MGandhi Chakrabarti completes the reenactment of Gandhi’s 1930-31 prison term post-Salt March in Second Life on January 26th, 2010.  To celebrate his release I’m planning a two-tiered event.  First will be three live, “hootenanny” concerts featuring live, voice chat singing of songs of freedom and protest – all taking place on a festival concert stage currently being created inside Gandhi’s prison compound in SL. There are three scheduled sets on the 26th, 10am, 6pm and 11pm SLT (Pacific Daylight Time).  I am currently working on making available a live stream of these events – visit the blog for the gg hootenanny for further info:  http://gghootenanny.blogspot.com

The second part of this event is global call for gamers and residents of online communities to singalong in their particular online environments!  This is a “global gaming singalong” – thing Nam June Paike’s “Global Groove”…

Visit the blog for the event for further info:  http://gghootenanny.blogspot.com

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I’ve now been with MGandhi in his jail cell since May 5th, 2009.  I have been with him most days for at least one to several hours each day.  On July 4th, Indepedence Day, I began a performative reading that evolved from the experience of returning Gandhi to Second Life for his post-Salt March jail sentence as imposed by the British in 1930.  Twitter Torture was conceptualized during the performance of the first torture memo in Second Life on July 4th – this particular reading took place over the course of 6 hours – upwards of 25 SL residents came and went during this performance.  Having very recently joined Twitter just prior to the reading I thought, wouldn’t it be a good thing to expand the possible audience for these readings.  As such, there have been numerous uses of Twitter from Second Life.  I am using a free application, TwitterBox, developed by Ordinal Malaprop.  It was a simple step to send my Twitter feed to Facebook.

This work is a conscientous experiment – both in Twittering the memos and in placing Gandhi in prison in SL.  After wandering freely in Second Life last year, I’ve had many requests to bring Gandhi back to SL.  I’ve done so, albiet briefly – yet largely came to the conclusion that I could not do so without the treadmill that I used to walk Gandhi for 240 miles.  At some point, the notion of placing Gandhi in jail, confining him in SL as he was confined in RL in 1930 just made sense – it is a continuation of the Salt March reenactment while also serving as a different kind of durational, mixed-reality project.  I am not imprisoned in real-life as Gandhi is in Second Life – this is of course the primary difference between the imprisonment and the march.  This work is also an explicit tribute to the work of Tehching Hsieh.

The reading of the torture memos came to me as a concept while being with Gandhi in SL in jail – I began to think about what I could do that would be a meaningful way to pass the time other than the usual interactions with passersby.  There is something, I hope, deeply poetic about having a representation of Mahatma Gandhi reading what are some of the most shameful documents ever written by representatives of my government.  The torture memos bring into harse reality the banal yet terrifying thinking of those trying desperately to justify torture.  Having these words go from Gandhi to Twitter and Facebook adds two distinct, social media platforms to the mix.  I’ve been reading various texts into computer games for several years now as interventionist performances – migrating this type of work into the social media world seesm like a logical step.  The work exploits the interconnected nature of contemporary media to create what I intend as a droll, verbatim recitation – a type of temporary re-publishing if you will – of these memos which catapulted into the public consciousness then largely dissappeared as efforts to “focus on the future”, to quote President Obama.

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Gandhi in Prison – A Performative Reenactment in Second Life

Twitter Torture

May 5, 2009- January 26th, 2010

MGandhi is currently in prison This reenactment commenced on May 5th of 2008 to coincide with the 79th anniversary of Gandhi’s post-Salt March imprisonment by the British in 1930.

I am in the midst of presenting an ongoing, durational reenactment and performative reading in Second Life, Twitter and Facebook. MGandhi is presently online 24 hours a day in his cell for a 9-month reenactment of Gandhi’s 1930 post-Salt March jail sentence.  I am inhabiting MGandhi daily to interact with visitors and to engage in a performative reading of the recently released and now infamous Bush-era Torture Memos. “Twitter Torture”, as commenced on July 4th, 2009, is a durational, performative reading by MGandhi of the torture memos. The live readings performed in Second Life are fed live, to my Twitter and Facebook updates.

