Thursday, November 27, 2014

Occulus Rift thoughts

actually kids shouldn't use it
     As I mentioned a little while ago, I received an Occulus Rift HMD (head mounted display) to much fanfare in my own head.  Oh it's a party in there.  So far I have tested it with a few demos, they are interesting if mostly just novelty right now.  And I have also tested it at my build the Singularity of Kumiko with the headlamp on in the dark.  That was pretty interesting and immersive, but had to remove my ao and duckwalk around.  Also I could not interact with anything properly, clicking and so on.  Perhaps the biggest issue is that  I can use it for perhaps 15 minutes before I start to feel a bit ill.  Apparently they will be able to fix that with software updates over time.  There was an update a week ago and it seems to have messed up my settings so I have to figure out how to fix that now.  Oh the joys of beta testing.  I think the Occulus has great potential.. in the future.  Right now, as expected, it needs more testing.  Like for example, I read a while ago that children shouldn't use the Occulus rift since their stereoscopic vision is not fully evolved yet.  Someone else sent me a kickstarter page of a guy who wants to live his life, for a month, with the Occulus on 24/7.  Too early buddy, you might seriously mess yourself up by doing that.  But then I guess there is always someone wanting to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel or some other form of attention / validation process.  Wait a bit, make sure it's safe but don't rush to be the first "living" in the Occulus only to have part of your brain fall our your ear on day 23.
"There is a rat in this trench!"
     One of the coolest things so far with the Occulus is looking down and seeing the body of my
avatar where my physical one should be.  You can imagine the types of things this can be used for, like say,  suppose they made a educational model showing the storming of the beaches of Normandy  and they used a variety of things like the stem system, kinect and the Occulus to let students be there to storm it.   Reading an account of the horrors of this event would not be nearly as immediate as experiencing them oneself.  Then combine some sort of consequence if you were to actually (virtually) die in the environment, I am thinking -20% off your test at the end automatically. Yes I would make a rotten teacher.  Imagine if someone shot you in the leg or something equally nasty, and you looked down to see it.  Then you had to properly dress the wound or stitch it up.  The shock of this type of education would, I think, dispel the glorification of war and let people understand to a greater degree what it was really like.  Imagine rushing to a bunker and finding a 14 year old German boy terrified and very human... and having to make a decision in seconds what to do.  It is easier to brush off death when it is just a faceless statistic, but the world would be a better place if they weren't.  The future in education could remove the abstraction and detachment from History class, hmm maybe it is good I do not create curriculum for schools.  Anyway, this is just one small idea of the Occulus or another HMD use, but so many options.  Haha actually I just thought of something.  You know how Second Life was
No offense but I changed you into a person from work
depicted exclusively as a sex game by lazy journalists?  I think the Occulus might have to be worried about that same stereotype if they are not careful.  Hmmm Facebook owns them now, ok so they will probably actively promote the potential sex aspects then.  I don't get this picture.. why does he wear it when he is with her?  I am pretty certain she wouldn't find a black box in her face sexy.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

I don't know why..

     Oh I don't know why I am in love with Mike Tyson Mysteries.  Is it because Mike Tyson pokes
fun at himself so good naturedly?  Maybe because the principal from the show Community is a voice in it or just because Norm Macdonald plays a pigeon.  It is silly, strange, politically incorrect and campy and all together it just makes me laugh.  But then I have a bizarre sense of humour.  You will either go WTF? or giggle the whole time.  They have just made a few episodes so far but I really hope they continue.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Rez article and ISEA 2014

     Jami Mills did a nice article for Rez Magazine on my recent retrospective if you would like to read it below.  Also I would like to congratulate Gerardo Toledo for participating at ISEA 2014 in Dubai.  He presenting a paper mentioning/showing my work, along with another case study from his thesis.  You can download and read his original thesis work here.. it is on Eva and Franco Mattes, Gazira Babeli, Bryn Oh and China Tracy.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

An interview with Glyph Graves

Glyph Graves

purpose of questions..

