Alan Sondheim

We Have Always Been Avatars, and Avatars Must Die

Alan Sondheim

Abstract: It’s dan­ger­ous to con­sider the vir­tual as a brave new world; the vir­tual has always been with us. But the lure now is the sup­po­si­tion that it engen­ders the poten­tial of eter­nity, and escape from pain and death. In the mean­time, the phys­i­cal world is the Dis­as­ter of the Anthro­pocene. We must look, with open eyes, at the obdu­rate nature of the Real, through any means pos­si­ble. We must accept our own deaths. I will dis­cuss my work in vir­tual worlds and per­for­mance (with the col­lab­o­ra­tion of oth­ers) in this regard.

Bio: Alan Sond­heim was born in Wilkes-Barre, Penn­syl­va­nia; he lives with his part­ner, Azure Carter in Brook­lyn NY. A cross-disciplinary artist, writer, and the­o­rist, he has exhib­ited, per­formed and lec­tured widely. In the past year, Sond­heim has had a suc­cess­ful res­i­dency at Eye­beam Art + Tech­nol­o­gy­Cen­ter in New York; while there he worked with a num­ber of col­lab­o­ra­tors on per­for­mances and sound pieces deal­ing with pain and anni­hi­la­tion. He also cre­ated a series of texts and 3d print­ing mod­els of ‘dead or wounded avatars.’ His blog at presents much of this material.

Additional materials:

A speed-preview of the presentation (recorded during a rehearsal and speeded up)

Performance (with Foofwa d’Imobilite and Vea Lucca):
Please look at Involuntaries 4 in particular.
(text by Alan Sondheim)


PAIN TEXT: Dialog between Sandy Baldwin and Alan Sondheim – important

Crisis Text (for UnderAcademy):

CRISIS (for an UnderAcademy College Course)

This course is about crisis, making-do, bricolage, fury, anger, how to face global extinction, how to avoid dead-end despair, how to avoid mental slaughter, how to wonder whether cultural work makes any difference at this point, what to do in the face of evil, and anything else we might want to discuss while avoiding catatonia. Artwork in any medium acceptable, no assignments, continuous readings though, some happy moments of mutual praise, worrying about the future of education, fun thinking about being very very rich. How to eliminate kill/delete and face dis/comfort. Let’s not raise an army. Crisis is singular by the way, like a rococo fold. Think of artworks that fail with a thud; we’re mountain-topping in UnderAcademy and not proud of it at all. <initial description>

1. Is there a crisis? I’m considered to be overly pessimistic in this regard. WIRED magazine takes the tact that all solutions are technological and there’s little need to worry. There are also issues of flora and fauna
extinctions – while this is dynamically the greatest catastrophe in the history of the planet’s ‘natural world,’ there are people who believe that nature’s fecundity will prevail and the world will develop new species.

2. Is there any conceivable spiritual or religious solution here? This might range from armageddon to some sort of spiritual healing to a belief in the very real possibility of peace and humanity turning towards less
and less violence; I believe that Pinker believes this.

3. What’s the position of philosophy in relation to all of this – I believe philosophy, outside of issues of ethics, morality, how to ‘be’ in the world – is useless when it comes to the ‘big’ questions of origin, causality, what constitutes the world, and so forth. I tend to side with cosmologists and the lived or sensory inconceivability of the world.

4. What’s the use of art? Art seems to be a bridge between the sensory and lived world, and its inconceivability. Issues of death and evil are deeply unresolvable. We’re here for the duration. And this is all I have but it tests the machine.