21 November 2022

Theda Tammas and Iono Allen's "Genesis": In the Beginning Was the Pixel

I haven't blogged in quite a while due to lack of time and the near-disappearance of the Second Life art that interests me. But Theda Tammas fortunately has not disappeared, and her new installation, integrated with numerous videos by Iono Allen and featuring music composed by Morlita Quan, is surely one of her best. Genesis has several themes, but I will focus on a less obvious one: how it meditates on the building blocks of digital creativity itself--its genetic code. Discerning this theme requires a little prior knowledge, and I suspect there are aspects of it in the installation that I missed. However, even though the reasons for my interpretation are technical, they are I think easily grasped once pointed out. But I'll get to that.

The installation's entryway is a pathway through which the most prominent displays are several videos of her animesh statues walking, often showing only their legs which seem to be made of wire, their arms, and occasionally faces wearing strange masks that look somewhat like wire traps. In some scenes, the animesh figures hang in the air. One can hear music that sounds like a chorus singing. (SL is terribly temperamental with video, so you may have difficulties getting one or two to play; sometimes all you can do is come back later. You may need to toggle video a couple times to hear the music.) (To enlarge the photos, right-click them and select "Open link in new tab.")

Video scene from Genesis

Theda Tammas & Iono Allan: "Genesis"
Construction at Genesis

At the end of the path there's an animesh statue (seen above), fingers wriggling, facing a wall that looks somewhat like a well-weathered picket fence made of lath. Walk into the wall and you'll be teleported to the installation's upper level. (There are also two surfaces immediately below it visible through the translucent ground, the first of which has a long "picket fence," and there's a "sky" surface above.)  Varied constructions are scattered across the landscape, many of them inhabited by the animesh figures, all of them with wire legs and some wearing the wire mask. Some of the constructions integrate videos. The "picket fences" also re-appear, or a version of them. Red curves sweep upward like staircases. The most prominent build looks like an undulating wave but actually consists of lines, or more precisely, flat surfaces of varying shapes. The scene and the videos are both beautiful and unnerving.

Theda Tammas & Iono Allan: "Genesis"
Construction at Genesis

Theda Tammas & Iono Allan: "Genesis"
Construction at Genesis

Theda Tammas & Iono Allan: "Genesis"
Construction at Genesis: the "Wave" (front view)

Theda Tammas & Iono Allan: "Genesis"
Construction at Genesis: the "Wave" (a side view)

Theda Tammas & Iono Allan: "Genesis"
Construction at Genesis: the "Wave" (rear view)

The way the "Wave" is constructed is striking, particularly the fact that there is no actual wave, but instead a virtual one suggested by vertical lines. The method is precisely the same as used for digital sound recording: at regular intervals, one samples and records the amplitude of the wave, like this:

Wave form
A sound wave, in red, represented digitally, in blue
By Aquegg - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29599378

The digital audio recording consists of only the blue dots, and the sequence of vertical lines illustrates the sampling time interval. (Notice also that the amplitudes offer only fixed steps for values, so there's a level 6 and a level 7, but no 6.75, resulting in some approximation. That's digitization for you!) Clearly, in the picture above, the dots' replication of the red wave is, well, spotty; the more frequent the sampling (more blue dots), the clearer the representation of the sound wave. (Movies in the celluloid era likewise used rapidly displayed photos to give the impression of movement.)

Theda's "Wave" works the same way. I should say that to my knowledge, its three-dimensional aspect doesn't correspond to anything in the digital world, but it certainly makes for a more arresting visual image. And when viewed from behind (see above), one discovers that the "Wave" consists of several different waves woven together. Examined closely, the "picket fences" and the red upward curves are similarly built of parallel pieces that appear to be positioned at regular intervals. The red curves may even use fixed steps for their heights, although this is hard to determine. Morlita's music itself--and let's remember the illustration of digital sound above--seems to follow the digital principle too: through most of it, the "chorus" sings a single note ten times, and then switches to a different note.

But if one can digitally create what seems like a sound wave through a series of points (the blue dots), how does one represent a three-dimensional object? Theda and Iono give us a hint by forcing us to examine the animesh statues' legs, which seem to be made of wire. Which digitally they are: as a sort of sampling for efficiency, three-dimensional objects are represented by using triangles of various shapes and sizes. (This is why curved prims like disks look like polygons when very large.) The system is called "wireframe." Here are photos of the same image at Genesis, one as you usually see it, the other displaying the wireframes.