Bryn Oh: Where are you from?  And who are the most renowned artists from your country in your opinion?
Euen MacLeod
Glyph Graves: Well I live in Australia.  One thing something like SL does is highlight the arbitrariness of national borders, particularly with something like art where ideas wash through borders like a Queensland flood through a Kleenex tissue.
Ok, now the traditional ockerism is out of the way  .. "renown" and best aren’t exactly the same thing though there is often overlap the most renown probably has its own Wikipedia entry.  There are many Australian artists whose work would fit “renown” that I enjoy; Euen MacLeod and Arthur Boyd are two, particularly Boyds later work.
Arthur Boyd
Bryn Oh: Often the average person outside SL  is perplexed with virtual worlds in general.  When people unfamiliar with the  virtual ask you what you do how do you explain it?
Glyph Graves: I find the problem is not so much that they are unfamiliar with SL rather the problem seems to be more that they have a distorted idea of virtual spaces with little idea of the actuality or possibilities of SL.  Certainly Linden Labs marketing strategy <>  is totally puzzling making that issue worse.. they seem to want it to have average person appeal like Face Book but they also seem to forget that face book gained the following it has by presenting itself as the cool alternative to Myspace.   One simple way would be that instead of always presenting SL as an escape they could cheaply fund a few small projects to show how SL can be integrated with peoples  lives in the physical world.  At least it would attract a different niche that is currently alienated by the popular view of SL.  The overwhelming feeling I have is the marketing people have no idea of what you can do in virtual spaces and the idea of niche marketing escapes them. More and more I feel Douglas Adams gem referencing marketers is appropriate. >
Bryn Oh:  Who are a few of your favorite artists and why?
Glyph Graves: There are many who’s work I both really enjoy and admire, some from SL (e.g. that Bryn person and Jo Ellesmere and many others)
Caleb Larsen
One of current favorite pieces is a black cube.   Its called "a tool to deceive and slaughter" by Cabel Larsen "  (again link into pieces  name) .  It is in the same conceptual area as “Merde de Artist” by Piero Manzoni.  My feeling is they were both not fully realized as art until the first commercial transaction was made. 
Bryn Oh:  Whose artwork do you personally dislike the most and why?
Glyph Graves: Dislike is a bit strong ..hmm not interested in is more accurate ... well, except for that person that seems to do all the art  you find in picture, frame and art supplies shops . Those pieces I truly dislike.  What is it with the paintings in those shops anyway and why are they all uniformly so awful?  As for others what I find incomprehensible is formula art, that is, art that is a generic cut and paste with minor modifications of other works.
Bryn Oh:  Which of your own works are you most proud of?  Do you feel any failed and if so do you now know why? 
Older works that I still like 
full sim pieces:- Strangers  also dance (read the sign touch it for the notecard and then walk to the big pink crystal on the water and touch it to get to the installation)
                                 Liquidity , and
Reflections in Diversity < > (A mixed virtual / physical world piece that maps the avatars spoken language (e.g.French) to colour ( LEDs in the physical world and to a “painting” in the virtual world as well as the main virtual piece, you can think of this as a triptych or sorts) and their rotation to sound creating a movement/location soundscape)
Reflections in diversity
Reflections in diversity

Glyph Graves: The middle is the main piece in SL. Either side is the physical representation and to the right the ground level reflection.  As the avatar walks though the main the their language (ie French, Spanish etc) is shown by the colour of the closest prims which changes depending on who is there (and what language they have on their computer) In the middle of the main you can see where I streamed the physical part back into SL  so visitors could see how it changed.
If you going to try different things you going to have many that don’t quite convey what you want them to.  Hopefully I’ve managed to keep most of those in my inventory.  I don’t really consider those as failures, more elements on the path to achieving something I want.
I have a greater sense of something has failed when I have an idea that needs to be realized and for one reason or another it hasn’t happened, usually because of terminal procrastination. 

Bryn Oh:  Do you have a method when creating? If so how does it often progress?  For example do you sketch or write out ideas  first for weeks or do you perhaps just jump directly into the project with little planning and adapt as you go?
Glyph Graves: Sketching out a project is excellent advice ... I do it but not on paper, I try to hold the sketch in my head where its usually composed / added to/rearranged when I go for walks in the local park. As a result the sketches are a bit wobbly but I like that, it makes them organic.  The downside is that when you’re working any interruption is pretty painful.
In answer to your question I start out with the overall idea but I’m not afraid to modify it if enhances what I was trying for in the first place.   Different projects seem to have their own life though, some sit and evolve as ideas and others just come and are done in a relatively short period of time. 

