31 August 2019

LEA ends

It's official: the Linden Endowment for the Arts end is closing. The announcement reads, "Linden Endowment for the Arts in its current form comes to an end on August 31st and the remaining sims will be taken offline by Linden Labs on September 1st." What "in its current form" means is anyone's guess; probably nothing more than "Maybe we'll look at it again in 20 years, but don't hold us to that."

When LEA first opened I had strong reservations, as it seemed likely to undermine the independent curators like me. A whole sim for free -- what builder wouldn't jump at the chance? Not something I could offer. My worries seemed confirmed when someone slated for Split Screen pulled out at the last minute, taking a LEA sim instead and leaving me high and dry. But in the longer term the competition with LEA turned out to be less of an issue than I feared: the more serious problem appeared some years later, with the slow exit of the artists themselves. I closed Split Screen when it became clear that I was on the verge of repeatedly hosting the same half-dozen or so artists that fit my goals.

One major loss is the LEA Sandbox. Once in a while it hosted some amazing stuff. More importantly, with the closure of so many other sites for building and hosting large works, the future of SL art is probably limited to textures on a prim and occasionally smallish sculptures, plus a few stalwarts with their own sims, like Bryn Oh and Cica Ghost. Photos and the like are nice, but they don't explore one iota of SL's capabilities. And that's a great pity.

25 July 2019

Thoughts for the People Hoping to Save LEA

To those hoping to rescue LEA:

As you may know, I was the curator of the Split Screen Installation Space (2010-2017), which hosted many of SL's best-known 3D artists and achieved a good reputation during its time. (Often the installations made the SL Destination Guide Editor's Picks, and I was asked to join the LEA Committee, twice I think.) So given my experience with the SL art scene, I thought I should share my own thoughts about whether LEA should be rescued and if so, how it might best serve the SL arts community.

The question needs to be put into some context. Nearly all the major installation spaces SL has ever had are gone or now only display old art, including (in no particular order) PiRats, New Caerleon, the New Media Consortium, IDIA Laboratories, the University of Western Australia, the University of Texas--San Antonio, Odyssey, Art Screamer, IBM's Exhibition Spaces, both the first and the second Nordan Art Galleries, MetaLES, Split Screen, and others. I think that at one point most of these spaces existed at the same time. So there has been a massive loss of opportunities to build large works.

And yet, LEA has had trouble getting quality applications. One reason is that many of the creators of large installations have left SL, or stayed but quit making art. Some people left because of the cost of land, and moved to places like Inworldz and the OpenSims. Others left or stopped for personal reasons. Most importantly, few new artists interested in large installations have taken their place.

These should be big red flags: the problems LEA has faced during the past few years go far beyond LEA, and concern what the SL arts community itself is doing, or rather, not doing. It's not doing large installations.

If the SL art scene has changed so radically, people should think long and hard about whether LEA has any way to serve it. To be honest, I have doubts.

Nevertheless, I can suggest two options. One is to have merely two or three sims (and the sandbox) to support the few artists doing the sort of work that needs that amount of space. If more artists start requesting it, LEA can always ask Linden Lab to add another sim or two.

The other option is to give LEA a specific mission -- in effect, serving a curatorial function. This would make some people mad and raise the usual hackles, but some people get mad no matter what, because they have nothing better to do. It's practically an SL custom. So despite complaints, having a more specific mission might be the right thing to do anyway.

In my view, the mission LEA might best pursue is to programmatically encourage artists to make the kind of work that can exist only in a virtual world, or in any case would be extremely hard to do in the material world. Zero two-dimensional, "texture on a prim" art. Zero re-creations of RL or could-be-RL locations. Challenge artists to exploit SL's many resources, even if they need to get someone to help them (or they could learn how to do it themselves). Think about it: why is Bryn On one of the few people nowadays playing with windlights, projections, physics, raycasting, etc? She wants to squeeze everything she can out of SL, and she gets help for the complex scripts she needs. And then there's anims, media, scripting as art, terraforming, animesh.... Yes, there are certainly some artists who have large visions even if what they do is completely possible in real life (Eliza Wierwight comes to mind), and that's fine, they should have that opportunity if they can make a convincing case. And there are certainly some people trying out features of SL, with or without large spaces. I don't mean to cast aspersions on everyone -- I can see things kicking around on the sandbox. But on the whole, SL art is in a rut. LEA might be able to do something about that. Though clearly with fewer sims -- no more than half, probably no more than a quarter, at least for now -- and slice them into parcels for a while.

If LEA adopts a specific mission (what I suggest or something else), it would be smart not to have any artists on the committee: draw from the curators and maybe a blogger or two. (Not me, I'm working on a major project in RL.) Using curators reduces or eliminates conflicts of interest (real or imagined) and creates more of a network into the SL arts community.

Everything else -- the duration of grants, etc -- is just deck chairs on the Titanic, if you ignore the root of the problem.

Oh, and for pete's sake, get a publicist! LEA's advertising has always been terrible!

Best of luck,

Dividni Shostakovich

PS: In case you don't know what I mean by "exploiting SL's resources," here are some videos that should give an idea of the things people have done, some of them even without high tech (though not all of them are large installations):

Bogon Flux by blotto Epsilon and Cutea Benelli: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tK8Aa-6loJU

Transition Zone by Oberon Onmura: https://vimeo.com/11780611

Forest of Water by Glyph Graves: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-5rkSbgKRtE

Bagging Area 51 by Maya Paris: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xj2uE7e29ws

Paranormal Frottage by Misprint Thursday: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=68FxhfKa5P0

The Mask: a synchronicity by Pyewacket Kazyanenko, Jo Ellsmere, and Kai Steamer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tz-yTln9BkY

(There are several works I hoped to include but I wasn't able to find a satisfactory video.)