31 December 2011

Selavy Oh's "Der Schauer" and Oberon Onmura's "Wave Fields"

I'm badly behind on blogging, which is a pity, since there have been some excellent builds recently. Unfortunately Haveit Neox's Second Libations is gone already; its destruction was quite a spectacle, I took lots of photos, and maybe I'll get around to posting them sometime.

But there are several builds currently on view that I've been telling friends about, and it's time I blogged them. I'll talk about two in this post, and try to get to some others later. I wish I could discuss them in more detail ... ah well.

Selavy Oh, Der Schauer at LEA24

In Der Schauer (The Shower, as in rain shower), Selavy brings together many of the strands she's been working on over recent years. She has also taken advantage of the new option of putting a windlight setting into an entire region so the sky is gray in all viewers, not just Phoenix and Firestorm (be sure you have the environment editor set to the default). In her blog post, she writes that "this installation has no static elements, everything is growing, falling, changing." By "everything," she means everything, and some things change in response to your own activities. Near the landing point there's a cloud of small cubes swirling around, leaving white trails behind them, occasionally bumping into each other, and sometimes changing color (you must have shadows on in order to see this, although you may find that it kills anti-alias). Larger cubes slowly shoot through the sky as well, leaving cubes behind them, bouncing on objects or the ground and taking off again. On some cubes, images flash on the surface. White towers like needles rise up from the ground, and occasionally collapse down again, making a clatter as pieces hit the ground; if you bump into or land on top of one of the towers, it will collapse immediately. Large sticks scattered about in piles will move if you bump into them. large circles of light form in the water and slowly disappear again. Step into the water, and land forms under your feet; land slowly changes on its own as well, so that if you return to the landing point it may have a different shape. Selavy also has two bots: Positive Hinterland stands motionless near the middle of the sim -- I've seen her get buried by the land -- while Negative Overland wanders aimlessly about the sim. (I'm not certain, but I think these bots are needed for terraforming operations, and when Negative bumps into things or walks onto the water, she'll alter the setting.) Along a circular perimeter there are occasional aurora borealis effects as well. Der Schauer is the ultimate expression of Heraclitus's dictum, "You can never step into the same river twice."

(Click images to enlarge)

Oberon Onmura, Wave Fields at LEA20

Oberon's build is all about motion too, but following his typical style, it takes a minimalist approach. He has split his sim into quadrants, each populated with a field of cubes floating above water, halfway into a large colored translucent screen. In each quadrant, one more or less random cube begins turning like a wheel. The ones next to it pick up this motion, and then the ones next to them, creating a diamond-shaped wave of movement across the quadrant, highlighted by the color sides that the cubes acquire when they start in motion (an interaction of the shaded cover over the quadrant, the black bottom side of the cube, and the angle of sunlight). Sometimes two cubes in different parts of the quadrant start turning one shortly after the other. Sometimes the wave stops at the quadrant's border; occasionally a wave passes through the border into the next quadrant; at other times; once in a while two waves interfere with each other. As the cubes turn, they stir up spray from the water, giving the waves' movement the sense of intense physical force. Once in a while, a field of cubes is switched off -- the cubes become translucent, shake out of their moorings, and in a thick mist of spray they sink to the bottom and disappear. The quadrant is repopulated with cubes in a different manner within each quadrant: methodically dropped from a dispenser in the air, emerging from below, randomly appearing and falling into place, or tumbling out from a jumbled flying mass.

(Click images to enlarge)

Although both Oberon's Wave Fields and Selavy's Der Schauer pivot around the concept of change, the two installations also contrast. On the one hand, Der Schauer is primarily oriented around randomness and arbitrariness; Wave Fields, on the other hand, begins with the seed of a random cube launching into motion, and sometimes quadrants are refilled in an arbitrary way, but its focus ultimately falls on the powerful yet orderly expansion of waves until they crash into their borders. You need to meander about Der Schauer in order to discover its many elements; Wave Fields, however, calls for stillness and observation, even meditation -- in fact Oberon provides a tower where one can take a seat scripted with camera control, giving you a perfect view of the wave patterns. These are two of the many "must see" installations currently on view.

