20 February 2011

Thoughts: Misprint Thursday's "White Shirt" and oona Eiren's "Live!"

Due to a server issue, for about a week the video part of Misprint's "White Shirt" wasn't playing correctly. That's now fixed, so if you visited Split Screen recently, you should come again. The video stream is a crucial component of "White Shirt," not least because it incorporates a song that contributes much to the work's effect and meaning. (The Imprudence viewer seems to have difficulty with media, so I advise using another during your visit.)

The resumption of the video stream gave me an opportunity to sit with the work a little. Visually, "White Shirt" is highly layered. Although at first glance the installation is dominated by the huge "mountain" fronted by two enormous shirts (one blue, one white), that wall soon becomes the backdrop to the two rows of white shirts, socks and other clothes hanging from clotheslines. Their shadows play across the water below. Under its soft ripples, the video plays. It also appears on the surfaces of two boxes at clothesline height, with anims of hanging clothes, that track from side to side. The video is of a white shirt, dancing in the hands of someone unseen, often too blurred to be distinct but once in a while coming into focus. When you use the anim, your movements hanging clothes and the movements of the shirt dancing play against each other. From other perspectives the shirts hanging from the clotheslines and others hanging free in mid-air create other layers of shirt imagery.

Multiple visual layers do not of themselves make an artwork compelling, of course, although in this case they tell us something about "White Shirt." It has multiple layers of artistic significance as well. One is almost a layer of insignificance: clothes hanging on a line to dry; someone outside hanging them. The quintessence of the quotidian, an image seen perhaps as long as clothes have been washed -- thousands of years, thousands of cultures. Yet the clothes are hanging precariously over the water; if a shirt or sock slips loose, it will have to be washed and dried all over again (if it can be retrieved at all). More, the person hanging clothes is stereotypically a woman, as the keeper of domesticity. The song of course is sung by a woman (performed by Misprint herself -- a true "triple threat" as visual artist, singer/songwriter, and videographer), and its lyrics bring domesticity and sexual desire into close yet troubling contact. "I feel good I feel fine," the character sings, "I'm so strung out on your line / I feel clean I feel bright / Put me on tonight." Strung out, she seems addicted to the subject of her desire, yet abjectly desiring only to be his white shirt. "I know you don't need me / But I know you still want me / Amongst your other fine shirts." In an act of reification (as Misprint terms it), the character identifies herself and her passion with the white shirt. One wonders if she herself has been left hanging out to dry. She is the white shirt dancing in the video on the boxes from which one hangs clothes, in front of solitary blue shirt looming over the scene.

oona's retro-futuristic-grunge build "Live!" is visually multi-layered too, but in a very different manner. Like puns, the images play multiple roles. Contained in a gigantic high-fidelity ("hi fi") stereo from the 1950s or 60s are various turntables, televisions, vacuum tubes perhaps from some dismembered radio, speakers, and other early electronic items, all at wildly mismatched scales. It is also a city -- and yet, in another radical warp of scale, the buildings' walls are circuit boards. All of this is skewed further by the fact that, with just a few exceptions, everything dwarfs the visitor.

Along with the juxtapositions of scale are juxtapositions of time. Gracing a few of the walls are animated photos of Elsa Lancaster as the eponymous character of the 1935 film, The Bride of Frankenstein. (If you hunt around, you'll discover a wooden slab on which she might have been electrocuted into life.) But turn on the music stream, and you'll hear a piece by oona's group, The Gift Collection, which is very much of the late 20th or early 21st century -- 60s experimental music in a return to life. (Like the Bride of Frankenstein herself?) The city itself, corroded and dirty, is showing its age. The speakers-cum-water towers are somehow simultaneously celebratory, dystopian, quaint, and fun. (You can play with the sounds the make by using their menus.) As Yogi Berra once said, "The future ain't what it used to be."

"Live!" is scarcely somber: it's nearly impossible to visit and not smile. It's a kick to tumble into this mishmash of the past and jumble of proportion. Yet it's not just a romp into the early world of commercial electronics, but I think more specifically into the world of the media of art and entertainment. Now that "hi fi" has given way to "high def," it's worth remembering that someday, our own media will be soooooo early 21st century.

"White Shirt" and "Live!" close on 28 Feb, so if you haven't seen it yet, now is the time! Split Screen will be closed in March to the public while the next pair of artists create new installations, to be on view during April.

