05 May 2010

Through the Virtual Looking Glass/Shanghai World Expo: Island Two, Glyph Graves's "no energy/Entropy"

I've been running into more and more of Glyph Graves's work lately. (By now, you'd think I'd already seen acres of it. Like I said, I haven't been getting out much ... sigh ....) His "life forms" of various sorts -- bulbous plants, translucent flying animals, jellyfish and the like -- are a central hallmark of his work (in real life he's a biologist). Many of these creatures look like they emerged from the deep ocean.  One of his avatars is such a being.  The largest of his creations that I'd seen before was his "Strangers Also Dance," an immersive realm telling the story of an alien jellyfish species that traveled too far from home. (There's a good description by Bettiny Tizzy here.)

His installation for the Through the Virtual Looking Glass exhibition, called "no energy/Entropy," is also part of the Shanghai World Expo, which has a five-sim SL component. I could've sworn there was something specific I wanted to say about Glyph's piece here, but after dealing with some issues at work and a head cold that made me want to do nothing more mentally strenuous than catch up on episodes of "Glee," I haven't a clue what it was. Anyway I'll describe this installation a bit. By clicking/sitting on a tree near the center of the sim, "whispering" to it, you start a transformation: four more or less human-shaped statues on mountains in the distance slide into pieces that turn into glowing creatures. They travel down four rivers that merge into one basin, which the creatures intermingle and slowly swirl about. Whisper to the tree again, the creatures separate into groups which travel up the rivers to the mountains, where they coalesce once more into the statues. (Sorry that the photos are so dark, I set to midnight to highlight the creatures' glow.)

The effect is magical, and I've hauled a few friends over to watch. It's undoubtedly even more beautiful on a better computer than mine. The piece is thoroughly characteristic of Graves's work in its focus on transformation. The scripting involved involved is quite cool; as a rough guess I'd say it's probably akin to the scripts used to make trains and rollercoasters in SL follow a path -- which is not a criticism, just an observation on how scripts can be adapted for artistic purposes. Nevertheless, I'm a little disappointed that there isn't more interactivity, as there was in "Strangers Also Dance," a work which had the additional benefit of a narrative in the background.

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