How to Live Forever (Trimming the Myrtle-bush) (2016)

Single-channel video, 16:9, 6 minutes 26 seconds

How to Live Forever (Trimming the Myrtle-bush) is the second work in a series of machinima vignettes set in the Second Life (SL) virtual environment. The first work of the series, How to Explain Love to a Tape Measure (HELTM), features amorphous, geometric forms interacting within SL spaces while being animated by sexual scripts. HELTM’s subjects are situated within their “natural habitats,” ranging from desert oases to lush rainforests, whereas this work features similar, animated, geometric forms “in captivity.” The notion of captivity not only extends the animal analogy of the series, which strongly evokes the nature documentary, but it also extends the connections between physical and virtual environments.

 

Just as HELTM explored the overwhelmingly sexual nature of SL, this work explores the idea of “playing at captivity.” Captivity/prison role-playing is prevalent in SL as well as other multi-user virtual environments. Reflecting this notion of simulated captivity, How to Live Forever (Trimming the Myrtle-bush) features geometric forms animated by scripts ranging from fighting/struggling to repetitive pacing/rotating. At the same time, the work establishes connections between the submission---both to and within---the game environment and voluntary religious captivity (such as monastic cloistering). In “This Is Not a Game: Violent Video Games, Sacred Space, and Ritual,” religious studies scholar Rachel Wagner notes the strong similarities between sacred and secular play, as each function within a temporarily “real” world according to established rules. The “trimming of the myrtle-bush” refers to Robert Browning’s poem “Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister,” which exposes the tensions of cloistered life by focusing on a Dominican monk’s desire for the flesh over the spirit. As our lives migrate more and more into virtual spaces, How to Live Forever (Trimming the Myrtle-bush) examines critical questions surrounding the nature of belief and the psychology of submission.