Bryn Oh:  What are you currently reading, listening to or looking at to inspire your work? 
Glyph Graves: I try and avoid being inspired by others work though of course that doesn’t mean I’m not influenced or find inspiration in things I see or come across, just that I don’t go actively look to be inspired by others work.
 Possibly I’m still in mourning at the loss of my favorite author, Ian Banks so I am rereading a few of those. What I’ve actually been looking at is lots of code, (I totally re wrote the Ghosts < > project about 3 time even though it worked the first time ...and its much better for it)., also have been spending time working with/looking at the effects of different materials to get the sort of effects I’m after etc ect.  Inspiration is not so much the problem as the finding the time to sit down and do them.    I have about five good projects that are works in progress.  I’m actually very methodical and efficient in the ways I find to procrastinate but was running out of ideas in that area.  You can imagine that being asked to do this interview was a real godsend.
Bryn Oh:  Does your work have an overall theme and if so what might that be?  If not please describe how you tend to pick your topics.   
Glyph Graves: I think probably best described as have several interwoven threads.  A lot of it you could call transformational, one thing being turned into another, a sort of visual and aural synaesthesia.  There’s obviously a strong element of play around the idea of and boundaries of identity.  The idea of avatars as shadows, of fragments of ourselves we cast into the virtual space and also what limits that we can consider as an avatar. For example there’s the Kinect mediated work :- faceted existence < >
and disembodiment< > both alternate avatars of myself. Then there are non personal extensions such as  where the real time aspects of a continent is extracted and presented as its avatar in virtual space as in Antarctica:- An Individual Existence. 
Ghosts creates avatars of avatars from another grid (Inworldz) and visa versa.  It is a sort of performance artwork where the performers are the visitors to each of the sim.
In Enfolded, each minute it access satellite data on the earths magnetic field and rotates the its prims  and stretches its texture accordingly so you get a sculpture that takes its form from the blanket that encircles us.

In forest of water (a small subset of the original piece) each tree was the avatar of an individual river its real time physical characteristics transformed into notes and colour which then interact with SL avatars distance (changed the tempo depending on the distance to each tree(tree avatar).  Or "I thought I hated him" where each dancer is the avatar of a stock exchange ( New York and Shanghai Exchanges) and more.  The behavior of each exchange depends on the behavior of millions of individuals so in effect each dancer was a composite avatar of those individuals that bought and sold on those exchanges.

