Interview with Martin Bricelj Baraga (1)
26 April 2012
- What inspired you to create the first Public Avatar performance?
Web, social networks and applications are more powerful tools than we might think and Public Avatar was set as a social experiment that explores these dimensions of our mediated realities and the boundaries between the real and virtual worlds.
This is illustrated by the following quote from one of the participants of Public Avatar in Paris -
"The frontier between real and virtual is getting smaller and smaller as the time we spend on the Internet increases. So Public Avatar, by missing these two realties, helps us to understand the processes that are taking place, a kind of modern state of "who we are".
- Public Avatar has been performed in countries such as Slovenia and Austria. How did the Liverpool experience compare?
Slovenia and Austria are two of the most closed countries in regards to people getting involved. I have also shown Public Avatar in Bosnia, where the people were very friendly. It is interesting how you can "feel" the vibe of a city through carrying out a Public Avatar performance. The Liverpool experience was very special as the public communicated, got involved and immediately understood what was going on. Our Liverpool avatars, Chris and Martin, played the role very well and we shouldn't forget it was St. Patricks Day!
- What type of testing does a Public Avatar have to undertake before "going live"?
Apart from the technological aspects of the performance, it is always important that the avatar understands their role before meeting the public. We are attempting to break the mould cast by reality TV by putting the audience directly in the driving seat so that the audience becomes the avatar and the observer becomes the observed. The avatar has to understand their role existing between the virtual online world and the physical reality. Every avatar has their own way of dealing with this which makes it really interesting.
- What's the most bizarre thing that has come out of a Public Avatar performance?
The most bizarre part of the project is that moment when people on the street realise what is going on, as this is when the virtual and the real collide. You can see that some people just don't know handle this "person from the internet" while others start to play with this concept immediately.
- Is there anything an avatar has refused to do?
Certainly and this is an important aspect of the project. My tagline for Public Avatar is 'become a robot for one day' but we shouldn't forget the avatar is a human being with its own values, his interaction with the user can generate interesting conflicts and a confrontation of values. For example, would you jump from a 20m high bridge will all that technology on your body?
- If you could let a Public Avatar loose anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
My friends wants me to bring him world peace for a birthday present and this is quite a hard task so I would like to send Pubic Avatar to a G8 summit.
- You say that the project explores "real virtuality". Can you tell us more?
Public Avatar explores the echo of virtual reality as it exists in reality itself by focusing on the borders between the virtual and the real. Presupposing that virtual reality, internet applications, networks and games not only reflect our society and reality but also predicts it's development (like in Ghost Recon the game, we can say that Public Avatar explores social reality of the present and the future)
Documentation of the Public Avatar performance will be on display at FACT as part of the Robots and Avatars exhibition until 27 May.
You can find out more about the Public Avatar project on www.public-avatar.com.
Images courtesy of the artist.