Theda Tammas & Iono Allan: "Genesis"
Image at Genesis: standard view

Theda Tammas & Iono Allan: "Genesis"
Image at Genesis: wireframe view

Almost literally, the legs show the underpinnings of digitally represented bodies. You can display wireframes yourself anywhere in SL: turn on the Developer menu under Advanced, and under the Developer menu, choose Rendering, and then Wireframe--or for a shortcut, just press Ctrl-Shift-R (this toggles).

(You may notice that the wires creating the legs form quadrilaterals, but that's probably to simplify construction; the wires themselves use extremely thin triangles. But the wires that compose the masks do form triangles.)

No doubt most visitors to Genesis won't notice these technical aspects of the art, as the images, videos and music are far more apparent and have a strong sensory and emotional impact. And rightly so. But these elements suggest why detailed attention to the images and music--the technique behind the poetry--is rewarding and enriches their meaning, and its digital "genetic code" may explain why the installation is titled Genesis.

Be sure to pick up the gift at the entrance. It consists of a red curve as the floor, a "picket fence," and standing in front of it one of the wireframe-legged figures: a sort of thumbnail of the entire build. I set it up in my home, making a pedestal for it out of--logically enough--one of the basic building blocks in SL: a single cubical prim, which I suitably reshaped.

Theda Tammas & Iono Allan: "Genesis"
Gift from Genesis on a one-prim, contorted cube pedestal

Iono Allen has a video of the entire installation at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5CnYJkad2H0

Please note that to get the best experience of Genesis, you should use Ultra graphics settings.

For a good interpretation of the poetic aspects of Genesis, see the blog post by Yoon.

Genesis is at La Maison d'Aneli <http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Virtual%20Holland/19/19/3057>

I would like to thank Aneli Abeyante, curator of La Maison d'Aneli, for hosting this superb installation.

13 September 2020

Ashes to Phoenix: The Second Life Endowment for the Arts Is Announced

As has been widely reported (for example by Inara Pey, so I won't repeat the announcement), Linden Lab approved the foundation of the Second Life Endowment for the Arts (a successor to the Linden Endowment for the Arts) based on a proposal developed by Tansee and Hannington Xeltentat -- and congratulations! A year ago when LEA was collapsing and some people, with Tansee in the lead, began campaigning for some way to save it or modify it, I had some cautionary advice, and it seems one or two of my thoughts were absorbed into the proposal; hopefully my advice will prove foresightful.

Hannington and Tansee will helm SLEA, which is already a good sign. One of LEA's major sources of trouble was that its leadership was composed mostly of artists, which produced conflict out of competing views (not to mention competing personalities) and took a significant number of artists out of the running for LEA sims. Hannington and Tansee, however, have been curating the Hannington Endowment for the Arts. Tansee is also an artist, but any "vanilla" curatorial experience (i.e., without the mishegas of conflicts of interest and the like) counts. Plus the Hannington Endowment for the Arts has a good track record.

At seven sims, SLEA will also be considerably smaller than LEA, thank heavens. LEA frequently approved crap, especially toward the end, because it often received about as many proposals as it had sims. The SLEA residencies range from one to six months, with a few quarter sims, which is an interesting approach that allows (or requires) a lot of turnover; probably that will help lower the stakes for artists who've seldom (if ever) created a large work before.

Vanessa Blaylock, in her own blog post on the announcement, offers two suggestions: (1) have shorter residencies -- no longer than two months -- and thus provide more opportunities to artists; and (2) make the seven sims contiguous as a way to break down the isolation of the works and build artist community. I'm skeptical about both ideas.

Regarding suggestion (1), Vanessa makes a good point: nobody needs a six-month residency, and few need a whole sim. Well, actually Bryn Oh makes all that work, but she's got her own sim. Vanessa's specific suggestion increases the annual opportunities from 40 under SLEA's proposal to 60. However, she doesn't account for a fundamental problem, one which I discussed in my original advice: at least from what have seen in person or announced in notices to the arts groups, unlike ten years ago very few artists focus on 3D builds rather than 2D images. My concern is not that there will be too few opportunities for artists, but that there are too few 3D artists to take the 40 opportunities. Tansee and Hannington have their work cut out for them already. But the length of residencies and the apportionment of the sims is easily modified. I might recommend chopping the six-month residencies down to three months, but that's all for now.

On Vanessa's suggestion (2), community is important, and I've written a couple of posts about it myself. However, making the sims contiguous doesn't (as she assumes) necessarily build community among the artists -- it can also create visual competition. Compare with the SL Birthdays and Burning Life/Burn2 celebrations: complete visual clutter. If those events create community among artists, then great, that's already happening, but I doubt they do. (I wish LL would put all the artists on contiguous regions, actually, because they're the only reason I visit.)

