Early Internet Art in Malaysia 12

desktop VR
virtual reality
Niranjan Rajah pictured during a session as guest at the CyberForum, Art Center College of Design, Pasadena in 2000

One of the highlights of my days as an early Internet artist in Malaysia is being invited as a guest at Michael Heim’s (author of The Metaphysics of Virtual Reality) virtual world Cyberforum as a guest in 2000. Other speaker that year were leaders in the field – Cliff Joslyn, David Weinberger, Howard Bloom, Francis Heylighen, Bruce Damer, William J. Mitchell, Lev Manovich, Carol Gigliotti, Brenda Laurel, Katherine Hayles, and Peter Lunenfeld, so I was really excited at being invited to participate.

Even with my high expectations the session was not a disappointment. Michael’s pioneering Virtual Worlds Theory and Design team began hosting chat interactions in avatar worlds at the end of 1999. with the aim of researching the dynamics of these spaces as sites for the exchange of ideas about digital technology. I was both a speaking subject and an object for observation in this encounter. Among the outcomes of this research for Michael Heim was an important paper about what he calls ‘flow; in virtual world interactions. The paper was titled The Feng Shui of Virtual Reality. I myself gained great insights about web based virtual reality and the nature of immersion. I incorporated a desktop VR representation of the installation, when La Folie de la Peinture (1998) was presented at the Substation, Singapore in a show titled, Layers … Reality … Memory in 2001. I also incorporated these ideas into a paper titled From the Aesthetics of perceptual Objects to the Metaphysics of Interactivity which was presented at the 15th International congress for Aesthetics in Tokyo. This paper won an Asian Scholars Award from the International Aesthetics Association and the Japanese Society for Aesthetics (this paper is not available online).

CyberForum was built in Active Worlds and was accessible using the Eduverse 3D browser. Active Worlds, was an early Virtual Reality community on the web that let users builtd, visit and chat in 3D worlds in millions of square kilometers of virtual territory. The log of my CyberForum session is available on the Wayback Machine.