Bryn Oh:  Have you ever had to deal with negative publicity or a disappointing rejection of your artwork?  How do you deal with  it?
Glyph Graves:  To be honest I don’t notice it much.. I’m probably a worse critic and where I have noticed criticism it was to note that it seemed based on little time spent trying to understand the piece or even read the note card.  What really annoys me is when people confuse the technical aspects of the work for the art and don’t bother to look deeper.
Puzzlement is a more common response.  Part of that is my issue of being too poetic/vague about the descriptions. I am spending a little more time spelling things out so perhaps that has concerned me more than I like to think.
Would you like to take a stab at explaining what defines virtual art? 
No, I won’t, or rather, I see as all art as being virtual art. If it has a physical world aspect or not is not an issue for me, what is important is what’s happening in the mind of the artist and the viewer, the actual media is immaterial to art   .. here take literature as an  example:- what is important is the visualization when writer creates it and what happens in the imagination of the reader. The actual physical bits, the ink and paper, is only physical representation is neither here nor there. The same applies to which media used  in the visual arts.
 Consider what most writers use to create their art these days.  A simulation of paper and ink on a computer and the works are also commonly read on simulations of a paper and ink e.g. on a Kindle.  This as virtual as anything that happens in SL but you don’t hear people discussing virtual literature.  Categories and their use by people can often obscure as much as they assist understanding.
Bryn Oh:  What would you say makes virtual creations unique over other art forms?
Glyph Graves:  See above, but using the media of computer based simulations does allows a greater amount of flexibility in expression than a lot of other media .. say.... acrylic paint for example, thank god you have the sense to use oils in your quite exquisite paintings.
Bryn Oh:  Centuries ago there was no such thing as an "artist" just craftsmen, as time progressed superior technical ability and creativity created the elite "Master" artist whose work stood recognized above all others.  In 1917 Marcel Duchamp  submitted a work entitled "Fountain" to the Society of Independent artists.    He stated "... He (the artist) CHOSE it.  He took an article of life, placed it so that its useful significance disappeared under the new title and point of view  – created a new thought for that object"  He wanted to shift the focus away from technical craft to more of an  aesthetic intellectual interpretation.  Some say that because of him almost everything is considered art today.  From an elephant painting with its trunk, a Banksy, a child's drawing to someone vomiting paint onto a canvas.  What is your perspective on this? 
Glyph Graves:  Hmm, this question about art vs craft always makes me think of the 5 blind men and the elephant parable for some reason.  What I will say is when Dechamp put the urinal in the gallery it was art, a creative act .. the next time someone did it  was just a urinal.
Marcel Duchamp
For me the beauty was conceptual, the way in the placement of the piece interacted with the social constructs both around art at the time and in society in general. Again, the physical part of the art is the least of it (further the virtual art/physical art thing).   In the end for me the distinction is in creativity and its relative originality within the social milieu of the time.  I’m actually kinda amused by the way “Fountain" has attained a sort of quasi religious significance in the art world icon if you like, when it was meant to be iconoclastic. I strongly suspect that if Dechamps was alive today he would resubmit the original piece and this time use it as a urinal and in so doing would be saying exactly the same thing as he did the first time he submitted it.  I was under the impression art was breaking away from its craft origins a long before, though the dadist movement which Dechamps flirted with, certainly played its role.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Singularity of Kumiko to close

     It is time to delete the Singularity of Kumiko exhibit sadly, but it shall remain open for a few weeks at least as I capture some machinima footage of it in case I ever get around to making a movie 
for it.  I saw Torley Linden at Kumiko the other day and told him my idea for Linden Lab to save a copy of a region for premium members as a perk, or even charge a small fee for it so that builders could click a button and bring back previous works easily.  They already keep a record of a region for rollbacks (region users can request Linden Lab to revert their sim back to an earlier time when there has been a catastrophe of some sort) so why not make it a feature?  What it would do is allow for artists to bring back their catalogue of work easily, which would be a boon for Linden Lab as it means high quality content for their user base need not be so sporadic.  For example, Annas Many Murders, Standby, Virginia Alone, Imogen and the pigeons, the Singularity of Kumiko and others are currently a huge ordeal to set up should I ever wish to show them again, but imagine if, with a click of a button or a request, they could suddenly appear and if other places on the grid we had all of AM Radios work appear each month or all of Madpea's adventures from over the years.  It would be a huge amount of content that Linden Lab gets for free (actually they get paid through tier so better than free) and it creates things for residents to enjoy thus      strengthening their product.

Anyway back to Singularity of Kumiko, it is going to close in a few weeks to a month, depending on how fast I film it.  It has been quite a success with close to 40,000 visitors since it opened and having been recently shown at the Art & Algorithms digital festival in Titusville, Florida.

After the Singularity of Kumiko closes I will begin working on a new piece tentatively entitled "Lobby Camera" which I am still writing. It has a number of challenging obstacles for me to figure out in regards to how to tell its narrative,  so it may be a few months away at least after I have cleared out Immersiva before it will open.  I have not yet decided whether to close down Immersiva until it is done or to perhaps leave it open for people to visit as it is being slowly built.  I know some do enjoy watching the process of something being created.  I am also testing the Occulus Rift more vigorously to see if it is worth trying to create something that works well with it, or perhaps wait.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Video games as contemporary art?

