In 2007, Dutch artist and composer Sedje Hémon launched a virtual museum of her work. It was built inside of the early-virtual reality platform Active Worlds. This platform allowed its users to freely navigate and build near-infinite space, while socializing with each other. In Hémon’s virtual museum, one could enter her paintings and explore them in a three-dimensional way. Though the museum went offline in 2011, I recovered it to be used as part of the live score in this piece.
Discovering the Active Worlds platform, I was struck by its early-internet aesthetics as well as the vastness of its digital landscapes. Strolling through endless digital worlds in Active Worlds that were once filled people and voices (and now are abandoned digital deserts), I couldn’t help to wonder what happens to the forgotten virtual spaces. I also noticed that all the worlds (of which there are many) are filled with digital graffiti – short inscriptions left by people on the walls of the sites they built and took care of. These traces in their simplicity and poetics, reminded me of the cave drawings, especially in their function – to leave a mark in a new and uninhabited world.
Parts 1&3 of my piece use the video and graffiti material from various two-decade-old worlds at the Active Worlds, reimagining this abandoned space still being roamed by its decaying AI and the last remaining users. The second part of the piece opens up with the conductor entering the VR museum of Sedje Hémon and exploring its spaces live on stage. Using a Max/MSP patch, the conductor is navigating the space with the help of a game controller. The musicians follow an intricate system of cues and signs, and sonify the VR museum as the conductors navigates its quiet chambers. The original Sedje Hémon’s VR museum was relaunched with the help of Yiannis Tsirikoglou and is available for visiting via the Active Worlds client.
Commissioned by Ensemble Modelo62 and Sedje Hemon Foundation for the Hidden Agreements program premiered in Korzo, The Hague, 2018. With financial support of Performing Arts Fund (NL), Stroom Den Haag, and Lithuanian Council for Culture.