Admittedly, when I was curating Split Screen, most of the time I split the space between two artists -- but I left the decision on coordinating or separating to them. Sometimes they shared the land, once or twice responding to each other's work, but usually they stayed separate and sometimes they split the space vertically as one artist would take the sky (a couple times I wished that they'd chosen that path...). In fact some artists prefer sky builds, such as Cherry Manga (for instance, Danse Macabre). So if someone looks at a neighboring sim and sees empty land, then what? I also had to deal with conflict between artists over windlights, and I wouldn't wish that sort of thing on Hannington and Tansee. To me, allowing the artists to choose seemed to build a little community in the sense of cooperation, and only once did someone demand the whole space (which led that person to get none -- I set the rules).

However, even though Vanessa presents her suggestion as a way to create community among artists, her argument is actually from the perspective of an art enthusiast: make it easier for visitors to see everyone's work. And on that, she's right, sometimes I myself felt frustrated by the isolation.

So overall, my own recommendations to Tansee and Hannington are (1) require a SLEA-provided TP system on every sim to get to the other sims, maybe incorporating a photo of each installation (too bad artists, you have to include it, those are the rules); (2) have open discussions and a flexible approach with the artists on splitting land horizontally or vertically, and even on allocation of prim equivalents (some artists do a lot with a little); (3) have a flexible approach to residency durations as things proceed; (4) keep a bottle of scotch, some weed, or a bottle of Xanax handy, at some point you'll need it; and (5) GET A PUBLICIST! I mean for fuck's sake, LEA was fucking horrible at publicity, which creates more community and happier artists than any other strategy.

10 July 2020

New art works, and a new(ish) art sim in SL

I haven't been paying close attention to SL's art scene for a while. Chalk it up to feeling the SL art scene was in the doldrums, as I've written earlier, and being busy in RL. One interesting artist has appeared during the past year or so, FionaFei, known for importing Chinese inkbrush techniques into three dimensions. She has a work up at the Hannington Endowment for the Arts called "I Had a Dream, and You Were There," which I recommend. One reason to keep an eye on her is that she's done a full-sim work, Imposter, and not many artists have taken that challenge lately.

FionaFei, "I Had a Dream, and You Were There"

But the larger thing that slipped past me was the sim which hosted Imposter, called Sim Quarterly. Curated by Electric Monday, Sim Quarterly opened in July 2019 to provide a homestead "where SL creators and dreamers share their sim-wide, 3D installations" (to quote the notecard from the sim greeter). It is "quarterly" because Electric brings in a new artist every three months (a model similar to Split Screen's, except she has a whole homestead). I regret overlooking its entry into SL, because gaining a sim dedicated to large 3D installations is A Big Deal, in my view anyway. For the past several years the story has been the steady disappearance of such locations, culminating in the closure of LEA.

The current installation at the Sim Quarterly is JadeYu Fhang's Le Déraciné (The Uprooted). This work has three levels. At the landing point there's a small installation with a door through which you can TP to the second level, and from there walk or fly to the higher section on the side. That's all I'll say since I'm pretty busy these days, but go see it.

JadeYu Fhang's Le Déraciné

31 August 2019

LEA ends

It's official: the Linden Endowment for the Arts end is closing. The announcement reads, "Linden Endowment for the Arts in its current form comes to an end on August 31st and the remaining sims will be taken offline by Linden Labs on September 1st." What "in its current form" means is anyone's guess; probably nothing more than "Maybe we'll look at it again in 20 years, but don't hold us to that."

When LEA first opened I had strong reservations, as it seemed likely to undermine the independent curators like me. A whole sim for free -- what builder wouldn't jump at the chance? Not something I could offer. My worries seemed confirmed when someone slated for Split Screen pulled out at the last minute, taking a LEA sim instead and leaving me high and dry. But in the longer term the competition with LEA turned out to be less of an issue than I feared: the more serious problem appeared some years later, with the slow exit of the artists themselves. I closed Split Screen when it became clear that I was on the verge of repeatedly hosting the same half-dozen or so artists that fit my goals.

One major loss is the LEA Sandbox. Once in a while it hosted some amazing stuff. More importantly, with the closure of so many other sites for building and hosting large works, the future of SL art is probably limited to textures on a prim and occasionally smallish sculptures, plus a few stalwarts with their own sims, like Bryn Oh and Cica Ghost. Photos and the like are nice, but they don't explore one iota of SL's capabilities. And that's a great pity.

25 July 2019

Thoughts for the People Hoping to Save LEA

To those hoping to rescue LEA:

As you may know, I was the curator of the Split Screen Installation Space (2010-2017), which hosted many of SL's best-known 3D artists and achieved a good reputation during its time. (Often the installations made the SL Destination Guide Editor's Picks, and I was asked to join the LEA Committee, twice I think.) So given my experience with the SL art scene, I thought I should share my own thoughts about whether LEA should be rescued and if so, how it might best serve the SL arts community.

