Build a “Monumental” Virtual Sculpture for a Shot at Winning $1,000

Artists! Are you tired of making work fettered by all the rules of normal physics and conventional logic? Well then have I got an art contest for you! From now through June 12, denizens of the new-ish virtual universe of Cloud Party can sign up to compete to build the best work of art. The contest organizers have pledged $1,000 to the victor, and yours truly has signed on to both judge the contest and — as an added bonus — write an essay about the winner.

The background: I know this dates me, but the best way I can think of to describe Cloud Party is that it has the same relationship to Second Life that Facebook had to MySpace — it’s similar in feel, but due to some snappy technological innovations, much easier to get into and to share your creations (“click-to-connect” is the buzzword), and aims to be somewhat classier. Right now, it is a collection of glimmering floating suburban islands where you can build your own houses, contraptions, and, of course, your own body. Personally, I’m an invisible cowboy. (If you want to see what artists have already done with it, check out French artist Patrick Moya’s groovy museum.)

As for the contest specifics, the theme is “Monumental Public Work of Art.” As a judge, I consider the whole thing to be about exploring a minor philosophical/artistic problem: What counts as a work of art in a virtual space where pretty much everything is designed? How does one create artistic strangeness in a world that is basically one big exercise in natural surrealism. (Cloud Party already has a virtual version of Berlin — Der Spiegel wrote it up last month — as well as a zany array of alpine wildernesses, pirate islands, and “Dune”-like desert worlds, designed by users sculpting its vast, barren spaces.)

Nevertheless, I have some criteria that I will be looking for. I’d like to see a free-standing sculptural work in virtual space, and I’m going to look for originality, personal vision, best use of the environment, and so on (all the criteria are here, in the contest announcement). I actually have high hopes that it will produce something quite weird and novel, maybe even lovely.

Like I said, the winner will be picked on June 12. In the meantime, I’m also going to do virtual studio visits to give some guidance on what I’m looking for, starting this coming Saturday, around noon EST. Even if you don’t have it in you to create a whole virtual artwork, you can tag along — like I said, one of Cloud Party’s virtues is that its easy to dip into.

— Ben Davis