MGandhi will be released from prison on January 26th, 2010.

This work is a continuation of the “Salt Satyagraha Online: Gandhi’s March to Dandi in Second Life” which took place from in the Spring of 2008 wherein I walked my avatar throughout Second Life using a treadmill converted for use in cyberspace. DeLappe/MGandhi walked 240 miles over the 78th anniversary dates of the Gandhi’s Salt March.

Gandhi in prison in Second Life: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Odyssey/76/12/22
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Twitter: @josephdelappe
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I’ve built a third 17′ cardboard Gandhi with the able assistance of the students and professors of Academie Mechelen that is just going on display in Mechelen Belgium as part of the city wide exhibition project presented by MuKHA (Contemporary Art Museum, Antwerp) entitled “All that is Solid Melts into Air”.


The Gandhi statue will be on display from March 21st through June 21st, 2009 at the Academie Mechelen.

Gandhi with visitors to the opening.

Gandhi with visitors to the opening of the Third Guangzhou Triennial.

Just recently I returned from a rather extraordinary experience building the second 17′ cardboard Gandhi for the Third Guangzhou Triennial at the Guangdong Museum of Art which runs from September 6th through November 16th, 2008.  The theme for the Triennial is Farewell to Post-Colonialism, which is reflected in the strong conceptual and theoretical basis of much of the work in the show.  Here is a link to a good overview of the exhibition recently posted on Rhizome.org by Claire Louise Staunton.  I had been invited to be in this international exhibition towards the end of my residency period at Eyebeam in NYC this past Spring.  The curators preferred to build a new cardboard Gandhi rather than ship the one I built in NYC – in part due to the expense but more so that much of the work in the exhibition was to be manufactured in total or in part on site.

I traveled to China for the first time three weeks prior to the opening of the exhibition September 6th.  I stayed for one week to get the figure started and to train the workers on how to proceed with the build.   The original build of the first Gandhi sculpture took just about 6 weeks of 6 days-a-week, 8-10 hour days during my residency at Eyebeam, I had the able assistance of two part time interns, essentially a few days of help a week.  For this build, all was to be completed in under 3 weeks time with my time limitted as I was able to be in China for just under 2 weeks total.   After the first week of construction I returned home to Reno for the first week of my semester teaching duties at the University of Nevada, Reno, and to take one of my twin daughters off to her first year of college (Yale no less, her sister is at Harvard – proud papa indeed!).

I flew straight from Hartford, Conneticut all the way back to Guangzhou for the final week of construction and installation of the remaining work.  During my absence, the workers basically completed the interior structure for the figure which required a bit of tweaking to get everything to fit together properly.  It was amazing to work with a crew that ranged between three and seven helpers to complete the figure in this short period of time, non of whom spoke English save for one or two of the student volunteers.  Fortunately each artist was assigned an assistant/translator who was with me throughout the construction phase of the project.  We worked like crazy the last week of the installation and all came together very well – this in spite of the mandated work schedule of the museum staff – they come in at 9am, work until 11:30am, take a 2.5 hour lunch, come back and work until 5pm.  Thus a 5.5 hour workday!  Can’t beat that but it certainly made the build rather interesting considering my impulse is to work through lunch into the evenings, etc..  Thankfully, once the figure was in the actual space of the museum the artists were allowed to work into the evenings on their various projects.

The figure has a slightly different pose from the first Gandhi and somehow a more pronounced smile than the one first show at Eyebeam.  😉

Here I am with the 17' cardboard Gandhi built for the Triennial.

Here I am with the 17' Gandhi along with the other works from my contribution to the show.

The museum printed up 8 very large format prints of screenshots from the Salt March reenactment in Second Life, these looked great as you can see above, truly complimenting the scale of the figure. I also showed the small, 8″ white Gandhi figure and a new, 15″ Gandhi figure that I treated with genuine gold leaf – both of these sculptures were created using the rapid prototyping, 3-D printer at Eyebeam.  This is the first showing of the gold leaf figure which I completed after my return to Reno.