The question needs to be put into some context. Nearly all the major installation spaces SL has ever had are gone or now only display old art, including (in no particular order) PiRats, New Caerleon, the New Media Consortium, IDIA Laboratories, the University of Western Australia, the University of Texas--San Antonio, Odyssey, Art Screamer, IBM's Exhibition Spaces, both the first and the second Nordan Art Galleries, MetaLES, Split Screen, and others. I think that at one point most of these spaces existed at the same time. So there has been a massive loss of opportunities to build large works.

And yet, LEA has had trouble getting quality applications. One reason is that many of the creators of large installations have left SL, or stayed but quit making art. Some people left because of the cost of land, and moved to places like Inworldz and the OpenSims. Others left or stopped for personal reasons. Most importantly, few new artists interested in large installations have taken their place.

These should be big red flags: the problems LEA has faced during the past few years go far beyond LEA, and concern what the SL arts community itself is doing, or rather, not doing. It's not doing large installations.

If the SL art scene has changed so radically, people should think long and hard about whether LEA has any way to serve it. To be honest, I have doubts.

Nevertheless, I can suggest two options. One is to have merely two or three sims (and the sandbox) to support the few artists doing the sort of work that needs that amount of space. If more artists start requesting it, LEA can always ask Linden Lab to add another sim or two.

The other option is to give LEA a specific mission -- in effect, serving a curatorial function. This would make some people mad and raise the usual hackles, but some people get mad no matter what, because they have nothing better to do. It's practically an SL custom. So despite complaints, having a more specific mission might be the right thing to do anyway.

In my view, the mission LEA might best pursue is to programmatically encourage artists to make the kind of work that can exist only in a virtual world, or in any case would be extremely hard to do in the material world. Zero two-dimensional, "texture on a prim" art. Zero re-creations of RL or could-be-RL locations. Challenge artists to exploit SL's many resources, even if they need to get someone to help them (or they could learn how to do it themselves). Think about it: why is Bryn On one of the few people nowadays playing with windlights, projections, physics, raycasting, etc? She wants to squeeze everything she can out of SL, and she gets help for the complex scripts she needs. And then there's anims, media, scripting as art, terraforming, animesh.... Yes, there are certainly some artists who have large visions even if what they do is completely possible in real life (Eliza Wierwight comes to mind), and that's fine, they should have that opportunity if they can make a convincing case. And there are certainly some people trying out features of SL, with or without large spaces. I don't mean to cast aspersions on everyone -- I can see things kicking around on the sandbox. But on the whole, SL art is in a rut. LEA might be able to do something about that. Though clearly with fewer sims -- no more than half, probably no more than a quarter, at least for now -- and slice them into parcels for a while.

If LEA adopts a specific mission (what I suggest or something else), it would be smart not to have any artists on the committee: draw from the curators and maybe a blogger or two. (Not me, I'm working on a major project in RL.) Using curators reduces or eliminates conflicts of interest (real or imagined) and creates more of a network into the SL arts community.

Everything else -- the duration of grants, etc -- is just deck chairs on the Titanic, if you ignore the root of the problem.

Oh, and for pete's sake, get a publicist! LEA's advertising has always been terrible!

Best of luck,

Dividni Shostakovich

PS: In case you don't know what I mean by "exploiting SL's resources," here are some videos that should give an idea of the things people have done, some of them even without high tech (though not all of them are large installations):

Bogon Flux by blotto Epsilon and Cutea Benelli: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tK8Aa-6loJU

Transition Zone by Oberon Onmura: https://vimeo.com/11780611

Forest of Water by Glyph Graves: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-5rkSbgKRtE

Bagging Area 51 by Maya Paris: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xj2uE7e29ws

Paranormal Frottage by Misprint Thursday: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=68FxhfKa5P0

The Mask: a synchronicity by Pyewacket Kazyanenko, Jo Ellsmere, and Kai Steamer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tz-yTln9BkY

(There are several works I hoped to include but I wasn't able to find a satisfactory video.)

19 July 2018

Eliza Wierwight: "salt"

Eliza Wierwight is well-known for her her home and home furnishings store, Patron, and only rarely can she turn to art. When she has that opportunity, however, you can depend on the results being exceptional. Her first large-scale art work in several years, a sim-sized installation called salt: an immersive arts degustation, is currently on view at LEA7. To say she's been missed is an understatement -- but the wait was decidedly worth it.

