At the sim's landing point, one is confronted by a large, rickety, decrepit metal crescent moon, inside which a victrola plays an old jazz song, "I'm in the Mood for Love." Such songs are often embedded in Bryn Oh's builds; but they carry none of the nostalgia one might expect, nor are they truly ironic. They speak more of a deep distanciation or even alienation from the emotions others experience. Slipped inside Bryn's rusted moon, the song becomes an echo of a broken dream. We aren't looking at "only a paper moon," but a moon for the misbegotten, the cold dead place where we'll see you on the dark side of the moon.
The moon is held by a thin, unsteady-looking frame on wheels being pulled by a robot owl, which on closer look is itself being dragged forward by a small robot mouse. Rather than eating the mouse, the owl seems to have enslaved it. (Artistically, if not thematically, the image takes page a page or two from Dali.)
The sim as a whole is a barren land from which some mountains and steep hills jut, and a few constructions appear as outcroppings. To the left side of the sim, telephone poles stretch into the distance (Bryn Oh meets AM Radio?) and one finds an office table surrounded by a few chairs and set with a sort of vase-like pod of "milkweed floaters." Nearby stands a small diorama of a rabbit wearing a gasmask, contemplating the corpse of another rabbit whose gasmask hangs from a piece of metal. What miasma forces them to wear gasmasks, and are we breathing it now? Why was the dead rabbit not wearing its mask? The way its mask hangs neatly from the metal bar, it does not look like an accident. Suicide? (Bryn Oh added the diorama to the sim a few days after I began writing this post; perhaps she will make other changes.)
Closer to the middle of the island, some shopping carts are scattered about (another of Bryn Oh's motifs). A little girl robot stands with a jump-rope beside a lamppost, accompanied by a rabbicorn (both of whom figure in many of Bryn's narratives). There is a kind of intimacy between them, a sense of solace in the barrenness. Not far is the Whisper Tree; using the anim of whispering to the tree sets off no changes, however. In fact the centerpiece of the installation -- almost at the sim's center, in fact -- is actually a tower of shopping carts, with crows swooping menacingly overhead. Suddenly the tower transforms into a lush tree; a nearby lamppost becomes flanked by two palm trees; flowers and mushrooms sprout nearby. Here is where we are granted color.
Aside from the flora and the diorama, these builds are the setting for the machinima "Stay With Me," which was Bryn Oh's entry to Moby's competition to create a video for that song.
At the far corner of the sim, a dark building looms: a reinstallation of "Vessel's Dream" (the machinima is embedded above), Bryn Oh's entry into the 2009 Burning Life festival. You need to cam around extensively in order to see all parts of the build; her machinima helps show the path, but it's no substitute for exploring it yourself.
"Vessel's Dream" works more effectively as part of Island Three than do the reinstallations of earlier creations in Island One. It's more consistent with the rest of the sim's overall tone, both emotionally and visually. It's also more integrated into the sim. "Vessel's Dream" forms a pair with the dead rabbit diorama set diametrically across from it, as two framed narratives within the sim's larger narrative. The teleport out of the final room of "Vessel's Dream" deposits you near the diorama, making their connection all the clearer. In this manner Island Three achieves, if not closure, then a sort of recursion that makes it feel complete.
Shanghai World Expo: Island Three, Bryn Oh's "no colour"