Tessa and Rose
“I am actually searching for realness and meaning in life. .... I am the humanoid character, slightly irritated and a bit troubled.“
This is how Rose, one of the two characters of my video animation reality island is elsewhere, describes herself in the statement that accompanies this text. Her description refers to the complexity of the relationship to Tessa, who is at the same time the source of her physical presence in the work, and her alter ego.
Tessa is an avatar, a scanned body of a woman, for sale on the internet. Her sales title is “sexy girl character - Tessa - 3D model“, which I purchased for $35.00, including a royalty-free licence, with all extended uses. Out of altogether four universal avatar characters for sale – in the categories “military“, “sexy“, “overweight“, and “elderly“ – Tessa is shown posing naked in a living room environment to give an idea of her “life“ and personality. Permanently for sale and purchasable by everyone, the artificial environment that was especially designed for her included supposedly personal photos and belongings of hers, which give a hint of her fictional identity. The design gives the impression of an international background hinting at a sensitive character, who is not quite sure of the situation she is exposed to. The images were taken out of a perspective of a male gaze. In her fictional environment she gives the impression of waiting for sexual intercourse with the user.
Her presentation as readily available substitute of an “ideal“ woman became the starting point of my project featuring fictional characters of Tessa and Rose, both being altered by me from the same source avatar in the process. As evident of Rose’s statement quoted above, I imagined her as a sensitive character not having found her place in life. However, Tessa is rather freed from external constraints actively engaging with her environment. She thus becomes a role model for Rose, an alter ego I created, which embodies the confidence as a reaction to the abusive context out of which she originated in her virtual world. Eventually, it is a construct, a projection which originated in the mind of her creator, who is taking his sources from the physical world he experiences. In this scenario, Rose equals a user for whom Tessa experiences worlds that Rose herself does not have access to. This describes a similar relationship between myself and the avatar “Tessa“.
The avatar has its origin in Hindu religion. “Avatara“ were heralds on earth, sent from gods, representing a human being or an animal. They were to proclaim “truth“ and to help humans in their evolution and spiritual development. Compared to these origins, in the western world, the word ’avatar’ is mostly used in a different context and has a different meaning. It is an artificial character in the virtual world. Through an avatar an individual can be represented, is able to interact in a world of “as if“: to experience a virtual environment even more intensely as would actually be possible in the physical world.
For me, questions of authorship, responsibility, personal identity and even abuse are occupying my recent work. All this strongly influenced my thought process and showed me as to how the virtual space is dominated by male visions, sexism, exclusion and control. In preparation of my work I was inspired by Arthur Rimbaud’s collection of poems and the novel biography titled I Is Another. In one section, Rimbaud likens his body with a boat thrown into wild waters, completely vulnerable to its effects. He thus describes the necessity of the artist, who has to endure outside forces and to explore “...the unknown by a derangement of all the senses“ in order to come into contact with himself and beyond. In my work, I similarly expose myself through Tessa and Rose by questioning my identity as a woman, as a mother, as a wife, as a former fashion designer, and ultimately, as an artist.