White Gandhi figure with the Gold Leaf Gandhi in the background.

White Gandhi figure with the Gold Leaf Gandhi in the background.

Also being shown at the Triennial is a short video documentary of the Salt March reenactment, the projector is mounted inside the wood pedestal holding the Gold Leaf Gandhi and projected upon the wall.

Gold Leaf Gandhi with video projection.

Gold Leaf Gandhi with video projection.

The remainder of this post will be a number of pictures of the Gandhi work and the crowds that attended the opening of the Triennial. Sad to say I left China the next morning.  I was very pleased with the exhibition – the Gandhi work was featured in what is arguably the best gallery in the entire museum, room #5, a massive space with high ceilings.  I was showing with other large scale work done by some fantastic artists – will go more into detail on the other works in the show in my next posting.

Gandhi at the opening.

Gandhi at the opening.

The Second Life screenshots with a visitor to the opening.

The Second Life screenshots with a visitor to the opening.

The three Gandhi figures.

The three Gandhi figures.

Gandhi as viewed from across the gallery through the work of Chinese artist Shao Yinong

Gandhi as viewed from across the gallery through the work of Chinese artist Shao Yinong

These past few weeks have been very busy – I posted an “instructable” on instructables.com on how to build a 17’Gandh avatar that has been very well received.

I was also invited to post some writing about the Gandhi reenactment work on Augmentology.com. (part 1, part 2). The first two parts of a three part series on the entirety of the Gandhi projects, from concept to performance to artifacts and objects is now available to peruse. Part three will be posted this Friday, July 25th.

Here are some images of the completion and exhibition of the 17′ cardboard papercraft Gandhi and the tiny 8″ reproduction created using 3-D rapid prototype printing technology.  The exhibition “Tourists and Travelers” is up at Eyebeam from June 21st through July 19th, check it out! Nice Rhizome.org posting about it today fyi:


I will be posting more images soon!

Below – Treadmill Installation from the reenactment re-installed showing the footsteps video and the new stop action piece compiling over 6000 screen shots taken to document the entire march through Second Life, one taken every 60 seconds. Video of the install will be up soon!

Treadmill re-installed with stop action video.

MGandhi in cardboard using Pepakura papercraft techniques on a large scale, same size as Michaelangelo’s David!

17\' Cardboard Gandhi 2008

8″ Rapid Prototype 3-D Polymer Print of the MGandhi avatar from Second Life.


Final stage of assembly of the giant Gandhi, just after attaching the head.

Final assembly.

Here is an image of the giant cardboard Gandhi sculpture in progress. So far I have finished the head and the hands. Translating this from the small pepakura files has been a bit challenging as the program does not scale up as large as I need – so I’ve been using an overhead projector (the one that the head in the pictures is mounted on) – projecting transparencies onto 4×8′ sheets of cardboard, then using a band saw and matt knife to cut out the shapes. A hot glue gun is being used to attach all the pieces together. So far the results are amazing – I think this is going to be a very interesting interpretation of my Second Life avatar.

Over the past month I have begun to work on a number of projects as both artifacts and documents of the Salt March reenactment. As a 2008 Commissioned Resident Artist here at Eyebeam, part of the residency is a two person show here at Eyebeam that opens on June 21st, 2008. I will be featuring a number of new works in this exhibition, including the creation of a large scale, perhaps 15-20′ tall Gandhi statue created from the 3-D model of my MGandhi avatar as extracted from Second Life. The image above left shows my Gandhi figure after some basic processing in Blender (a great, free, open source 3-D modeling program). We then imported the object file into another program called Pepakura Designer, which is a wonderful software application from Japan (free to play with, $35 to use fully). Pepakura takes any 3-D file and unfolds it to create a flattened version that one prints out and assembles – something between working with paper dolls and building a model airplane. Take a look at their site, particularly the Gallery to see some amazing things made by the users of this program. Also note this link for a gallery page of “papercraft” work.

