The Second Death of Caspar Helendale
by Jessica Curry & Dan Pinchbeck
(a.k.a. Trixiebelle Landar & Caspar Helendale)
2 December 2008
Phoenix Scratch in SL Commission #4, Exeter Phoenix (UK)
What happens to all the unwanted avatars? When we no longer want these second lives, do they just revert to inert data held on a server?
Building on the notion of virtual graveyards and online remembrance, Jessica Curry and Dan Pinchbeck invited residents and guests on a quest to draw attention to abandoned identities, joining Caspar Helendale throughout his last day of existence in Second Life.
They constructed a monument to these lost avatars, where the audience was able to join them for a virtual vigil. This included a specially composed requiem for the departed; and a Book of the Dead, containing the names of the lost and their reasons for leaving their second lives. At the end of the performance, Caspar joined the ranks of abandoned avatars and relinquished his second life.
The audience came and went as they saw fit, either in Second Life, or in Real Life at Exeter Phoenix, where they could observe, discuss, and participate on public computers.
Avatars can still visit the mausoleum on 2ND LIVE island, where they can hear the requiem, read the Book of the Dead and reflect on the nature of mortality in virtual worlds.
Jessica Curry is a composer and sound artist who has exhibited internationally. Her work includes multimedia installations, public art and music for games and virtual spaces. Dan Pinchbeck is a researcher specialising in game content and new forms of storytelling, based at the University of Portsmouth, UK.
The Arts Council England funded Phoenix Scratch initiative, based at Exeter Phoenix arts & media tests ('scratches') new ideas in front of a mixed audience of artists and non-artists. It's about taking risks, opening up process, and dialogue. After two years of working in the Exeter Phoenix auditorium, Phoenix Scratch relocated to Second Life, in order to offer a new challenge to artists, audiences and curators to extend their practices beyond the Real.
The Second Death of Caspar Helendale was selected by the Royal Opera House (UK) and was performed live as part of the Firsts 09 season on 27-28 November 2009.
Join us for Caspar's funeral service and a reflection on virtual mortality.
Tuesday 2 December - respects may be paid all day (10am-1pm, 2pm-5pm & 7pm-10pm GMP) - the service will begin at 8pm GMT.
You will need a Second Life avatar. If you are reading this in-world, you have already moved beyond this step!
Otherwise, go to www.secondlife.com, and follow the link marked 'Get Started!' - you can't miss it. You will be prompted to select a starting body and name for your avatar and to fill in some details about yourself. When the process is complete, you will be sent an email with a link in it - click on this to finish off and register your avatar.
The Second Life client programme will automatically start downloading. Follow the instructions and boot Second Life once finished. You will begin on Orientation Island, where you can get help and tutorials. If you want to skip this and head straight for the performance space, close Second Life and copy the following into your web browser (or click on the link):
» http://slurl.com/secondlife/2ND%20LIVE/109/188/22 [link no longer active]
A new webpage will open up offering to 'Teleport Now' you to this location - select this and the Second Life client will boot again, this time taking you straight to Caspar's Mausoleum.
If you already have a Second Life avatar, use with SURL to get to the Mausoleum.
The funeral service will commence at 8pm GMT and consist of a specially composed Requiem, text and readings. You will need to enable audio to do this. Use 'Edit>Preferences' and find the 'Audio & Video' tab on the left hand side. In the pop-up, make sure the box next to 'Play Streaming Music When Available' is ticked, but make sure that 'Automatically Play Media' is left unticked. You will need either headphones or speakers for the service.
When you arrive at the Mausoleum, you will be met by Drifter Rhode and Trixiebelle Landar, who are assisting Caspar in this difficult time. They will be available all day, along with Caspar, if you wish to pay your last respects, contribute to the Book of the Dead, or light a virtual candle.
On the evening, Caspar will wait inside for the service to begin. Please note that no streaming media or audio will be present until this time. You will be instructed when to press play on the Second Life in-built media player. This can normally be found at the bottom of the screen, just above the 'Map' button (look for a chevron play button on the right of the musical note icon).
The service will last approximately 25 minutes, after which Caspar Helendale will be deleted. You may stay on after the deletion to pay any further respects, share reflections, listen again to the service (which will remain available after Caspar's untimely death), and, via Bob Ziplon, Caspar's Executor, contribute thoughts, comments and texts to the Book of the Dead, which will also remain posthumously located at the Mausoleum (simply Instant Message Mr. Ziplon your words and he will attend to them either on the night, or during his next designated visitation hours).
Appropriate Conduct During the Service
Please remember that this is a funeral service. We would therefore ask the mourners to desist from local chat and inappropriate gesturing for the duration of the service. Please offer Caspar support, love and respect at this very sad and final moment in his short existence, by remaining still and silent whilst he says his goodbyes to you all. You may move around, chat and ululate freely once the service has concluded.
The Book of the Dead
The Book of the Dead represents Caspar Helendale's last thoughts and movements upon this hallowed Second Earth. Written over the months preceding his deletion, it includes the full text of the service plus additional psychogeographical musings on second deaths in general; the inherent commodification of the virtually deceased; the re-appropriation of terms in virtual worlds; and personal commentary upon his rapidly impending demise.
The Book of the Dead will remain in situ following the performance, as will the audio stream of the service itself. Please feel free to copy, modify and distribute this as you see fit.
Lighting a Candle for Caspar
If you wish to hold a candle, basic candle models are available from the shelf by the noticeboard outside the Mausoleum. Right-click on the candle and 'Copy' it to your Inventory. Click on your 'Inventory', right-click on the 'Candle' (in 'Inventory>Objects') and choose 'Attach To>Right Hand'. You will automatically hold the candle. (Those of you who are familiar with Second Life may choose to adjust the exact positioning of the candle in the usual way). If you wish to leave a candle for Caspar at the Mausoleum, or to remember another loved one, please message Bob Ziplon and he will perform this duty for you with appropriate haste.
Caspar Helendale would like to thank all of those he has met, loved, spurned and respected during his short life here in Second Life. However, the following individuals must be singled out for attention:
Trixiebelle Landar, composer of the beautiful Requiem we will share tonight. I take leave of this world with the additional sorrow that she remains in it. Partner, lover, soulmate, twin, angel, survivor, widow.
Bob Ziplon, my Executor and confidante. What more can be asked for from a friend but the selfless, anonymous tending of one's estate?
Drifter Rhode, in so many ways the cause of all my joy and all my sorrow.
Muji Zapedzki of the Account-Corpse movement. Sister, we salute you. Flock to her cause and may we all be ultimately represented.
The many friends and comforters who have shared their stories and their hearts with me and my representatives, in this world and the actual one, and have thus contributed, without accolade, to the Book.
Finally, to the millions of abandoned, deleted and unwanted avatars, who wander these Second Worlds like hungry ghosts; many never even stepping off the grim and desolate functional sands of Orientation Island before being cast aside by their all-too parochial creators. We live on, even if it be a reduction to the most economically compressed binary that can be conceived. And to the Gods, I tell you this:
We shall outlast you all.
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