICE PRESIDENT Robert Nideffer: ARTIST/WRITER/HTML
CTO Nathanial Freitas: VRML/JAVA PROGRAMMER
CAO kf.0e (aka Kenneth Fields): COMPOSER
Jason Schleifer: CGI-SCRIPT
Travis Boyle, Nick DiNapoli, Bjorn Hildahl: ADDITIONAL MODELERS
CREDITS: Virtual Concrete
ARTIST/PRODUCER/DIRECTOR: Victoria Vesna
SOUND DESIGN: GustavJava (aka Kenneth Fields)
PROGRAMMING: Jan Plass
CONCRETE: Les Fox
PHOTOGRAPHY: Sky Bergman
HTML: Jason Schleifer
BODIES SUPPLIED BY: Tom Sepe, Victoria Vesna
TEXT: Robert Nideffer
Return to Bodies© INCorporated: Main