Eliza offers visitors two notecards about the installation, one fairly general, the other going into more detail (in case you don't receive them, I've copied the main parts below). salt has received a highly perceptive commentary by Inara Pey, and Strawberry Singh videorecorded a tour with Eliza, embedded below. I encourage you to read all those and, if you can carve out the time, watch the one-hour tour. There is more to learn about the work.

In this post I want to describe and to an extent interpret some of the details of the work -- and salt is dense with details. For length I won't even mention some of the smaller pieces, quotations from song lyrics, etc. One can only discover the installation's many aspects and items by spending time and if possible through repeat visits. Inara mentions spending over five hours; across maybe six visits, I've undoubtedly spent a similar amount of time with it. Realistically, most people won't visit so long. But salt is not fast food.

A degustation is a series of small dishes to be savored one at a time. That describes salt's overall structure: a series of rooms, each with its own setting. The idea is connected to the installation's title, since salt is the world's most common seasoning. But there is nothing small about salt. Even though it occupies only one level (nothing in the sky, nothing in the water), it feels huge, much larger than most sim-sized works. Seen from a distance, the installation seems to be hanging from chains, some of which are actually off-sim, which adds to the sense of vastness. Whatever the reason why the installation feels so large, when you come to the end ... you probably haven't. Look around, or wait a bit and a wall may open, or walk into it in case it's phantom.

Although each room has its own narrative focus, the installation follows an overall thematic thread: the breakage or damage we do each other, sometimes accidentally, sometimes intentionally, sometimes obliquely through malign attitudes. The theme appears topically as the subject of many rooms, and also visually through shards of pottery floating in the air. But the theme isn't treated simplistically: an important facet is kintsugi, the Japanese art of mending broken pottery with gold, which both emphasizes the breakage and makes beauty from that history.

In a sense, four objects announce the beginning of the installation. Most immediately is a dish such as one might receive at a Japanese meal, an hors d’œuvre of octopus (a sampling of our degustation). Second, to the side, a distorted and somehow malevolent red figure slowly turns, red particles streaming from his hands; but if you look at the distorted figure in profile, it has a more normal shape of a man. It is an image of a duality, someone who appears ordinary but is also dreadfully warped. This is emphasized by the pieces of red pottery slowly swirling at his feet, already partly mended; one of them has a picture of Eliza herself (the avatar, not the human). The third entrance piece is the bust of a woman in a pool of salt, fractured into a black part and a white part with a red line where they split, a thin blue stream coming from one eye, her lips sewn together in order to hold a spoon. This work suggests many things--the silencing of women, its effect on women of all colors, the taunt of having to hold a spoon in her lips but unable to receive (or for that matter, give) sustenance, and many more. The fourth entrance piece is easily missed: a poem title in a glass case on the right side of the wall at the building's entry. It is the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda's "Ode to Salt."

(Click to enlarge)

Stepping into the building, we enter one of its major themes immediately. A girl, arms stretched behind her, stands in a broken teacup. She is Eliza's rendition of one of Degas's best-known sculptures, La Petite Danseuse de Quatorze Ans, of a 14-year-old dancer. The sculpture appalled some viewers, not because the girl was merely 14, but because she didn't look pretty. Eliza puts two reviewers' comments on the walls, comments that were not merely cruel, but bluntly misogynist, both of them reducing the girl to an animal. Next to the girl, the words of one describe her "bestial effrontry ... her little muzzle ... the beginning of rat" (the latter phrase twists the more-or-less affectionate nickname for a young dancer, petit rat -- little rat -- into a clear insult). Around the corner, we see that another critic depicted the girl's face as a "lecherous little snout," as if his own lechery was the girl's. There is also an except from a book on Degas telling of the artist's own misogyny. But on the opposite wall, there is a photo of the statue being gazed at by Marilyn Monroe.

The next room continues the dance images, but the narrative is now about Monroe and her own torments. Ballet dresses hang in a glass case; another glass case holds a top hat and cane (one wonders if there should be tap-dancing shoes). Ballet slippers hang from a barre. A photo shows Monroe at dance practice. There is a quotation from a letter she wrote to her psychiatrist during her stay in a psychiatric clinic in 1961, in which she recounted how she smashed a window with a chair in an effort to get the uncaring staff to notice her. And slowly floating through the space are pieces of glass showing different photos -- including one of a pill bottle: a year after the letter, Marilyn Monroe committed suicide.

Leaving the room, we come across a hallway where -- with a nod to Andy Warhol, but in a sharp riposte to his apolitical pop culture -- soup cans labeled "Vitriol: Sexual Rejection Soup" are lined up in display. The next scene we reach is on acid attacks upon women. Behind a screen displaying the molecular structure of sulfuric acid (H2SO4 -- sometimes called "oil of vitriol"), an acid rain drizzles over a woman's head, with a man's hand about to seize and maybe crush it.