30 December 2011

Machinima of Eupa's build at Split Screen

Eupalinos Ugajin created a brief machinima of his build at Split Screen, "D'ailleurs grâce au Soleil l'herbe est plus..." -- last day to see it is 31 Dec!

Direct link on Vimeo here.

11 December 2011

Misprint Thursday's "Digital Glove" receives the overall First Prize at UWA; Hypatia Pickens for "Love Prayer"

Misprint Thursday's "Digital Glove" received the overall First Prize for the University of Western Australia's year-long 3D Open Art Challenge! I'm truly excited for her, and proud that Split Screen was able to host it for three months so more people could see this fascinating and groundbreaking work. Congratulations, Mis!

Also Hypatia Pickens won the the Special Award for Human Heart for her machinima "Love Prayer," which is set partly in soror Nishi's "Boogaloo" at Split Screen in October. Congratulations to her as well!

03 December 2011

Good commentary on Artee and Eupu's pieces by Honour McMillan

Insightful comments by Honour McMillan on the current show:

On Artée's Let These Facts Be Known: Gobsmacked in Second Life, Part One

On Eupa's D’ailleurs grace au soleil, l’herbe est plus: Gobsmacked in Second Life, Part Two

Thanks, Honour!

25 November 2011

Happy Anniversary! with Artistide Despres and Eupalinos Ugajin at Split Screen in December

Artistide Despres and Eupalinos Ugajin are December's artists at Split Screen. As one might expect, their works contrast artistically as thoroughly as one can imagine!

Artée's Let These Facts Be Known brings the Occupy movement to Split Screen. Although it's not Artée's first political work in SL (for example, her Alea Fukishima concerns the nuclear disaster in Japan), it is a highly direct artistic response and I'm proud to have it as the first political artwork at Split Screen. The title is taken from the Declaration of the Occupation of New York City, which presents a list of 23 realities of political and economic life in the US and often paralleled elsewhere, ranging from the foreclosure crisis to bailouts to the commodification of privacy to torture and more. The list, although lengthy, is far from complete (one of the Occupy movement's points). One thing a list doesn't easily show is how the realities behind these grievances are interconnected, and Occupy Wall Street's Arts and Culture Group has given the Declaration a visual representation that literally draws the connections among the grievances and beyond -- in many ways it is superior to the textual Declaration itself. You can see the drawing at the link above, and Artée uses it as the artistic, moral, metaphoric and physical foundation of her installation.

(Click photos to enlarge.)

Artée has not just quoted the Occupy declaration in her piece. As you walk around, you hear the sounds of protest. Not satisfied with the pleasant clouds supplied by the standard viewer settings, she has added smaller, darker clouds that dim the city and suggested a polluted earth. And then there are the buildings ... which don't simply represent a city. Artée exploits a bug in SL's implementation of transparency so that the skyscrapers seem to slip in and out of each other, far and near trade places, and as soon as one leaves the work's literal and ethical center, you are lost. This detail brings Let These Facts Be Known to surpass the blunt, pedestrian hammer of so much "committed" art and propels it into the realm occupied (sic!) by such works as Picasso's Guernica and Goya's The Third of May 1808. Artee's installation is as immersive as one can imagine: photos cannot do it justice.

In late October, when Miso Susanowa was planning to occupy the LEA sandbox (to the extent one can "occupy" in SL), she joked to me that she wanted to occupy Split Screen too. "Go for it!", I said, or words to that effect. It turns out I got my wish!

NOTE: this is a MESH build, so you will need to need to use a mesh-enabled viewer.

