Contemporary visual culture is abound with digital characters. They mediate our interactions, cushion and frame our immersion into cyberspace, punctuate the experience of our gameworlds. In animated film characters perform insane feats with impossible elegance; their bodies decontruct and reconstruct at the whim of the animator's hand. Celluloid binds the animated character irretrievably into its world. In the realm of the digital, discourses of artificial intelligence and avatardom have partially liberated the character from the confines of cinematic screen space, into a kind of virtual half-life. Though classically characters throughout the twentieth century have enjoyed a second life in the domains of marketing and mechandising, in our contemporary moment characters appearing (in both high cultural and popular forms) are embibed with an autonomy steeped in metaphors of intelligence and evolution. In this presentation I would like to begin to make some speculations on the aesthetic life of characters in digital art, and suggest how we might playfully navigate the pagent of shifting masks, tentacles, laser guns, mail messengers and alien hybrids that populate our contemporary visual culture.
Paper presented at Digital Aesthetic 2 Conference/Exhibition/Website, Lancashire, United Kingdom, 17 March - 03 June 2007