     I know this isn't a popular discussion with many as some really resist the notion of a video game being associated with traditional art yet I think it is a good discussion.  There are a few obstacles which games face if they will eventually be embraced as "art".  Well first, being termed a "game" has to change, as some are more experiences now, the age old moniker of "video game" which conjures up images of Pac Man, SuperMario, Minecraft, candy crush, angry birds etc all still linger over them thus hampering a new perspective from emerging.  Another problem might be that with hundreds working on a game and no clear defining artist, but rather a company as the face, then I think people may see them as too corporate and profit driven to achieve the individual expression which art often is romantically associated with.  It should be remembered though that many artists such as Leonardo DaVinci used pupils and it was perceived that using highly skilled assistants meant that you, as a teacher of those assistants, were exceptional.  For example, the teacher of Leonardo was named Andrea di Cione who also trained Sandro Botticelli and others.  Sometimes there is great prestige to be had in ones students but it is a very touchy subject.  David Hockney, for example, put up a sign at a large show of his in 2012 saying "All the works here were made by the artist himself, personally" it was considered a jab towards Damien Hirst who uses assistants to create some of his work yet allegedly keeps it secret, almost as though they are employees or, perhaps, the notion that an artist must create all their work themselves exists within the artist himself, thus the
A game called Crysis 3
desire to hide the participation of assistants.  That is the interpretation anyway.  I try to do everything myself personally, but then I am a control freak.  I would be much more productive if I used assistants who could create objects almost identical to what I might create, yet not essential that I actually spend the time to make them.. like say a fork on a table top.  Some artists think of it as collage or perhaps as composing an artwork using available talent.. others don't and in the end it really depends on how invested the original or main artist is during the whole process of creation. 
Grand Theft Auto IV-Duncan Harris
      In regards to video games though, I don't think people see them as a singular identity yet, and some companies may have even tried to bypass this perspective by putting a human face on projects such as for game designer American McGee.  For example though, in the image above for Crysis 3, there are a great many artists involved in that single screen shot, because remember that is a 3D virtual space which you can explore similar to SL, maybe climb up the vines and enter a window, I don't know I haven't played it.  But there are people who just do lighting, some do the foliage, textures, structures, characters etc then there is the overall artistic director.  They are more like movies now in scope and we have long accepted movies as art.
The Walking Dead - Leo and Clementine
A timer counts down as you choose
kenny remembers
     Anyway, back when I began creating art in Second Life and started to think of it as creating paintings you could enter and explore, incorporating duration and interaction with open ended choice, when I began to see it that way I decided that I must also play games then, because I wanted to be aware of what was going on elsewhere even if it was not the same as what I wanted to do but somewhat parallel.  Before that I did occasionally play video games with friends, and I sucked badly at them, but at that time I decided that I would play any game that had a rating of 90% or higher that was story driven, and hopefully I could find parallels that related to creating virtual art in a open ended 3D environment.  The image way up at the top is from one of the early ones I played called Limbo.  A small group of people made it and it really is a beautiful game.  Strangely violent, but beautiful.  Well they are all violent usually, which I expect might be an obstacle to being considered art, but looking past this you can really see why they work in some cases.  Limbo was not only beautiful, but contained a wide range of engaging puzzles.  It was really rewarding to figure them out.  The aesthetics were unquestionably artistic, but then the question almost is whether adding puzzles and gamifying art then disqualifies it from the art category. So every little while I am going to talk about a game I have tried if I have something, hopefully insightful, to say about it.  Not as a game review, but rather as a way to look at how fully immersive artworks could potentially benefit from various successful tools that seem to work in "games".  Knowing why something works is important I think, regardless of whether it could be used in ones artwork or not.  Just recognizing it, for me, kind of helps to imagine other possibilities.  Today I want to talk about one I have played recently called The Walking Dead.  It is based on a comic book which is also a TV show with the same name, which many of you have likely watched.  I was a bit apprehensive about playing this game as it is about zombies, and if it was like the TV show then there would be copious amounts of exploding heads and gore.  There is some of that, well lots of that to be honest, but there are some really impressive dynamics in the game itself that captivated and intrigued me.  The Walking Dead is not a huge game, not like Grand Theft Auto 5 from last year which collected 1 billion in sales... in just three days.  I have not played that game either but I guess I should at some point.     Anyway, so the walking dead is a unique experience and somewhat of a throwback to point and click adventures.  Much of it is cut scenes and dialogue with some minor puzzle elements but its blend is more successful to me than many other games I have tried.  