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.


  1. Knowing many of Second Life's artists, I think there's more than enough projects to fill LEA, SS, several galleries and a bunch of vacant land someone forgot behind the Coca Cola Bottling Plant way out on the edge of town...

    and Split Screen too!

  2. yeah, don't move Dividni. Lea is a child of the Labs who, like God, giveth and taketh away in mysterious ways. Your blog is cool.