Things To Do Whilst Seated

Thing To Do Whilst Seated

Like. Read. Book. Buy.
Ask. Listen. Learn. Try.
Comment. Rate. Feedback. Sigh.
Attack. Rant. Shatter. Cry.
Love. Hate. Bully. Deny.
Think. Wait. Hide. Lie.

Written by Huckleberry Hax

The poem is part of Huckleberry Hax’s forthcoming novel, “AFK, In Pursuit of Avengement,” to be published in February 2015

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Tutsy Navarathna

Tutsy Navarathna immediately struck me as a visionary, as someone ahead of his time. A virtual world film maker extraordinaire, he consistently intelligently questions the meaning of the virtual world as we know it. Tutsy is about film, photography, art, psychology, philosophy, language and, of course, the internet. He is also about sensuality, sexuality, nuances, symbolism and metaphor. A former resident of Paris, France where he studied at the École des Beaux-Arts, Tutsy now permanently lives and works in the beautiful Pondicherry, India. For a few weeks, we communicated via email and IM across the oceans to put together the interview that follows below. It is my great pleasure and honor, really, to introduce to you here the immensely talented Tutsy Navarathna.

     ~Kate Bergdorf

Interviewer

Congratulations again on winning the University of Western Australia (UWA) MachinimUWA VII Transcending Borders Challenge. There have been seven UWA Machinima challenges so far, you have won four of them. To what do you attribute your success?

Navarathna

The techniques used when creating Machinima are still in the early stages and require the Machinima-producer to have plenty of experience. But regardless of this fact, I notice new and emerging talents every year which, of course, offer new challenges for me to overcome. There is a healthy competition preventing me from resting on my laurels. 🙂

Interviewer

Let’s talk about your MetaPhore Machinima. In this work aspects like music, voice, location, avatars and plot seem somehow to magically come together to create a coherent whole. Addressed in this Machinima are not only issues surrounding gender, but also the notion of what it means to be an avatar in a virtual world in general. What was going through your mind when you created this particular Machinima?

Navarathna

What does it mean to be an avatar today? What kinds of feelings does an avatar have? With your question you have certainly put your finger on the core issue. This is exactly the purpose of my Machinimas, trying to identify and show the different aspects of being an avatar. How and in what way has the radical and rather brutal intrusion of virtuality taken hold of our daily lives? How do we evolve from passive spectators into active participants and content creators? What are the implications of these new forms of relationships? How will our brains manage the effects of these new “virtual extensions?” When Mark Zuckerberg speaks of the Oculus Rift, he does not hesitate to speak in terms of teleportation and notes that “[p]eople will develop and construct interactive connection models, with remote locations and it will be almost equal to teleportation.” But in contrast to the prevailing opinion I belive that virtual life does not isolate us. On the contrary, I think it has significantly increased our options in the areas of  interaction and communication. For instance, we often feel closer and more intimate with an avatar that we never have met (or with a virtual FaceBook friend) then with our next door neighbour who we call real. I do not believe that this excitement will pass; this is just the beginning of a phenomenon that will gain power and expand rapidly. But we have much to learn in a short time. And, importantly, we need to ask the right questions in order to fully grasp the phenomenon of our transition into an augmented reality.

Interviewer

In all of your Machinima you beautifully capture the essence of what it means to be in Second Life©. Your work is a great representation of the virtual world to someone who has never visited. Can you tell us a little bit about your creative process when it comes to actually creating a Machinima? Do you have a plot in mind from the start or does it all fall into place as you go along?

Navarathna

I am particularly attuned to and quite sensitive to things generated by the metaverse. Before a film project I’ll usually hang out in different places. I am on the lookout for a clicking sound, for something to get me started on my story. I am looking at avatars and their profiles. I am very curious about this great need that so many people seem to have here, namely the desire to express and share their inner visions by creating their own worlds. Thanks to the internet this is possible. I often have a simple idea about a Machinima that develops further as I visit places in Second Life. I am also very focused on creating characters; the look of the avatar and what he or she may be wearing are important. These factors will eventually all contribute to the change of scenes in the Machinima itself. In fact, the character of an avatar alone may be a reason for me to make a film. I find that the collage technique that I used as a painter in the past now is a big part of my virtual world filmmaking. Machinima, unlike traditional cinema, is mostly graphic and pictorial. It is really altogether a different mindset. Production and filming of a Machinima are also totally different from traditional filmmaking. For example, one can easily go back and forth between the editing timeline and the virtual world and change scenarios while editing. Besides the time that is actually spent creating the Machinima, production costs are minimal. YouTube and Flickr have become to Machinima channels to “reality.” These are small windows that are wide-open to the world, offering snapshots of what is happening in the metaverse. Keep in mind, that all virtual worlds, creations, installations, exhibitions, sculptures and photographs are for the time being only being seen by the residents of Second Life. Thus virtual art is still very much confidential. Yet in my view, there is a true revolution going on here in terms of observing and sharing creativity. We find in the virtual world a profound change in our relation to the art object, which is expressed in its weightlessness. The object loses its materiality and allows for interaction and immersion.

Interviewer

So many of us find purpose in being creative in Second Life. Some of us bring with us experience from outside the virtual environment and others just learn about creating as we go along in Second Life. Did you have any prior film making experience or were you creative in any other way before you joined Second Life? If not, how did you go about teaching yourself how to make virtual world films?

