How do avatars question and expose commonly held assumptions about stereotypes, judgment, self-awareness and those marginalized by race, gender, sexual preference and physical appearance? In my current work I explore notions of online identity, specifically the construction of avatars. My work as a whole stands as an allegory of the relationship between appearance and identity, illusion, belief and reality. It explores the different strategies we use to refashion our existence.
The 1000 Avatars Project zooms in on the complex social and cultural conventions that determine our identity. The avatar becomes a vehicle for personal and public reflection. This series of portraits is a contemporary anthropology of a cross section of avatars from the virtual world of Second Life in the early 21st century. In these portraits, I explore the representation of the avatar as a construct, distinct from any traditional notion of the ‘self’. I examine the sitter’s identity and probe below the avatar surface to reveal and comment upon their character, personality and their diversity.
The subjects are neither simulacra nor characters in a game: they are people, complete, complex identities with defined social roles. The avatar becomes the projection of our identity. Each portrait represents a different personality, a singular life. These people entered the brave new world of virtual environments as explorers, searching for anything and everything, finding a new empowerment- and a new freedom to be themselves. Experimentation is welcome. As an avatar, they are provided with a safe environment which allows everyone to divulge and consider boundaries and barriers that aren’t readily accepted in the physical world.