Eupa's D'ailleurs grace au Soleil... is ... well the first thing you'll notice is that it's enormous! You land at the top on a large disk with a sort of iris, jump down the enticing hole in the middle, and ... welcome to Eupa's world! Anyone who's visited his One Day My Cow Will Come -- and you have, haven't you? -- will recognize his characteristic loopy surrealism, his curious machines and objects that sometimes seem to have minds of their own. One occasionally sets off to terraform the place. Eupa's notecard has a "spoiler alert" section so I won't put spoilers here. One word of advice, be careful where you step or what you click on. Oh and don't bother Valdrade, he's concentrating on doing his job.

Be sure to check "Allow Media to auto-play when entering a region" in Preferences for this installation.

Let These Facts Be Known and D'ailleurs grace au Soleil will be showing at Split Screen through 31 Dec.

14 November 2011

Will the real Salman Rushdie please stand up?

The New York Times reports that Salman Rushdie, who most people know by his pen name Salman Rushdie, had his Facebook page deactivated and reassigned to a certain Ahmed Rushdie, who happens to share Salman Rushdie's body and own his passport.

Within two hours, after a torrent of Tweets, Facebook reversed itself and allowed Salman Rushdie to be Salman Rushdie. It did not escape the present observer of irony that Twitter is quite comfortable with pseudonyms, so Facebook's "about Face" was particularly delicious.

Facebook could not be reached for comment, as its identity could not be verified under its cloud of corporate greed. All emails were forwarded to its nom de crime, "Mark Zuckerberg," who is not an actual human.

04 November 2011

Machinima set partly in soror Nishi's "Boogaloo"

Hypatia Pickens created a machinima called "Love Prayer" set partly in soror Nishi's "Boogaloo." Hypatia wrote to me that she "turned [it] into a 'Tam Linn' tale of a fairy girl who longed for a human man and tried to take him away." Enjoy!

"Boogaloo" itself has now closed.  Stay tuned for the next installations, opening in December!

"Love Prayer," by Hypatia Pickens

30 October 2011

"The Path": the ascent beckons

The Path is a collaborative installation organized by Bryn Oh, with Colin Fizgig, Marcus Inkpen, Desdemona Enfield & Douglas Story, Maya Paris, Claudia222 Jewell, Scottius Polke, and Rose Borchovski, working on one of the new sims provided by the Linden Endowment for the Arts (LEA). Taking a break from trying to kill people (Anna's Many MurdersFamily Unit) or turning them into target practice (the Avatar Games), Bryn created a scene, and one by one each artist in turn created the subsequent scene and then passed the storyline on to the next artist, an approach to storytelling called an "exquisite corpse" and sometimes used by the Surrealists.
The story follows the explorations of The Inventor, who looks like Salvador Dali.** To teleport from each scene to the next, one must find the inventor's head (sometimes you must find the correct head). [Click photos to enlarge.]

Just how The Inventor is an inventor isn't altogether clear: the first scene occurs in his lab (it looks more like a study), where it seems he's primarily engaged in collecting dead specimens, including a grotesque fetus in a jar (which might not be dead). Inventions there are, but they seem neglected or at best, things of his past. The lab is unkempt and in disrepair. There are broken display cases and other equipment. Water either dripping from a slow pipe leak or seeping in from outside has covered the floor with a couple inches of water. Everything speaks of inattention. The Inventor seems to have abandoned everything to its fate. A voice tells us the beginning of the story about an impoverished inventor with a lazy eye.

Scene 1: Bryn Oh

A large hole opens up in one of the walls, with light streaming out. The Inventor climbs up to examine it. It is a portal. He enters. He finds himself in a large space full of holes, dominated by the huge face of The Overseer, who peers through three sets of pince-nez to examine The Inventor, now a specimen himself (albeit a live one). Everywhere there are windows at crazy angles, looking out upon other places, other scenes -- including one with The Inventor and The Overseer, but now at similar proportions, and one opening onto the very scene we're standing in.

