Virtual Death Memorials

Virtual Death Memorials

On March 27, 2005 at the Big Easy’s charmingly bizarre Barrister’s Gallery, artists will experience what afterlife will be in a virtual death memorial group show – Hydriotaphia: New Orleans Artists Design Their Own Funeral Urns. Barrister’s Gallery owner, Andy Antippas will act as curator with artist, Dan Teague. To spice up the show and heighten enthusiasm for it, Antippas declared, “What are memorials to the dead but touchstones for the great post-mortem popularity contest? He whose gravestone draws the biggest crowds wins”
Digital artist, David Sullivan plays off the self-esteem type of virtual death memorial by coming up with his Ego Machine. In order to put the fun back into the funeral, this project of Sullivan uses Google, as protector of his soul into the future. His concept for the Ego Machine was that the vanity of death memorials levels off with the use of the internet like a vanity mirror. He had also emphasized today’s geeky technological interests – robots, artificial intelligence, DNA replication and cloning – that somehow are manic on immortality.
The Ego Machine has an urn for Sullivan that was visually interesting, gives chance for user involvement and allows citation of his physical body. His remains will be integrated in a computer processor. As a memorial, a virtual agent shall run on the computer containing his ashes and scour the web for mentions of his name. Once mention of his name increases across the web, an image of Sullivan’s younger self will morph on-screen. However, once mention decreases, his on-screen image will age, diminish and ultimately fade away.
The program that powers Ego Machine was authored in Macromedia Director. The program uses a web-spider that goes through the web gathering and indexing specific information automatically, the data being mentions of Sullivan’s name. The data found, containing the originating web address, context and date, where Sullivan’s name was mentioned will be logged into a mySQL database. The Director program then accesses the gathered data through a plug-in called xMySQL.
The Ego Machine’s prototype will be presented in the virtual death memorial gallery. He’s to encourage visitors to link into his website, discuss him on their blogs or visit the Ego Machine’s beta version and manipulate his store of after-life points. Meanwhile, the gallery visitors will be given a chance to interact directly with its non-beta version.
Other graphic design artists also created pieces for the show. An urn that holds the remains of Roy Ferdinand, an artist who lost his battle with cancer on Dec. 3, 2004, will also be shown. Two artists are commissioned by Antippas to create Ferdinand’s urn that displays some of the things he treasured and his artworks, after Ferdinand’s sister handed over Ferdinand’s ashes to Antippas.
The show simply showed that even as we are practically mortals and all, not entirely permanent in this world – technological advances may help in making us virtually immortal. -30-

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