Artists interested in working at Split Screen are, as always, welcome to contact me.

Although it's now long past, I'd like to thank everyone who came to the party at Split Screen on the 6th. Our DJ Isabelle Mavendorf took us on a global tour, eventually everyone was dancing, and only a couple people had too many jello shots. It actually was a party! We might have broken some law. We did close the sim -- we hit 20 avis (the max allowed on homesteads) and Misprint, who was delayed, couldn't get in at first. By the end of the day 47 people had been in Split Screen South, not all of them during the party of course, but certainly the majority.

14 February 2011

Veparella! or, Aren't Capers a Garnish?

The second loopy build this month! Maya Paris has a new one called Veparella. As she tells us, a "scissor-wielding superheroine created in a freak sewing accident invites you to join her in a Fairytale Caper."

When you arrive, pick up the costume and instructions from the basket of bones.

(Click photos to enlarge.)

The Veparella costume

Full view of the build

What happens when you say "snip"

Dancing on an apple

Making angels on the bed

Ummm ... I have no idea
Turn on the media stream for musical accompaniment reminiscent of old cartoon shows.  Really, the whole thing seems to be channeling Chuck Jones and Jay Ward.

There's probably a serious meaning to all this (maybe something about the philosophical significance of seamstressing, red high heels, and sew on and sew forth), but I'm not that smart so I'm going to take it as a fun treat.

To those of you who feel uncomfortable about wearing women's clothes, just a reminder: this is SL, you're looking at a bunch of pixels, so please -- get over it.  That goes for the males among you, too.

13 February 2011

Heartseed Wonderland

The following is an article I just published in Scruplz. The photos in that version were taken by a professional, and they look it. But I'm publishing it here anyway. Plus, I'm able to make some updates, corrections and web-only adjustments that I couldn't get into the Scruplz version because of the publishing deadline.

Jedda Zenovka
To visit Jedda Zenovka’s Heartseed is to be splashed head to toe with the colors of wild plants; bathed by mysterious lights in deep waters; immersed in the soft glow of some ancient shrine that echoes with dancers’ footsteps.

Jedda’s profile says that her work is inspired by the Australian rainforest. One can well believe it.  Although she grew up in London, after many travels she made her home in the rainforest of northern New South Wales, Australia. (An area which fortunately is accustomed to floods.) “When I discovered this place,” she told me, “I sat in the valley and looked up at the twin waterfalls, and said to the people I was with, ‘I think I will be here for a long time.’  Still here years later!” Her house in her adopted homeland is “in a forest by a creek, surrounded by green and water—landscape where you’d almost not be surprised to see a dinosaur wander through.”

There are no dinosaurs in Heartseed, nor even large lizards (like the goanna she photographed in her RL garden). But the land is lush with beautiful, variegated plants—some brightly colored, some more subtly shaded, some with glowing bulbs, some with large faces, some apparently with flickering flames, some curving overhead like enormous tree trunks. The oversized mushrooms are easily large enough for a hookah-smoking caterpillar. An archway bears the huge head of a horned gorilla with a nose ring.  In one area there seem to be loudspeakers, and what appears to be a spaceship partly overgrown with plants and containing a video player screening videos she likes, including some of her own.

Overhead there is a large sparkling starburst, along with various other creations.  Under the swirling water there are several sea creatures, among them a large translucent shark (by Igor Ballyhoo), as well as a further range of spectacular plant life. Three sky levels complete Heartseed: one with a huge plant issuing seeds; another setting coral in the rain where at the top of another gigantic plant one can float with visions, fantasies, and imagination; and very recently Jedda added the TerraBioStarCraft, a sort of living spaceship.

“I think you’ve created some new spaces here in the past several months,” I remarked. “A couple,” Jedda answered. “Deleted a few too—ran out of prims. I’m always trying to expand on things.  Also as my skills improve, I try to do things again but better, and they evolve.”

“Spirituality seems to be an important part of your work,” I observed. Jedda replied, “I build with intent.  A lot of futuristic builds are based on Armageddon, the end of it all, etc. I am not a nihilist—I prefer to think of something more positive, and try to convey that. A world filled with beauty, magic. I don’t want to concentrate on doom and gloom. Ask and ye shall receive, you get what you give, etc.”

“You connect it also with the world of the original Australians.”