Scene 2: Colin Fizgig

The Inventor leaps through one of the portals and finds himself in an austere old hotel (or perhaps office building?), with several long hallways extending outwards; they feel almost infinite, and infinitely closed, as every door (but one) is locked. The Overseer is talking with a repairman called The Doozer ("Fraggle Rock," anyone??) and tries to remind The Inventor of the key in his pocket. The Doozer wryly remarks, "He never remembers."

Scene 3: Markus Inkpen

One of the doors is a portal leading to placeless white space where we follow the key the next scene, where a swarm of spheres surround you, swooping in with an electronic hum like science fiction alien beings. A voice urges you to click them into order to remove them, but more take their place. They contain images, which constantly transform. The voice also remarks on some of images that well up in the spheres.

Scene 4: Douglas Story & Desdemona Enfield

From there we land in a more placid but decidedly not safer realm, ruled over by enormous mechanical spiders with boxlike bodies and a strong dedication to optometry. Beware what you click on. In typically cheeky Maya Paris style, there are brain-warping surprises, such as a barrage of fried eggs. You'll need a wash after that. But think twice about getting one.

Scene 5: Maya Paris

We were slyly warned of this place in the previous scene: the voice sometimes describes the images in the spheres, and observes of one, "A spider safe? Now that's a secure web site!" (That's one of the most dreadful puns I've heard in SL -- below even my own wretched standards. I'm pretty certain Doug is to blame. Or maybe he and Maya cooked it up together. Appalling. I'm so jealous. [EDIT: I have it from a knowledgeable source that the culprit was actually Desde. The source is Doug, so I have my doubts.])

We next find ourselves in an astonishing landscape dominated by a small city of turrets and death's-head plants; in the bay reside giant fish. The city is simultaneously disturbing because of the death's-heads, and utterly wondrous.  Like virtually all of Claudia's work, the city has an organic quality; it feels like it might be alive, indeed the death's-head flowers do as well.  Flores, flores por los muertos.

Scene 6: Claudia222 Jewell

The next stop along the path is another lab ... but this time, it looms over us in gigantic proportions, with The Inventor's face peering onto the beaker and its experiment. The scene is far more dimly lit than most of Scotti's work, but there are still a couple of little jokes: the 64 megaliter beaker was made in the L.E.A., and there are bottles of "foraminifers" scattered about -- foraminifera being a type of plankton called "hole bearers," recalling the space of holes in Scene 2. (Thank you, Wikipedia.)

Scene 7: Scottius Polke

At last we reach the final scene, the most surreal of all. On a sky platform, hundreds of eyeballs reach up like a wave over a suspended, somewhat disassembled figure of The Inventor. Other eyeballs have arms and legs, and a couple of eyeballs follow you around. A Susa Bubble, mustachioed like a Dali, holds another figure of The Inventor like a dolly. In a sort of well, there are beds with numbers on them; one will take you back to the start. Figures from previous scenes, like The Overseer, The Doozer, spiders and some fish, are pinned to some beds a bit like specimens. On another is a suitcase, a pair of red shoes, and a note to remind us that "There's no place like home": is The Inventor, like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, in reality asleep? Underneath, holding up the platform is a huge eyeball, with skeleton legs (one ringed with a key) standing on yet another eyeball. The well is in fact inside this eye. Far below is yet another eye and bed, accompanied by a pig.

Scene 8: Rose Borchovski

Artistic collaborations don't always work. Every part needs to be pretty good, which even selecting good artists can't guarantee. Also sometimes the artists just work completely on their own, rather than build a collective whole. Frankly, I came to see The Path with doubts about the project.

