Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Inchvestor Profile: Ken Hudson -- "100 Squirrels in Loveland"

The Black Squirrel, part of a collection of urban art that Ken Hudson may be including in his Loveland inches.(Image and art credit: Ken Hudson)

Inchvestor Profile
Name: Ken Hudson
Number of Inches: 100

Ken Hudson is a Canadian visual and theatrical artist, performer, digital media consultant, and Managing Director of the Virtual World Design Centre at Loyalist College in Belleville, Ontario, near Toronto.

He is perhaps better known for his ground-breaking work using the virtual world of Second Life to train Canadian Border Guards, which led to significantly improved grades on students’ critical skills tests, taking scores from a 56% success in 2007, to 95% at the end of 2008 after the simulation was instituted.

Ken will be documenting his involvement in Loveland on his new blog "100 Squirrels in Loveland."

What inspired you to buy inches in Loveland?

Obviously, there's the character of Jerry [Paffendorf] and his bon vivance. People want to be involved in ideas he's pushing forward.

It connected really strongly with my creative past. I used to create theater in alternative venues. In Canada my claim to fame is I adapted Shakespeare's Henry V to an Ice Hockey arena -- with heavy metal music and fighting with sticks. Before that I did a show in an store window on Queen Street in Toronto in 1999. [Here's a video clip.]

This idea that Jerry was going to retrieve some of these ideas -- using alternative venues, using venue as a space for expression. In other words the venue itself becomes part of the entire narrative. Those concepts are really appealing to me. Then the idea that he would be blurring the boundary between virtual worlds, augmented reality, site-specific art.

How do you perceive Loveland and what has it inspired you to do with your inches?

I see it specifically as a creative space. There's no promotional or corporate angle.

Last fall I started doing a bit of stencil graffitti art. Where I live, we have black squirrels that hop across the road all the time. So I cut a stencil of a hopping black squirrel as a way to capture that image. Then I put it in some strategic locations in our town. (See above) [Ken says he may incorporate the Black Squirrel into the expression of his inches.]

What's your current vision for how you're going to use your inches?

I see it completely as self-expression, finding images or populating the space -- physical, virtual or both with primary artistic intent. Part of my work doing performance in alternative venues, everything around it becomes part of the performance.

It's less a group show and more a collaborative art piece. I want to keep my points fluid so that I can adapt to what's around me and respond to it. I don't want to create a monolith here.

Whatever I do there, I expect to grow from the collective experience.

Kenny Hubble, Hudson's Second Life persona.

Do you imagine using your inches across platforms?

I see it as something I want to have maximum flexibility with. The squirrel may be virtual or augmented reality. The similarity between the public performance work I've done all the way to Second Life is that it all builds on the environment. It's not art that's happening in a glass box that doesn't have any relationship to anything around -- just the opposite. Everything around it changes it. If you're doing a show on the street and a bus comes by, it's part of the show.

Is it a physical project for virtual art or a virtual project with a physical location? Those are all salient questions for contemporary art as we move forward into the century. I think it is experimental in the best way. I don't think there is an over-arching artistic intention. I think there is a really neat idea. One idea that isn't even explicitly mentioned is that you could even buy real estate in Detroit for $500. I mean, that's a huge social issue that is entrenched in this concept.

What does that say for people in economically depressed areas. Or to people that don't have access to fine art or virtual worlds? What does it say to those people? To start to envision what land could be used for, what contemporary art is.

Whether it answers all these questions or not, it certainly raises all of them. To me, that's incredibly exciting.

You can follow Ken's involvement in Loveland at his project blog 100 Squirrels in Loveland.

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