Navarathna

I graduated from the Beaux Arts in Paris, which was followed by a lot of painting and exhibitions. Then I became curious about electronic images, video and computer. This area fascinated me right away. I did not have to dip my brush in the pot anymore. 🙂 As I gradually abandoned painting to explore these new mediums, they quickly started to fill my life, both artistically and professionally. I have worked for TV and for the institutions. When I first entered Second Life, around 2007 or 2008, it was like stepping into a childhood dream. I experienced the same emotional state as when I was a kid looking at my first remote-controlled car. Totally magical; I could remote control a character that was me!!! I very quickly became aware of that this was a fantastic tool for creating and communication. Around that same time, I befriended a well-known noo-cyber movie maker who told me it was possible to film in the virtual world. And the idea of making films inside the internet excited me. In fact, at that time, to me, it was almost unimaginable! There was an abundance of images and inventions in Second Life, great for use to to make films. However, there was still very only few Machinima that had been made and no tutorials available at all. Becoming familiar with the tools and catch every little trick was not a simple achievement. Ultimately, my experience with video, computer and especially film editing helped me a lot.

Interviewer

I am curious about what kind of films might inspire you outside the virtual world. A few days ago, I watched the movie I Am Love (2009), directed by Luca Guadagnino and starring Tilda Swinton. There was something about that movie that made me think of your virtual world films. Have you seen it? And can you tell us about some of the movies outside of the virtual world that have inspired your machinima making in Second Life?

Navarathna

I have not seen I Am Love but you make me wish to do so. 🙂 As a cinephile I have an eclectic taste and I am driven by the passion for either a film, director or movie style. I like to watch or re-watch all the works of great directors. For example, I watched all films by Akira Kurosawa in ten days. I am also captivated by some French filmmakers with true cinematic style, like some of the films by Robert Bresson. I recently re-viewed his A Man Escaped. Above all, it is the originality of creating a movie that I love. I would like to say that for me cinema is neither radio, nor theater, nor a series of pretty pictures. I have a weakness for non-linear narrative structures such as in 21 Grammes by Iñárritu. The clever structure feels very chaotic to us at first, but forces us to be creative and in the end makes us feel completely immersed in the story; it is like a collage. That being said I don’t think I am being influenced by any director in particular. My inspiration is linked to a set of things, painting, cinema and literature. My real culture is the image. Sometimes a single image can be the trigger of a story. I can even suddenly change an idea that already is being edited because I am captured by a picture, experiencing it as a scene that speaks to me. Strictly speaking I am not a filmmaker, I prefer this definition: I switched from painting with fixed images to moving images, to tell stories.

Interviewer

Over the past years the interest in virtual world filmmaking has grown tremendously in Second Life. Both beginners as well as more established film makers produce compelling work. What do you think are some of the most important things to keep in mind when starting out making a virtual world film in Second Life?

Navarathna

In some ways we are pioneers because we still are traveling blindly into virtuality. The main idea throughout the works of Herbert Marshall McLuhan, a Canadian philosopher of communication theory and a public intellectual, can be summed up in one sentence, namely, the medium is the message, meaning that the communication channel used is in fact a true message. Nowadays, the internet is undoubtedly the medium provided a new extension to our senses. In regards to Machinima, I would like to say that it’s important to research and try to discover the specificity of this medium. I wouldn’t use the Machinima in Second Life for something than can be done better with another medium. For instance, making the movie Avatar as a Machinima would be like making Apocalypse Now with black and white 16mm, a completely wrong choice of medium. This does not mean one cannot create masterpieces in 16mm, it’s just different kind of medium! Another example, A Trip to the Moon, by Georges Melies, was created with very limited techniques, yet it still affects us. Virtual worlds such as Second Life underwent a huge graphical improvement during the last years. And even though the avatars are becoming more and more sophisticated, they unfortunately still lack expression and smooth movements.When you are immersed in some average unimportant action, the brain can somehow compensate and invent what we need to make us feel less average. We function through metaphors. From a movie spectators point of view it is very different. People who are unaware of the current virtual worlds will encounter many difficulties to connect with our graphic universe. They are used to see great images in superb 3D productions or animations, made by major studios. Compared with that our Machinimas offer really pale figures. I think we need a different aesthetic vision to achieve an approach that will represent virtual reality in a good way.

Interviewer

Not only are there more virtual films produced lately, there are also different types. Some are more mainstream, while others contain complex plots and are more like independent films. One quite sophisticated virtual world filmmaker who comes to mind is Hypatia Pickens. I think one of the things the two of you share is the ability to in your films draw a connection between the virtual and the real. Can you speak more of this, the boundary of the virtual and the real and how they merge in the machinima that you create?

Navarathna

We’re back to reality and virtuality duality, which actually is close to my heart. Hypatia Pickens approaches this issue with talent, not to forget Draxtor Despres with the series The Drax Files: World Makers is at the heart of the matter, as well as some others. But it always takes some time before new talents will emerge in something as complex as expressive strength in a film. Virtuality nowadays allows the mind to speak without borders or limits. Exciting and breathtaking! But is it not a human’s reason/need/drive to live their dreams and incarnate fantasies through mental projection? This notion has always has existed. I am thinking of the epistolary love affairs that existed in the past centuries and of two sometimes for years separated lovers, writing passionate letters to each other. Is and was that not virtuality?

Interviewer

You have made many beautiful Machinima over the past years. This is probably not easy to do, but, if you had to pick a favorite one, which one would it be and why?

Navarathna

MetaPhore as the youngest of course. 🙂 But I also like MetaSex because it’s analysis of avatar feelings. Or Welcome To The Other Side, which is almost only made from artistic creations in Second Life.

Interviewer

Thank you so very much for agreeing on such short notice to be interviewed. And thank you for the beautiful virtual world filmmaking you consistently produce. We are very fortunate to have you in Second Life.

Navarathna

Merci à vous. 🙂