(Click to enlarge)

Beyond the woman's head lies a suite of spaces, the first a rather surrealistic-seeming pair of chairs facing a ladder and a pseudo-eye chart. On each chair is a pillow -- one showing a blue eye, the other a brown eye. If you sit on the chairs you discover that the scene is a sort of dramatization of the famous "blue eyes–brown eyes" exercise by Jane Elliott in which children learned the experience of discrimination, using eye color as a surrogate for skin color. Behind this scene is a red-tinted version of Norman Rockwell's The Problem We All Live With, his portrayal of a young African-American girl on her way to an all-white elementary school. She faces a wall on which Eliza has placed a cross -- an ambivalent symbol recalling both the African-American churches which sustained the Civil Rights Movement, and the searing image used by the KKK in its terrorism.

To the left is another room. Here you are asked to play media. Eliza has a screen playing the Childish Gambino (Donald Glover) video "This Is America," which came out while Eliza was working on the installation, and the room itself broadly re-creates one of its scenes. The video also plays on the surface of the car and the cross (multiplying the latter's ambiguities). On the floor Eliza has written, "this is -not- just America." The video is a pungent counterpoint to relatively softer images about racism of Elliott's experiment and the Rockwell painting; one can see why a few people were uncomfortable with its inclusion. I think that on the contrary, it's a good choice, both because the video is a brilliant and incisive artwork arising from the Civil Rights Movement's successor, Black Lives Matter; and because it critiques racism in a way neither Elliott nor Rockwell could do: through an African American's own voice.

The next room welcomes you with a large fan, slowly rotating, with a face peering out from darkness. near it is a wall made of small cubes, some of which have been knocked out of place and some have fallen completely. The floor tells us that they represent transgender people who have been murdered. Nearby stands a angel, the first of several in the build. Behind the wall is a broken plate with a human heart printed on it, held by two hands. The right hand is tattooed with a clock face, as if to tell us, "Time will mend a broken heart."

(Click to enlarge)

Past the cubes we come to another dream-like scene: a giant red chair stands over a cradle. Two regular, white chairs are to the right, and a dresser is to the left, over which there's a picture frame. Large fish float about the space, perhaps like a mobile above a crib. The white chairs, the crib and the picture frame all have texts -- a poem. In her notecard and her tour with Strawberry, Eliza explains this scene alludes to a difficult time in her family's story, when her infant brother died. Knowing this, the giant red chair seems like a mausoleum.

Turning to the right, we see two of Eliza's gown sculptures. They are more or less echoes of each other. The white one has a face imprinted on it; the other is red and white, with a picture of Eliza at the head but somewhat displaced, and disturbingly, the words "Hurt Me" like a necklace. One wonders if this is an image of the internalization of misogyny, but it's not clear.

Then the tone changes. Continuing down the hall, there are photos on either side of Phan Thi Kim Phúc. One photo is famous: she is known as the "napalm girl," a Vietnamese girl of nine running naked, having been horribly burned by napalm during the Vietnam war. Eliza has placed the photo on a the pregnant belly of a kneeling woman (the sculpture rings a bell but I can't place it). Above her is a sculpture of four arms pouring red particles, an echo of the figure who stood at the intallation's opening area. However, on the wall facing this scene is Kim Phúc as an adult, now living in Canada, holding her baby. The pair of photos seems to say, "Life goes on. Things get better."

(Click to enlarge)

A similar contrast appears in the next room on. In a corner, an angel with its wings broken off and arms dragging to the floor sits dejectedly. In the center of the room there is a wheelchair with the word "unapologetic" tracked behind it, facing a picture that says "they're all Escher to me." The wheelchair has wings, and in front of it is a diagram showing where to move your feet for a dance. Like the two photos of Kim Phúc, we receive another image of overcoming obstacles.

The hall turns to the right and continues the more hopeful tone. About halfway down the hall, butterflies flutter about, their wings made of red pottery shards. A little further down, we find a blue and white pottery bowl, displayed in a glass case like you might find at a museum. The bowl is cracked, and gold has repaired the gap; a small piece of pottery floats inside the bowl. The case has a small label: "we are the fine art." We are forever being broken and being repaired. One can hardly avoid recalling the lines from Leonard Cohen's song "Anthem": "There is a crack in everything / That's how the light gets in." (You may click the case to receive a free copy of this sculpture.) As we approach the end of this hallway, pieces of blue and white potter slowly turn in the air, speared with what looks like large toothpicks, and they rise up, glancing past like the one serving octopus at the start of the build, and fly up into the air. And then, beyond the wall and into the sea, two large hands emerge from the water, holding one large shard -- made, perhaps, of translucent white salt.

