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Mapping New Territories

ripper.gif

LOL (laughing out loud)

LOL: On jan 12th 2003, in Phoenix (USA), a 21-year old computer addict (called hereafter by his nickname “ripper”) died of an overdosis of prescription drugs while chatting on the internet. Soon after this tragic event, a text file containing a transcription of the dialogs that occured in the chatroom appeared on numerous websites. Re-processing the dialogs recorded before, during and after his death, the N3KROZOFT MORD multimedia group expands the network tragedy into a caustic ectoplasmic seance.

“…N3krozoft Mord, a collective of media artists based in Geneva, have used the chat log as the script for a re-enactive performance. “The idea was to run this through again, like the film that runs before your eyes just before you die.” The title LOL – the online acronym for “laughing out loud” – takes the chatÂ’s commonest statement and uses it to describe the reactions of the participants as they sway between cynicism and helplessness…”
From the Mapping New Territories we site:

PERFORMANCE:  12.03.05,  19:00

The Fatal Failure of Telecommunications

LOL – a performance by N3krozoft Mord

[02:03:40] rippercam is up
[02:03:46] I got a grip of drugs
[02:03:51] show us ripper

These are the opening lines of an internet chat on 12 January 2003. Ripper is the code name of 21-year-old Brandon Vedas, who was to die at his home in Phoenix that night after taking a cocktail of prescription drugs while chatting with online acquaintances who were watching him on webcam. This tragic incident made the daily papers all over the world and within days, several websites had posted a chat log.

N3krozoft Mord, a collective of media artists based in Geneva, have used the chat log as the script for a re-enactive performance. “The idea was to run this through again, like the film that runs before your eyes just before you die.”  The title LOL – the online acronym for “laughing out loud” – takes the chatÂ’s commonest statement and uses it to describe the reactions of the participants as they sway between cynicism and helplessness. Actor Nicolas Goulart plays Ripper, going through the actions that can be deduced from the text: Ripper sits, seems restless, drinks, smokes. He swallows pills. He broadcasts himself on webcam and, above all, he types intermittently at the keyboard. The actor replaces the original webcam footage, which was not recorded, and at the same time is the fictitious embodiment that recalls the lost presence of the dead man.

All the while, the chat log is screened in real time like film credits rolling: for 80 harrowing minutes the time code of the dialogue determines our sense of time. Life Images from a webcam focused on the actor are also screened. The authors of N3krozoft Mord intervene subtly in this sober yet obsessive repetition of the event. The footage of a second, moving camera is manipulated in situ as though mirroring the dying manÂ’s drug-fuelled mental state. A troubling live sound track of booming sub-bass and high-frequency dissonance by the musician, 10111.org, underpins the moving image. The grim setting of RipperÂ’s desk, covered in equipment, paper, ashtrays, pizza boxes and glasses, is adapted from the opening scene of the film Matrix.

N3krozoft MordÂ’s manipulation of sound and image has a subliminal impact. It heightens the hypnotic magnetism of the authentic text, creating a mental space that acts as a resonator. Soon we find ourselves reacting as the participants did in the chat of January 2003, watching the bright green text unfold on the darkness of the screen, so mesmerised that we forget the reality unfolding in the room.

The virtual room in which Ripper and others are chatting is mainly about the abuse of prescription drugs. Press researchers have put the average age of the participants at 16. Ripper lists the drugs and the amounts and invites the others to watch him on webcam. Within 4 minutes and 9 seconds Phalaris has posted the cynical diagnosis: “attempted suicide # 84”. At first, Ripper is egged on: “You pussy, you pussy, eat more.” He takes it as a challenge, and boasts about his drug consumption and sexual exploits: “this is usual weekend behaviour, I told u fucks, u all said I was lying.” Once it becomes clear that he is heading for a lethal overdose, some of them try to reason with him. Smoke2k writes: “look dude fucking cram it up your ass … thats crazy ya know … don’t eat it… your already numb.” Others send urgent virtual cries: “riipper … RIPPER :((((” They even discuss whether to call the emergency services. But then they have their doubts – maybe Ripper is just acting out a suicide scene. Can the webcam be believed? Oea tries to call his bluff, then tries to coax Ripper back to life with a declaration of love. The medium heightens the kind of inaction that sometimes sets in among witnesses to a road accident. “you will never know if he died unless he get back on here,” writes theKat, and grphish replies: “i know … thats kinda freaky.”

Another media-specific factor confuses matters: Pnutbot, who enters the conversation repeatedly at certain keywords, is not a human being capable of decision and action, but an automated chat robot. It remains a moot point whether Ripper himself programmed Pnutbot to throw in the poison control emergency number in a vain attempt to create some security within the casual framework of the chatroom.  The kids in the chatroom are smart enough to find out, within seconds, the IP of the server and, with that the actual address of the anonymous Ripper. They have details – the lethal dose, the home address, the fact that his mother is in the room next door killing time with crosswords. But they do not add the bits together to a conclusive or binding narrative. Still less do they manage to translate them into the reality of the outside world and actually intervene.

In the chatroom, the gulf between simultaneous presence and absence offers protection, the liberty of risk-free intimate communication and a sense of belonging. In this serious situation, however, the same gulf becomes an insurmountable barrier. The young people are held back by the question as to what is real about what is happening in the virtual room. Or, to put it another way, what is fictional about the reality of what is happening. And quite a few of them cannot resist the temptation of simply withdrawing from their masked existence with impunity, from a chat that usually leaves only data trails, rarely corpses.

The simultaneity of presence and absence is mirrored in the setting of the performance without moral judgement. The audience is given a glimpse into both rooms, which cannot be brought together – neither in the actual incident nor in the performance. The gap between physical room and chatroom, between body and language, seals Ripper’s fate.

The N3krozoft Mord group, whose name itself combines computer and death,  is interested in the subconscious, darker sides of telecommunication: “In the case of this chatroom protocol, what is unique is that the trail of the event itself describes the event. And it is a text that would not exist without the technical tools by which we communicate. It records and witnesses the death of a young man, but at the same time it is a statement about the vehicle of communication. … The notion of telecommunication has always been linked with death. Even EdisonÂ’s phonographs were meant to record the voices of people so that they could still be heard after their deaths.”  The morbid aspect of telecommunication is also the subject of N3krozoft MordÂ’s latest audio work. Ubik is based on the sci-fi novel of the same name by Philip K. Dick, which describes how technology is used to retain the consciousness of the dead. With proper treatment, individuals become “half-lifers” and can communicate by voice from this semi-dead state, a kind of technically generated limbo. Fiction infiltrates our experience, whereas in Laughing out Loud, it is exactly the opposite: the fact of death tries in vain to penetrate the surface tension of a virtual community.

[02:55:32] he’s gone
[02:55:46] hes fuckin not responding

Text: Raffael Dörig und Annina Zimmermann

Credits

LOL – a performance by N3krozoft Mord

Idea & concept: N3krozoft Mord
Video projection, programming, installation: N3krozoft Mord
Audio: 10111.org

With support of: Bundesamt für Kultur/sitemapping.ch

www.n3krozoft.com
www.10111.org


Sep 30, 09:47
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