No Matter concerns the trafficking of ‘imaginary objects’ in simulated and physical spaces. Imaginary objects appear repeatedly in myth, literature, in thought experiments, popular culture and as placeholder objects in language. Items such as the Holy Grail, Time Machine or Schrödinger’s Cat, do not exist in the material realm, except as replicas, and embody the tension between the ideal and real. In Second Life, builders create 3D objects exclusively in-world, which cannot be exported, and remain in a purely virtual form.
We have “smuggled” these objects as digital plunder, amassing them into a real life trophy room of ontological treasures. For No Matter, these objects are displayed simultaneously in three spaces. First, in Second Life, where they form an interactive installation — avatars can climb inside the Trojan Horse, open Pandora’s Box and teleport through a Portable Hole. In real life, we display paper models of these objects on simulated wood plinths as a traditional gallery installation. Each physical object in this collection retains its original SL primitive 3D polygon form and captures the inherent humor in this economy of the imaginary.
A third component, a website, ties these two worlds together as a catalogue of economic relations and study of value. A database lists a description for each of the 40 objects and each builder’s profile. A cost/time analysis for constructing each object in Second Life highlights the wage disparities for each builder’s labor.
As a fully functioning economy of the immaterial, Second Life shatters the very notion of value. Builders traditionally construct replicas of famous buildings; luxury goods and custom-designed objects, reproducing simulated real-life goods at a fraction of their real-world value. With zero cost for gathering material resources, manufacturing or transporting the finished product to market, these cheap or free items flood the SL economy widely and quickly. As an avatar’s inventory balloons with thousands of these virtual objects, they lose both their monetary and cultural value.
Assembled from printed-paper, the imaginary objects in “No Matter” reflect the dual nature of this value. Like physical currency, they act as symbolic containers with little inherent worth embedded in the material itself. Its market value and cultural significance is entirely constructed in the mind of the viewer and projected back into the object.