But ... taken as a whole The Path is truly a success. First, each scene works very well on its own, and some are outright superb. The starting scene is filled with classic Bryn Oh imagery, but its core purpose is to provide a launching point for a story, and it does that well. I wasn't acquainted with Colin's work (at least to my knowledge), and his scene is wonderfully disorienting. The only previous piece I know by Marcus (for the Shanghai World Expo) didn't engage me, but this one is far more dynamic in the way it draws one's eyes down the corridors. Doug & Desde's swarm of spheres are nightmarish yet tinged with the secretive magic of the crystal ball. Maya maintains her trademark wit and penchant for practical jokes, this time mixed with a bit of the sinister. Claudia's scene is breathtaking -- literally. Scotti's colossal lab is scary but also makes you feel like a little kid on an adventure. And Rose's scene is deep in strangest dreamland. The only markedly weak element is the voiceover storyteller. It contributes to Colin's scene, but its presence is unnecessary and slightly patronizing in the opening scene, and annoying in Doug & Desde's (although I suppose necessary so that visitors know they should click the spheres); fortunately that's the last time we hear it. From then on, with no voiceover to force a interpretation, we are left to our imaginations, and The Path becomes the better for it.

The strongest element, however, is how the scenes link together. As hinted above, some scenes contain images foreshadowing later scenes. A few of Colin's windows open onto upcoming scenes (and even look recursively out upon his own scene). The images in Doug & Desde's crystal balls all foretell places to come. There are eyeballs and eyeglasses aplenty in various scenes. There's even an inconspicuous foretoken in Bryn's scene: a normal-sized version of Scotti's gargantuan beaker. Rose's scene in turn recalls the previous ones. These echoes and foreshadows create a vital coherence.

The Path bears comparison with Dekka Raymaker's excellent We Are Not In The World from about a year ago (as it happens, one of Bryn's Ten Best Builds in 2010), in which a inventor has vanished, leaving various clues behind that show he was looking for an entry into some other dimension; eventually you discover the portal where he departed into some fantastical world, but you can't follow him, wherever he is now. The Path instead provides no explanation for the portal, and the story for us is in where he travels after entering it.

For some reason lately William Carlos Williams's poem The Descent has been on my mind, particularly its opening lines:

          The descent beckons
                        as the ascent beckoned.                 
                                         Memory is a kind      
          of accomplishment,                          
                        a sort of renewal
          an initiation [...]

His better days behind him, Williams meditates on what memory now offers. The Inventor's better days seem to be behind him too. But as the images foreshadowing subsequent scenes show, The Path's temporal element is not memory, but futurity. As if to say: at the end, there may be new beginnings.

**Last year I revealed that Bryn's RL identity is Salvador Dali, or Dali 2.0, so I take this artistic decision as either a coy exercise in self-referentiality, or a thoroughly improbable demonstration that even the most minor critic may affect art. Or maybe Bryn's just messing with me. Or it has nothing to do with me. No, that's not possible ... is it?

14 October 2011

The LEA land grant art sims and the future of curating

By now I'm sure everyone who reads this blog (all three of you!) has already heard that the crew that composes the Linden Endowment for the Arts (LEA) has gotten Linden Labs to provide 20 full sims which LEA will manage for artists' use. And if you haven't heard the news, read about it here.

Without a doubt, this is great news for artists (although I have a couple of questions, which I'll get to). There aren't many places where artists can build big, and in one stroke the number has probably doubled, maybe more. True, Linden Labs was supposed to do this a year or two ago; I assume the folks in LEA pestered them into submission. But it finally happened. So, credit is due to Bryn Oh, Dancoyote Antonelli, Dekka Raymaker, JayJay Zifanwe, L1Aura Loire, Sasun Steinbeck, Solo Mornington, Werner Kurosawa, and PatriciaAnne Daviau. (For those of you who care about such matters, not one of these people is on my Friends list, and I've had conversations with only about half of them, which proves ... well, nothing, actually. Maybe that I don't get out of the house enough.)

The way LEA has structured the sims' usage is interesting: four regions will be for exhibitions curated from LEA sandbox art, two will be allocated through a land rush, and fourteen will be allocated by application.  The applications can come from artists, groups of artists, even curators. There isn't any info yet on the land rush; I wonder if some people might be disadvantaged by time zones, job schedules, etc, but hopefully LEA is figuring that part out. One aspect is very odd: the sims available by application are given to the artists for five months. Five?? (Maybe before the next artist moves in, it takes a month to air out the place?)