(Click to enlarge)

This, I would say, is salt's finale, but there are a few codas. Eliza has built a plaza, I believe intended mainly for large gatherings, but it can also be a place to sit quietly and digest the many small dishes she has served. At one end of the plaza, there is another angel whose wings have broken off, kneeling and apparently suffering or in tears. And to the side there are museum cases for three small angel sculptures, one looking in consternation at its broken-off wing, another of a parent hoisting its child into the air (perhaps to help it launch into flight?), and the last in a contemplative pose.

salt will be on view until the end of August.

SLURL: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/LEA7/12/145/26

Strawberry Singh tours salt with Eliza Wierwight

Eliza's notecards:

Hello everyone,

Welcome to the notecard I've been avoiding like the second coming of the plague.

There are at least two fundamental options for viewing this work.

★ Cruise through at your own pace & savor salt at a visceral level.

★ The more daunting version: the above plus all the damn yet potentially interesting Eliza notes that follow.

As my primary presence Inworld is commercial,  I've not engaged in the luxury of formal arts related work for quite some time, and certainly never on this scale.

I had formerly mused the idea that if I was ever to engage in art again, then this odd creature called 'salt' would evolve.  Needless to say those originally indiscriminate ideas morphed into something entirely else during the course of actually creating it -- aided and abetted by a smaller project 'fourth position' I created on the fly for One Billion Rising earlier this year, which is woven into the foundation of sorts, though explored more expansively.

This work is predominantly instinctual, much shuffling ensued, and therefore not tidy in philosophy. Perhaps problematic is that I've been so enmeshed in the emotion of its creation that the premise of tying it up in a clever art historian-esque summary notecard-type endeavor was always going to remain rather elusive to me.

However this plays out, I had a moment of extreme personal catharsis during the creation of  'salt', and for that fact I remain grateful. Details in relation to this can be found in my comments regarding other cultural influences in the secondary, more expansive notes, if you're curious.

★ Artist's statement on salt - framework ★

As a fuller Immersive piece the philosophy of salt manifests in this way, I invite you to consider the journey through the installation as experiencing dining from a pre-set menu of somewhat unpalatable stories & truths. Some my own, some not, though all important to me irrespective of origin. I've quite deliberately misappropriating the term 'degustation'. This imparted itself as an ideal transition, as each segment-course is a unique work of its own volition. There are however other threads that drift through the work, as I've permitted myself a further interplay of symbolic references in relation to the accoutrements of sustenance. In the context of literal salt, a basic commodity that exists in most kitchens of the world, it became a metaphor for the things that wound us, a conduit?.  ?Another? thread ?meandering? through this work relates to the Japanese philosophy of Kintsugi, embracing the unique, flawed or imperfect. Life ingratiates itself with such hardship at times.

If we are the wounded, then let us embrace where possible those challenges & scars, and in surviving them or in our empathy for others that do, see ourselves as the beauty?. We are the fine art.

Eliza Wierwight


Eliza Wierwight
16 June 2018

Hello again oh brave one.

All the damn Eliza notes about this work. I have declined the opportunity to break down each course-segment of this work. You will find these additional notes loosely follow the flow of the work. I am not suggesting you stop and read as you experience salt. Let's just call this a window of sorts?

★ My late mother's talent for transforming the mundane to beauty; I owe my artistic mannerisms to her.  A flower on a dining plate was not unusual in my childhood, during the good parts.

★ My late father relating stories to me of his one dining experience at Ferran Adrià's restaurant El Bulli in Spain, an experience I've always coveted, yet has to date eluded me. He professed to detest the experience & for a man of integrity I never once bought that declaration as the truth.

★ The eternally creepy Edgar Degas, such incredible talent, though my revelation falls more in favor of addressing his dark side. The misogynists & predators on the sidelines, lurking on the periphery of the time. To the 'petits rats' of the corps de ballet, these children were not of the haute bourgeoisie. These children who survived by providing sexual favors to the patrons of the Paris Opera. In fact to reclaim children everywhere that endure abuse I dedicate this course.

★ Marilyn Monroe, whom I've never been essentially drawn to, though over the years I've garnered an immense respect for the price she paid for exhibiting vulnerability, femininity & sexual exuberance. Her life.

★ Dear Andy Warhol, where to begin, a book I read at 19, the Moderns Exhibition I attended. His irreverence amuses me.

★ The late beloved David Bowie, that man, clearly an alien as I've always felt myself to be. His music has carried me through every stage of my life. I remain a dedicated Kook. "Will you stay in a lover's story? If you stay you won't be sorry, because we believe in you." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EsSlOGzPM90

★ William Blake, Maya Angelou and Pablo Neruda. Because words matter.