My plan is to translate the Pepakura information to large sheets of cardboard to assemble a large, monumental papercraft version of my Gandhi avatar. The image above right is my first test with the Gandhi model, printed on standard 8.5X11″ paper and assembled using an x-acto knife and tacky glue.  The final version will have likely double the number of polygons used for this prototype in order to allow for further detail.  This is the tricky part of translating the complex Second Life 3-D model to Pepakura as without first lowering the polygon count of the model we had several thousands of polygons to make the figure.  At this time finding a balance between effectively representing the figure and having the lowest possible number of polygons to allow for the successful physical completion of this piece with the material at hand and in the short time frame before the show.

Very excited about this work and others that I will be creating for my final showing opportunity here at Eyebeam. More details on other works soon.

Long delayed in writing about my experience on April 6th, 2008, walking in a march in “real life” sponsored by the NYC based “Satya Graha Forum”. The march was the inaugural event of a month of activities surrounding the production of “The Satyagraha”, the Phillip Glass opera from 1977 that was being revived by The Metropolitan Opera here in New York. The march involved starting at any one of four gathering points, walking a few miles and circling Union Square Park with all four groups converging on the Gandhi statue at the Soutwest corner of the park for a rally and speeches.

Keep in mind this was the day after completing the 240 miles of the reenactment in Second Life and on the treadmill – I was tired! All the same, it was quite an amazing experience to break out of my daily regimen of walking at Eyebeam (indoors), sleeping, getting up the next day and walking again. I made my way to Houston and 2nd avenue to gather with my fellow marchers. I immediately found myself feeling very self-conscious and shy in only the way that gathering with a group of complete strangers can do to me. Oddly, this was the complete opposite of my behavior and demeanor within Second Life during the course of the reenactment where I was completely at ease in approaching others in the online space to chat and invite them to be my “friends” and perhaps join me in walking.

Such irony, I know. After spending the better part of the month chatting away with strangers online and with visitors to Eyebeam, gathering with a group of individuals to walk in real life I found completely terrifying! It was not until we started to walk, about a group of 15 of us, to where I relaxed a bit. Here is a picture of me with my fellow marchers as we made our way down 2nd avenue.

When we arrived at Union Square park I struck up a conversation with an Englishman who, it turns out, was one of the puppeteers working on “The Satyagraha” opera. I told him about my Salt March reenactment online and on the treadmill – we had quite a nice chat and he introduced me to several others on the march who were also involved in the opera production. We all gathered at the Gandhi statue, pictured here:

We listened to a number of short speeches, including one by Phillip Glass and Mark Kurlansky, the author of “Salt: A World History” – a book that had been recommended to me by one of the visitors to my performance at Eyebeam. Here are some of those gathered at the rally holding their signs:

I found the experience of marching in RL after spending my month in virtual space to be an incredibly appropriate way to close out the reenactment. The event provided an ideal setting for my seguey back into my everyday life – it was also an occasion for deep contemplation and another way to seek connections with others. There was something magical in both realms – the interaction and the gathering with others to walk – both similar. It was interesting in both this real world march and over the course of my reenactment, we were asked by passersby “what are you protesting?” – in both contexts, we answered, “we are not protesting anything, we are marching for Gandhi, for peace”. Amazing.

Now one month to the day of the end of the reenactment and this walk on the streets of New York City. I must say, I still feel a great sense of accomplishment and fulfillment that I did not anticipate in conceiving this project. I truly feel as though I made a significant journey on many different levels. Funny too, I really miss my MGandhi avatar…I became quite attached to him over the course of the walk. I’ve had a few pleading emails from friends made in Second Life to not kill Gandhi! I’ve wandered, without the treadmill, a few times over the past month, mostly to revisit and take note of some of the places I have been to online – but I just don’t yet feel comfortable “walking” Gandhi in Second Life without actually, physically walking with him on the treadmill. Perhaps this will change over time.