The scope of eligible applicants naturally raised the notion of moving Split Screen to a LEA sim. However, I decided against the idea. The five-month turnover, even with the possibility of renewal, doesn't provide adequate stability for a place like Split Screen. Also I like where Split Screen is now -- the location within a primarily residential area, the support of sim owner Syzygy Merlin, even the constraints and challenge of being on a homestead sim. And finally, I value the sense of independence I get by spending my own money to foster the sort of art I like: Split Screen doesn't exist on anyone else's terms, no matter how benign.

But a question that crosses my mind is what impact the LEA sims will have on independent curators. Maybe none. But sixteen full sims can absorb a lot of artists. Will artists devote themselves to exploiting their sims all they can (and they should take full advantage of the possibilities), or will they also remain interested and available for work elsewhere? Would independent curators need to rethink their goals and perhaps become more niche players, primarily supporting emerging artists who aren't quite ready for "The Big Time"? Or would established artists simply play in more sandboxes (so to speak)? After all, even though soror Nishi mainly works in InWorldz these days, she still created an installation at Split Screen; on the other hand, she works unusually fast, and (as she herself states) Boogaloo uses some of her previous material. That said, I don't think there's any evidence at this point that InWorldz is draining artists from Second Life.

Obviously, only time will tell how this will develop. I'm not "worried." And when the new LEA sims were announced, I was already planning to pursue emerging artists more proactively, since that really needs to happen. But I will have to pay attention to possible unintended side-effects of the new sims, and I think other installation curators will need to do the same.

03 October 2011

28 September 2011

soror Nishi at Split Screen during October

In a return to Second Life, soror Nishi has created "Boogaloo: A Visual Mash-up" at Split Screen. It will be on display until 31 Oct. It is a fantastical, swampy terrain inhabited by the colorful and almost iridescent trees, flowers and dragons for which she is well known.  Her work occupies both halves of Split Screen -- in a first for the installation space, she's the sole artist presenting this month.

I'm delighted to host soror at Split Screen for several reasons. In particular, lately she's been working primarily in InWorldz; in fact she's probably the SL art community's most vocal advocate for that virtual world, with its more extensive resources and options for prims, lower cost, reputedly more accessible support staff, and other advantages. Of course, she didn't completely stop working in SL -- last June she had a work which she recently re-rezzed -- but nevertheless it's an honor to bring her to a Second Life site.

soror doesn't suggest any particular daytime or windlight setting, but personally I prefer using midnight; the photos don't capture the feel of the immersion.

Incidentally, soror is an "artist of study" for the fall semester Art 110 course at California State University at Long Beach, along with Alizarin Goldflake, Betty Tureaud, and many other SL artists. Miso Susanowa was an artist of study there previously, and again this term.

I'm going to try something new soon. I had hoped to identify emerging artists who have the potential to "think big," but I haven't been very successful. In fact the only one so far is oona Eiren, and that happened because she was smart enough to ask me.  At the time she was just beginning to be recognized, and now, I'm happy to say, she's become well established.  (Asking me seems to be a good way to get into Split Screen, it's happened three times, including one upcoming artist. Then again, I've had to turn down a few people, but I'm keeping an eye on their work.)

In an effort to find more of these artists, I plan to send out requests for proposals to create an installation at Split Screen, most likely to be placed on a sky platform. This will involve a bit of guesswork, flexibility and negotiation, since I still intend to "commission" works from artists (in fact I've already lined up the next two pairs), and I will need to make decisions about when to present a work depending on prim availability. On the other hand sometimes requests for proposals will lead to an "interim" work that can be seen while other artists are building; I've previously had interim works by Misprint Thursday and Miso Susanowa (builds they submitted to the UWA contest), so this would extend the idea. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, go see "Boogaloo: A Visual Mash-up" at Split Screen. Burn2 will be too laggy anyway.