★ The musician Nick Cave, perhaps less said on this topic the better. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Nick remains a haven for me and always will. I can state as fact that I was listening to 'Red Right Hand' at the time I created  the Redman sculpture, a deity of the evil we all have the potential to do, spreading malevolence in his wake. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RrxePKps87k

★ The woman, children and men who have endured violence & maiming. My most profound respect.

★ Jane Elliott for her feminism, her fierceness, education and activism, her stance against racism, her support of LGBTQ community and taking the time to shoot a few emails to me regarding this work as I explained my commitment & a few screenshots. I remain both scared of and in total awe of this woman.

★ Childish Gambino, I appropriated his recent piece 'This is America' as a contemporary filler. The problem as I see it, is this is not just America. And, someone I have almost limitless respect for absolutely abhors this part of salt, though I've kept my failure rendered and I'm comfortable with that. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VYOjWnS4cMY

★ Norman Rockwell, an artist largely dismissed by serious art critics in his lifetime. And Ruby Bridges, one brave little girl.

★ The people who identified as transgender of an inner city neighbourhood I lived in during my early twenties. Glorious and generous, that created a sense of family around me, when I was disenfranchised from my own. The part of our communities that to this day that still endure vilification, violence and unlawful death merely for the fact that they are brave enough to be authentic. The families today with enough love, guts and credibility to extend unconditional love & support.

★ Again my parents, the segment with the fish and massive red chair relates to the cot death of my brother, the moment my family fell apart, the generational distortions that ensued, their pain, our pain. I'd created a version of this course, it was final and little memories kept returning to me as I surveyed it.. Then I started to pull it apart, and by the time I had imported the mattress texture of the prayer we said at bedtime as children, and it rendered on the mesh Inworld, I started to sob. Literally sob, and I scared myself in that moment, and more memories hit me like lost pieces of a puzzle that's infinite, and I wrote then and there the short poem presented in the area. I've always sensed digital worlds to have power, perhaps a magic of sorts, this confirmed it. I still struggle to view this segment of my own work, it breaks my heart a little for all involved.

★ Kim Phuc and this is not the first time I've highlighted her in work Inworld. She had a place of reverence in my Split Screen work 'Flowerdrum' that I created in 2011. When I was child I saw that iconic Nick Uc image of Kim after the napalm attack, and no adult would explain it to me. Why would a child be running down the road naked? What's happening to her skin? The beautiful photo of her with one of her sons nestled on her scarred shoulder is the answer I craved. Kim is doing well as it happens, living in Canada with her husband and activist in her own right and thankfully due to the advancements in technology has an ongoing improved physical status to the severe burns she endured at the tender age of nine.

★ The unknown artist who created the Vietnamese traditional tapestries I've highlighted in the Kim as Madonna segment. I wish I could name you.

★ My son, the light of my life when he laughs, he's represented in this work and knows it, he carries his own significant salt, and sometimes I carry it for him, and that's enough on this topic.

★ Maurits Cornelis Escher, thank you for messing with my head, simply thank you.

★ The lovers. Mine, yours, the World's, those of the past, present and future. This is the stuff of pure elation at times, we need this, love is an incredible gift.

Mechanics of the Work

★ The white textures seen throughout this work are literally salt, photographed in my kitchen, then edited to workable textures, it remains a primary texture throughout the installation.

★ The build itself, the housing, that's what I do when I get stuck, I listen to music and I play.

★ Mesh, I've really only just started wrangling mesh in the last four months, I thought I would hate the pursuit, I feared it. On the contrary I'm loving it, the freedom it's afforded me to express myself is a revelation. I have almost developed a fetish for hand-painting my designs.

★ Templates - they're about with enough reasonable investment of essence de Eliza for me not to feel twitchy about the fact. Fact, I don't have the time or inclination to reinvent the wheel, further more I've worked and pushed past my current skill levels numerous times with this work. Non, je ne regrette rien :P

Okay beautiful people, thank you for your time. I hope you've in some manner enjoyed 'salt'. If you have any questions-other don't hesitate to ask.

Kindest of regards

Eliza Wierwight.

20 January 2018

Women's March in NYC 2018

I thought I'd share some of my photos from the Women's March in New York City. The official count is that there were 120,000 200,000 marchers here. I wouldn't be surprised if it were actually more.

I didn't take any photos of the Trump Tower because eww. In the last photo, the two little girls in the window waved at us and we waved at them, exciting them very much and so there was lots of waving back and forth, and when the drummers (the crew in blue in one of the photos above) were having at it, you could see them sort of dancing in the window. I'd say they're off to a good start in learning they have power!