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.