“There is a certain magical earthiness about them. I have used the didge [didgeridoo] in my installation, where the heart is. It connects earth and breath. I like to use sound in my builds. I linked the didge with a heart beat, breath and heart and earth. Water is also important in my builds.  Love is like water—such a powerful yet gentle force, gets in everywhere, and can shape worlds.”

“Are there particular ideas from the original Australians that you work with?” I asked her.

“I think it’s a basic tribal element,” she said, “from dancing in the forests.” And in fact Heartseed has many figures of dancers.

The heart that Jedda referred to is a large, glowing, pulsing heart crowning a tree, or perhaps it’s a giant flower, in the middle of a sort of temple.  It incorporates a poseball which places one at the center of the heart, curled into the fetal position.  Jedda places various anims in Heartseed, such as the floating anims in one of the sky levels, and a couple anim in which one person snatches something from another, and teases her by pulling it out of reach as she tries to grab it back.  I asked her about the inclusion of anims in her builds.

“I’d love to do it more, but its hard to find the right anims. I have been trying to make some. So many couples anims are romantic. That’s why I like this one [in which the girl tries to recapture whatever it was that was swiped from her]: it’s just fun. I’d love to have more anims a round, they make people want to stay and play.  So if anyone reads this who makes anims: more fun please!”

I noted that Jedda works mainly with sculpties. “Yes,” she said, “but I’m going to have to rethink that soon though, with mesh on the way. Dammit—I’m just getting my head around sculpties and something new comes round!”

Because the advent of mesh (an upcoming feature that enables creators to model objects using external software such as Blender and import them into Second Life) has stirred controversy among content creators, including artists, I asked, “Do you think mesh will be useful for you?”

“It’s going to be amazing,” Jedda said. “I had a look in the test mesh grid, and it will really up the ante here.  I am apprehensive,” she admitted, “but mainly for selfish reasons, because it means I have to relearn a load of stuff and be a noob again.” Despite her apprehensions, I’m sure we have much to look forward to.

Jedda has a small store in Heartseed as well, for her brand Wild Designs. There you can buy several of her plants, as well as a cheekily large penis sculpture to carry under your arm (a collaboration with Del May, modeled on a photo of Louise Bourgeois taken by Robert Mapplethorpe in 1982).

If you use Phoenix, note that Heartseed has a local Windlight setting you can use; if you use another viewer, you can change your Windlight setting to [TOR] SCIFI - Evocrads'lime (Torley's Windlight settings are available here). Some of my photos use the Windlight presets.

Jedda has photos and machinima on Flickr and YouTube.

Click on photos to enlarge.

01 February 2011

Cow loon

Occasionally, while I'm at Split Screen, I'll get into conversation with a visitor. One who came by a couple days ago to see the new show was Eupalinos Ugajin, appearing as a large dragonfly. I don't think I'd ever heard of him (I think it's a him), but then, I get a bit disconnected. He gave me a link to his Flickr site with some interesting photos of his sim, he said he didn't build elsewhere, I got an LM and he went off to take photos. But something told me I should look at his work in person. And so yesterday I landed at "One Day My Cow Will Come." It's a wild, wonderful, lunatic build, I laughed pretty much the entire time, and everybody ought to make a pilgrimage there tout suite.

There's plenty to do and see here -- in fact I know I missed some bits, which is good because now I have an excuse to return -- but the pièce de résistance is surely the huge catapult. There's a menu from which you can select from a range of objects (by various makers, including Dekka Raymaker, Rose Borchovski, and Maya Paris) to drop in its bowl. When you launch it, a gigantic strawberry descends from the heavens, hits its paddle, and the projectiles go hurtling across space, into and through the huge net. I spent maybe half an hour loading and launching, pretty much giggling the whole time.

(Click on photos to enlarge.)

At the landing point

The big net

The big picture

I'm not sure why I'm running in a tub....

Our hero: Frank Zappa

Looking down into the "city"

Tyrannosaurus watches ELF

My conversation with Mrs Bones

Sleeping on the net

Also on the net

Cows rain on me in the "city"

The strawberry falls

Flinging eyes from the catapult

Flinging cows from the catapult

Mrs Bones made a machinima which will give you a flavor:

As you can see from my photos, the place has gotten a bit more, um, occupied since Mrs Bones made the video.

So stop reading this and go see "One Day My Cow Will Come."