Muses 2 // Metaverse Performance (2022)

Metaverse installation (.glb) and live avatar performance
+ archival video (.mp4)
Concept: Bay Backner
Architecture: Adrián Martínez for Vueltta
Paintings: Bay Backner
Wearables + emotes: Bay Backner, KJ Walker, Canessa, Doki, James Guard
Music: Palle Knudsen
Performed by: Bay Backner

I created ‘Muses 2 // Metaverse Performance’ in collaboration with Vueltta, the metaverse art collective I co-founded this year with designer Adrián Martínez. The piece debuted in the Decentraland metaverse on November 18th 2022, with a repeat performance on December 4th 2022 for Miami Art Week. The mp4 version of Muses 2 was also shown at Miami Art Week with The Royal House of Medici genesis exhibition and auction.

Muses 2 // Metaverse Performance is likely to have been the world’s first performance art piece in the metaverse, as confirmed by the Decentraland metaverse. Decentraland is the organizer of each year’s Metaverse Art Week in collaboration with arts organizations such as Sotheby’s, Artnet and CADAF. Muses 2 was the first performance piece they have hosted, and was made possible by the introduction of customisable wearables and emotes (introduced in 2022).

Still from Muses 2 // Metaverse Performance, showing the ‘wearable’ face mapped from my paintings.

Still from Muses 2, showing the sleeping ’emote’ by Canessa

Muse 2 // Metaverse Performance is part of my ongoing body of work on female archetypes. For this work, I start by generating my ‘own’ women by training AI algorithms with my previous paintings and complimentary data sets (focused especially on Rembrandt’s ‘triangle’ lighting for chiaroscuro). I then paint the portraits of these muses in real-life using oil on canvas and Renaissance painting techniques.

My work is interested in where archetypes such as the muse meet our digital identities. So with Muses 2 my intention was to turn the paintings into an immersive, participatory metaverse installation and performance.

To begin the work, I painted four AI-generated muses inspired by the works of José de Ribera. I then converted the paintings into digital textures using photography and digital painting. I worked with Vueltta to transform these textures into metaverse architectures and ‘wearables‘ (digital clothing that can be worn by avatars in the metaverse).

The intention was that a participant in Muses 2 could fully embody the paintings – from being immersed in the images, to wearing their likeness on their own metaverse avatar.

Designer Adrián Martínez created the installation architecture featuring all four muses, and 3D creative KJ Walker transformed one muse into the wearable face and headdress.

I then combined the wearable and immersive architectures with a movement and spoken word performance, led by two ‘muse’ avatars within the space. Everything used within the performance was an NFT (digital asset minted on the blockchain), from the installation walls to the wearables and the poses (‘emotes’) of the avatars. The work itself was available as an NFT in the inaugural Royal House of Medici auction.

Just like clothing and objects in the real world, many of the assets I used within the Muses 2 performance were created by other artists. The difference being that in the metaverse I can trace the creator of all the assets and credit them. In fact, we see the boundaries of Vueltta as a collective as being very fluid. The algorithms in our artifical intelligence models are justifiably artists within our collective, as are all the creators who contributed wearables and emotes to the project.

Special thanks go to:
– Sleeping Emote by Canessa
– Sitting Emote by Doki
– Armour by James Guard
– Music by Palle Knudsen
– Decentraland Land, coordinates 28, 12 (Nov) and 120, 130 (Dec) by Butter.

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