Artist Recreates Gandhi's Salt March Protest in Second Life

March 12, 2008 -
When last we saw artist and professor Joseph DeLappe, he was protesting the Iraq war - and infuriating other players - by typing the names of dead U.S. miltary personnel into the multiplayer chat window of America's Army.

While DeLappe continues to visit the Army recruiting game as part of his Dead in Iraq war protest, he has turned to a new virtual project, recreating Gandhi's 1930 Salt March within Second Life. As reported by GQ:
DeLappe will begin reenacting Gandhi's 1930 240-mile Salt March on a treadmill inside New York's Eyebeam gallery—all of which will be reproduced in real time on Second Life.

Yes, the self-parody is (kind of) deliberate. "I'm a spoiled American computer artist paying tribute to Gandhi's life and philosophy by taking on certain aspects of his march, like the walking," he says. "But at the same time, you know, I'm not going anywhere."

DeLappe writes on his blog that he will use a specially converted Nordic Trak treadmill to control his SL avatar:
Over 26 days I will walk throughout the confines of this internet based community to reenact Gandhi’s famous 1930’s march to protest the British salt tax in India... my steps on the treadmill will control the forward movement of my avatar...

Comments

He's an "artist" which means he's a hack that has to attach his name to something socially relevant prior to his demise since he can't seem to create something of lasting value on his own. I wish him the best of luck, on the trek, and I hope medical attention is on standby. Ghandi has balls and the willpower to go on in the face of his repression. This yutz is probably going to fall out after five hours.

Odd much?

An interesting idea, but there doesn't seem to be any hint whatsoever as to why he is doing it. Ghandi's actions were based on my countries terrible treatment of India, am I to assume this is Iraq related again?

lol he is a glorified troll

@GoodRobotUs

Clearly he is protesting society

@Ghost Coins

I always prefer the term 'artiste', an artist can create some beautiful, timeless works that live forever, an artiste is a more 'physical' entity, creating transient things that are designed for now, not for the future, and are more centred on the creator, who is often interactively involved with it.

I'll not pass judgement on either kind, I just think there are differences between them, one wants to leave something for the future, the other wants to say something to the now.

@GoodRobotUs

Touche, and excellent point.

this guy = win

I don't think this guy thought this one through. This is going to be the one thing he's remembered for, and that will be because of all the youtube videos of his Gandhi avatar being assaulted by a giant phallus.

He'll walk until one those anonymous fellows shoot him with a cage gun.

I'd have to agree with TheBird 100%

It's 'teh win'

About his dead-in-iraq "work:" "The work is essentially a fleeting, online memorial to those military personnel who have been killed in this ongoing conflict."

A "fleeting, online memorial?" I'm sorry to inform this "artist," but a memorial that's "fleeting" isn't a memorial at all. No, all he's doing is self-aggrandizing in order to feel relavent while elevating internet trolling to an offensive level by abusing the memories of dead soldiers.

What of those soldiers who believed in what they were fighting for and who were ready and willing to die? Yes, I know, sacrifice like that is clearly a concept that's foreign to DeLappe. Also foreign to DeLappe is the consideration and open-mindedness to think that maybe, just maybe, some of those soldiers would take offense to their memory being used against their will so some pretentious, uncaring moron could get some free publicity and feel good about himself.

This "man's" online "protest" is a mockery of Gandhi's actual Salt March Protest. All DeLappe wants is attention as he plods along on his treadmill, bottle of Evian in hand. If he feels so passionately about whatever it is he's protesting - and what is he doing this to protest? - why wouldn't he act in the real world? Why hide within Second Life while remaining safe and comfortable on his treadmill? I'm going to hazard a guess that it's because DeLappe is too weak a person to actually put himself at risk for what he believes in.

He wants attention but he's too weak to face any real discomfort so he does something like this, walking nearly 10 miles a day on a treadmill and then enjoying a hearty meal and a nice night's sleep on a comfortable bed. Truly, he's paying tribute to the hardships faced by Gandhi.

This guy is such a complete and profound attention whore that I wouldn't be surprised if Elliot Spitzer sponsors his "works."

@ GoodRobotUs & Cheeselikesceareal

That's what some people say about the civil war re-enactments.