It is almost like an interactive comic book and the aesthetics reflect that too in the artwork.  What it has, that really absorbed me, is a high degree of interaction and investment in characters.  In the first season you play as Lee, the man in the blue shirt, and you look after a little girl named Clementine who he discovers in a tree house, alone, after the zombie apocalypse.    Clementine is adorable and it didn't take long for me to feel genuinely protective of her, which is an impressive feat for a game.   Most games I have played don't really invest me in the characters so much, but this one really did.  What is interesting about the game though is that it is fairly open ended in where you can lead the story.  So essentially you meet up with other survivors and over the course of chapters you interact with them in various different ways which change the direction of the story depending on your choices.  So for example at one point in the game two people I met were being attacked by zombies and I had to choose which to help.  One a computer
you learn were your choices fit with others who played
nerd type and the other was a journalist with a gun.  I kind of liked the computer guy and he seemed helpless so I saved him not realizing that I was making the choice between who lived and who died.  So I chose to help the computer guy in a world with no more electricity and let the person who was good with a gun die. Probably not the right decision I guess.  There is an alternate story though if you make the decision to help the journalist, and it really plays on your mind whether you made the right decisions all along the way. You feel the moral implications of your choices too.  You have to make hard decisions and once made there is no turning back.. whats worse (or better) is that you have a limited time to pick these reactions or responses, similar to how it would be in a real situation.  So when someone asks you something you can't just sit there for a half hour thinking... as with a real conversation you have a short time to decide and this can result in a "fuck I shouldn't have said that" moment or two.  And as you can see with the image above, the characters remember what you tell them or how you act, so if you lie or play favorites etc then you have to realize that people can catch you.  For example you may have a limited amount of food to give out, not enough for everyone, and who you give it to changes the dynamic as well.  Do you give it to people who don't seem to like you so that perhaps they will in the future, or strengthen relationships that are already strong... or do you give the food to the kids or to the adults who have to protect you?  The game is interesting also in that you have to decide how you will be, morally, in this new world.  So for example there was a character who was fairly useless and unable to adapt to the new reality of .. well zombies, yet I protected them, sided with them and burnt bridges all because it felt wrong to turn on this helpless person.  Also in the back of my mind I think I felt that the game would reward me for helping this person, but not in this new world, you have to make hard decisions.  But is all this a form of interactive art?  It's really not important if it is, but to me I imagine how I feel after looking at something considered art by society, at that moment and then how it lingers with me.  If I think of this game in a similar manner, then the way it made me think of characters and decisions long after I had finished playing, then yes it did get inside of me somehow, the reasons being that they created an immersive story which made me care about what happened to the characters, made me feel like I was influencing the outcome in a changing environment.   It makes me dream of an artwork which you don't simply look at aesthetically but rather become invested in.  Imagine if you could speak to the Mona Lisa and discover her personality.  If you could be emotionally connected to her somehow that lingers past the moment you turn away from the painting.  Can we enter an artwork and love it almost as an entity?  That is what I am wondering.  If anyone is interested in trying the walking dead game on a computer to see what I am talking about,  then try Steam which offers game downloads.  They forever are putting things on sale and I got the first and second season of the walking dead at a time when they were 75% off (which is a fairly regular occurrence) so like $6 and you can't go wrong at that price.

Duncan Harris is a video game photographer and has a site with some impressive unaltered images of the games he plays

Monday, October 13, 2014

Drik Magazine interview

     I had done an interview for Drik Magazine a while ago and forgot to mention it.  They are a Spanish publication and so, if you are fortunate enough to speak Spanish, which sadly I am not, then here is the translation.  There is also the English original here.  Some parts of the interview may seem familiar because I have used them in other interviews.  One thing that is a bit tiring with interviews is that often you come across the same questions over and over again.  It is not the fault of the interviewer as they are completely rational questions to ask, however, I often would spend a long time trying to answer the same question I had come across before in a different manner.  Then one day I told this to a friend and they said "What on earth are you talking about... keep a record of all your questions and all your responses and if you have answered a question once exactly the way you want to then why fool around,  just paste it in the new interview."  The thing is this is true because all the people who read the Drik magazine article will be reading my views for the first time.  You are probably reading this and saying "yes obviously Bryn you toolbox"  but what can I say I always thought I had to write something new or it was cheating.