28 January 2013

More News About Bryn Oh's True Identity

SPOILER ALERT: If you haven't yet seen Bryn Oh's newest installation, Imogen and the Pidgeons, stop reading this post right now. Go see the installation and come back. I'm serious. Scoot!

A couple of years ago ... hey STOP IT! I said go away if you haven't seen Imogen!

Sheesh, some people.

OK. A couple of years ago, before I started Split Screen and was instead an investigative arts journalist, I reported that Bryn Oh is in fact Salvador Dali 2.0. When I visited Imogen and the Pidgeons, I found evidence that I had only reached one level of the onion that is Bryn Oh (such an onion that she makes Honour McMillan cry). I've had some suspicions for a while, but a chance conversation with Bryn was the clincher. I have to break TOS to copy this snippet (slightly edited to remove an out-of-sequence bit and fix typos), but here goes:
Bryn Oh: so what do you think she [Imogen] was?
Dividni Shostakovich: I think Imogen was the product of severe depression in a computer
Dividni Shostakovich: :-P
Bryn Oh: :)
Dividni Shostakovich: like in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy lol
Dividni Shostakovich: now how's that for a comparison!
Bryn Oh: wow
Bryn Oh: didn't expect that interpretation
Dividni Shostakovich: Bryn Oh meets Douglas Adams
Had I touched a nerve? When I thought about other information about Bryn, the truth became clear.  Let us consider one of Bryn's standard statements about her work:
The stories I tell on Immersiva are my own hopes, dreams and fears hidden behind the mask of robots.
Think about that statement for a minute. She's tricky, Bryn Oh is. She wants us to understand her approach metaphorically. But forget the "hidden behind the mask" bit, that's a ruse -- we should read her statement literally. For the truth is this:

Bryn Oh is actually Marvin the Paranoid Android. (If you don't know Marvin, click here).

The stories she tells are her own hopes, dreams and fears, and Imogen and the Pidgeon is the dream of a computer: Bryn Oh herself.

There is corroborating evidence in a fact I recently learned about Bryn's earliest days in Second Life. Out of journalistic integrity I can't reveal my source, but here's the additional background. Like most artists, Bryn began building in a sandbox. As everyone knows, sandboxes often have pests who run you over with a monster truck or blow you up, and eventually, in self-defense Bryn got a HUD that allowed her to protect herself and even counter-attack. In the course of things she got a little carried away and became a minor-league sandbox griefer herself. That behavior got her banned from a sandbox.

Putting two and two together, I realized what happened next. Bryn's a smart girl, and she needed to build at sandboxes. So she came up with a much subtler way to defend herself. From then on, she would make her opponents so depressed that they'd kill themselves. This is exactly what Marvin does. Now we know why her installations are so insistently depressing, and why in some of them, avatars get killed off.

Apparently I was more correct than I knew when I revealed that Bryn is Dali 2.0 (two point Oh -- sneaky!). Only computerish things get numbered upgrades.

I do have to say that for a robot, in fact even if she weren't a robot, Bryn is one of Second Life's best artists, and Imogen and the Pidgeon is her best work yet. I hope to write a separate blog post about it, time permitting.