DualTerm A Study in Supermodernity
DualTerm explores the contemporary experience of the global airport. We find ourselves spending more of our lives inside the simulated environments of airports: environments that are simultaneously a site of stifling dullness and overwhelming stimulation. In the supermodernity in which we live, the airport no longer functions as a transitional space, a location in between the place we are leaving and a distant site in which we have not yet arrived. Instead, this “non-place” has itself become a place; a destination in and of itself that we inhabit and are asked to experience in which the real and the simulated seamlessly merge.
DualTerm proposes an “anti-spectacle” that also mixes up the real and the simulated. Thus, the online visitors to DualTerm encounter a simulacra of a real place in Second Life that has no real world counterpart that they know of while the real visitors in the airport in Toronto watch the simulacra of the place they physically inhabit but that doesn’t appear to exist. Only the times of supermodernity that we now live in could enable such an experience.
What better place to explore this unique combination of non-place and visual/aural overload that the airport experience offers up than in the similar non-places of our emerging 3D online worlds? Where else does one experience such a cornucopia of confused sensations that take place without regard to time or place; a constantly evolving free for all in which our physical bodies are swept up as so many pixels in a flurry of visual and aural noise. Every day, life in the 3D “metaverse” offers up every object and sensation that one can desire: a new face and hairstyle, a dream car, sex and exotic land. Anything that virtual money can buy is yours for the asking, for, like the airport, everything is for sale. But within the metastasizing theme park of Second Life, is there the possibility for reflection? For the experience of suspension, quiet and silence? Indeed, as we maneuver our stylish avatars through these universes of excess, it might be necessary to recall the origin of the word avatar from the original Sanskrit avatara meaning “incarnation” the descending of a divine presence into the fickle world of human mortality, in order to control and influence runaway human passions like ignorance, goodness and desire.
The sound design, like the dual nature of the installation itself, is different depending on whether one accesses the installation in the real space of Toronto’s Pearson International or directly online through Second Life. In the actual, physical space of the airport, the sound is composed of two layers. A microphone on the site picks up the ambient sounds from the terminal departures area and streams this into the online Second Life model. This real acoustic feed of the airport then is combined with over 21 separate 9.9 second loops that are embedded in objects in the 3D model and are individually triggered by invisible sensors as the physical visitor navigates her online avatar through the Second Life simulation. Wearing headphones, the visitor to Pearson thus experiences a merging between the live acoustic space of the real airport combined with a pre-recorded simuation.
The online visitors to Second Life experience only the triggering of the 21 separate loops as they move their avatar through the virtual terminal departures hall. Thus, those that enter only from Second Life experience an acoustic space that is wholly simulated and has no trace of the real acoustic space.