Heh, I don't have a problem with him doing it, just wondering why, Historical Re-enactment groups don't really announce themselves to people who aren't interested in the same past-time, or recreate battles in the middle of a shopping centre, this guy is doing it in a deliberately visible spot, was really just wondering if he was doing it in protest of something, or what message he is trying to project by doing this, seeing as he obviously wants other people to watch and/or interact.

Yeah..I have no idea what the purpose is other than for re-enactment. He looks like a guy that has too much time on his hands.

One thing I can say: He made a damn good Gandhi avatar there. Spittin' image you could say.

~Otaku-Man

What an incredibly lazy way to protest. At least if he did it in person he'd get a 15 second mention on the news.

I find that his dead-in-iraq project is a lot more interesting as a performance art piece. It subverts the ideological background of America's Army in a direct and effective way. Fine and dandy, as far as I'm concerned.

This Gandhi thing seems more nebulous to me; turning a treadmill into an interface input is pretty cool, but that's engineering, not art. I would hope he would pony up more details on what motivates this project and what the goal of this 'performance intervention' in Second Life is in the near future. It strikes me that this isn't especially worthwhile art yet, but that it could be.

I understood his Dead-in-Iraq protest but he could have chosen a better way/place to do it instead of a game.

Anyone know what he's trying to accomplish with this?

@Ebonheart

He is doing it to be an asshat. I think he is too stupid to realise a game is a game it doesn't matter who makes it or why. I played the political punch bush in the face did i feel compelled to punch him in the face in real life? no. I played Americas Army. Was I compelled to join the army? no. I think he is protesting the militairy in general with his memorial by trying to hurt their recruiting tool. He is a joke. I agree with Tom. he is going to be nice and comforable all the way to nowhere on his treadmill.

I literally just saw him pass through the sim where I was lurking. Like... less than 10 minutes ago.

In regard to the Gandhi march - my goal with this project is to explore aspects of protest, history and reenactment in online spaces. It is a search for a connection with history by revisiting a seminal event of protest in the contemporary. I do this project in complete awe of Gandhi - his ideas and his actions. I intend this project as a tribute to the genius, courage, creativity and sense of humor that is evident in both Gandhi's actions and writings. He is a foundational figure in terms of the development of non-violent protest - a logical figure of interest considering my past work in the America's Army game (btw, 40% of recruits in 2005 noted playing this "game" prior to signing up, but I digress).

Gandhi believed that wealth without work, without labor, to be meaningless. By walking on a treadmill I am at working for my time in second life - I am earning this wealth of virtual experience. Is there a connection to this work and the Iraq war? Gandhi was protesting British colonialism/imperialism and the exploitation of his nation's resources (in this instance salt). Yes, there is a connection here in regard to examining a historic occasion of opposition to the forces of imperialism. Perhaps a nuanced connection to the United States current foreign policy, but the connections are apparent when you think about it.

I make no claims to taking ANY type of heroic actions in regard to this reenactment - I am intentionally reenacting the Salt March within Second Life and on a treadmill as an experiment. I wanted to see what it was like to physically commit to walking 240 miles all the while being in a virtual space where one literally has no need to commit to much of anything save pretending to be someone other. This contrast between commitment and fantasy is interesting and worth investigating, particularly considering how much time we, as a culture, spend online.

FYI, so far I have walked 32 miles in three days and have yet to collapse, thank you for your confidence. Feel free to come and join me in SL, would welcome the debate and the company.

Prof. Delappe,

I'm not on Second Life at current and don't expect to be at least before my semester is out, so I hope you catch this comment and are able to reply here.

Given your explanation (and thanks for that) of the project, I'm left with a few questions.

dead-in-iraq seemed to me to be so effective because of its being set in America's Army as a site-specific work. That was an especially fertile virtual spot to plant the questions the performance asked, because America's Army is bound up in the exact ideology being critiqued in the piece. That seemed to be the ingenious part of it. Second Life as an environment doesn't seem to take advantage of this same kind of connection, so I'm interested to know your take on what (if anything) makes up for that and whether anything even has to. Does this project demand, or could it benefit from site-specificity in the same way?

I'm working through this distinction between commitment and fantasy, and I'm not sure what to make of it. Coming at it from the perspective of Goffman's 'everyday life as performance' school of thought, I'm not sure whether your emulation of Gandhi is less a committed role than your everyday performance of Professor Joseph Delappe. Perhaps that's the wrong perspective for me to approach it from, and I'll continue to evaluate that.

Best,
Mike
 
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