Cover of the John Cage / David Tudor record Indeterminacy. Featuring a photo of John Cage with the title "Indeterminacy" across the top

Indeterminacy

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Tides #

We can accurately predict the tides every day for the next 10,000 years. Yet even the world’s largest supercomputers are poorly able to predict the weather 48 hours from now. What is it about tide that is so easy to predict? What is it about weather that is so hard? What is it about tide that is so deterministic? What in the nature of weather is so much about indeterminacy?

Cover of the John Cage / David Tudor record Indeterminacy. Featuring a photo of John Cage with the title "Indeterminacy" across the top

Utopia #

I’ve always been… or thought I was… a Modernist.

Stretching my grasp for that perfection. For Utopia. Creating Design. Choreographing Bodies. Realizing perfect little worlds.

As a child, stage designer Robin Wagner produced “Ideal Theatre.” This consisted of his constructing “perfect,” ornate, miniature sets. Then Wagner would open the miniature curtain. Then there was a pause while his audience took in the beauty. Then the curtain closed. No messiness of actors. No distraction or unpredictability of live performance. Simply the presentation of perfect words. Miniature Utopias. Designed for you, by the hand of the master.

The Messiness of the Real World #

You have to, or at least I do, admire Modernity’s dream of Utopia. The problem with perfection is that it costs too much. There is no room for wrong design. No room for wrong design that might one day be right design. No room for wrong thinking. No room for the indeterminacy of unexpected inspiration.

Modernism #

Virtual Culture is home to so many Modernists! Artists who combine virtuosic craft with powerful personal visions. Artists at the top of their game. Artists creating 6.5 hectare Utopias. Sometimes these “Utopias” are dark dystopic visions. I call them “Utopias” in that they are the expression of a single artist’s vision.

The problem, I think, with Utopia is that it can never be achieved. Not because the human race “isn’t worthy” or any sort of ancient morality play like that. But because we are not the same. We share much. Yet we have different values. Different appetites. Inevitably, Your Utopia will turn out to be My Dystopia. And visa versa. We have no choice but to live in a messy, but “real” world. I don’t use “real” to mean physical vs virtual. I use “real” to mean a world messy and flawed and glitchy and indeterminate enough to have room for everyone. A world honest about who and what we are enough, to be real. A world of indeterminacy.

Indeterminacy #

While I would call so much of the work, the brilliant work, I have seen in VR modern. Medici University is not modern. MU is PostModern. The inderminacy of over 5 dozen creative minds produces something no one can predict. At the MU Campus at LEA23 you don’t even know what you will see when you log on the next day. There is no way to have predicted what we have today back on 1 January or 1 February. How the campus will be on 1 April or 1 June no one can say. That journey can only be lived.

Art & Life #

Plenty of creative works evolve as they go. Sometimes the character refuses to say, on Page 100, what the author had imagined they would. Many times the process of VR Installation creation evolves as a designer creates elements and adds them to the world landscape.

I think Medici University goes beyond this. It is a living organism.

Yes, Medici University is fueled by the coin purse of Linden Lab. Yes, MU will vaporize on 30 June. Perhaps no one, and no thing, is truly autonomous. Perhaps nothing escapes the ultimate clutches of entropy.

Still, for the 131 days from now until then, Medici University is alive. A living organism whose outcome is predictable by no one. But contributed to by everyone. Medici University is a masterpiece of Indeterminacy.

One day a butterfly flaps its wings in the rain forest… a week later Medici University rises out of the prims of LEA23.

Vanessa Blaylock's signature

Indeterminacy: a black and white photograph of John Cage, other artists, and dancers, working on Variations 13

About Vanessa Blaylock

I was the Choreographer at Vanessa Blaylock Dancers and the Artistic Director at Vanessa Blaylock Company. Today my work focuses on Public Art projects. I’m interested in the mediation of perception and mixed reality performance works. I’m passionate about community and civil rights in cyberspace.

2 thoughts on “Indeterminacy

  1. I just replied to a comment on my recent MU-vable Feast post that your team has done something brilliant and wondrous. At its best, what SL facilitates is presence. What an outsider might see is a group of cartoony avatars wiggling and dancing, but on closer inspection and interaction, what is going on is a sharing of this presence. MU takes this conceit a couple of magnitudes higher. Each time I wander through the campus I can feel excitement and the presence of ideas and energies combining. Bravo!

    1. Thanks Paypa!

      It’s been great to have your Blogger-in-residence reporting from “on the ground!” 😀

      rmarie expressed the idea that perhaps part of why so much VR work is single author – or “group show” where 4 or 5 single authors all place work in a “gallery” – is that while VR may have some of the Presence you speak of, that it is differently embodied than RL, and that it makes group collaboration difficult, hence, lots of solo installations.

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