Thursday, February 7, 2019

The ice storm

I was working in Second Life today and disappeared for an hour.  When I finally returned,  both cold and wet, I had a bunch of instant messages waiting patiently for me to reply.  One asked if I was away writing a story.  Yes... yes I was.  And here is that story.  A completely made up story that has nothing to do with me.  Because it would be far too embarrassing had it actually been me.

The fictional character named Willow
     To preface the story,  I should mention that the main character, lets call them BO,  well Bo was
fostering an 8 month old black Labrador retriever dog named Willow.  Willow had been living with Bo for a month and was quite energetic to say the least.  Bo saw her at the animal shelter where she had been dropped off and felt Willow would do much better living in a warm house until she was adopted by a family, than in a cold shelter. Willow has medical issues going on with her back legs so the vet felt the bandages needed to stay dry.. so when BO takes Willow for walks around town some yellow plastic dish washing gloves must be pulled over the bandages and taped.  Also to stop Willow from bothering her feet she needed a lamp shade thing over her head.  Lets just say that when Bo takes Willow for walks she gets many strange stares from people wondering why someone would put dish washing gloves over a dogs feet.  Why not those dog booties or something.  In fact Bo is starting to become the odd person around the neighbourhood I think, judging by the amount of rubber necking and laughter.
     So last night there was a big ice storm in this made up story.  Kind of like the ice storm Toronto got last night, but not the same one obviously since its a made up story with made up characters.  The ice storm covered everything in a very slippery layer making it treacherous to walk.  Anyway Bo, not aware of this, lets Willow out into the back  yard, after a while Bo hears Willow barking and looks to see her standing, in her rubber gloves, at the bottom of the porch steps unwilling to climb up.  Bo opens the side door and calls down "Willow come on up! why are you waiting down there?"  Willow just barks.. and barks.. and barks a bit more and Bo realizes it's very slippery and Willow is having nothing to do with climbing those slippery steps.  Now Bo works from home and so admittedly doesn't always get dressed RIGHT away in the morning.  Might actually be wearing pajamas at that particular time, which is not a crime!  Anyway so Bo feels that Willow needs encouragement and steps down in slippers to the icy deck and immediately realizes it is far more slippery than anticipated.  So slippery in fact that Bo must move at a snails pace to get along the deck and slowly down the steps, but fortunately Bo brought gloves so the ice on the handrails was not too hard to grasp.  Reaching Willow, who was gleefully barking this whole time, they both look back up at the steps and realize its too slippery, and so they must take the side gate to the front door to get in.           

     Walking slowly to the wooden gate Bo discovers that it is frozen shut and impossible to push open.  It's like a snowman sneezed all over it.  Willow then takes Bo's gloves and runs away with them wanting to be chased.  Slowly inching to the steps Bo hatches a plan and begins to climb the back up to the house.  The steps are very slippery as I said and it was with no shame that Bo decided to crawl up the icy steps, perhaps looking a bit like a dying crab, while Willow barked at Bo's bum.  Finally reaching the house our hero, Bo, boils a (sealed) pot of water and returns to the deck and then down the steps to the gate.  Pouring the water around the bottom of the gate the ice melts freeing it from its icy prison.  The ordeal is finally done!  Thinks a shivering Bo.  Holding willow's collar together they walk the path to the front door.. the path is very slippery so Bo decides to crawl beside Willow, seeing as there is nobody around to see.  Well until the mailman arrives unexpectedly and sees someone in their pajamas with a dog wearing bright yellow dish washing gloves crawling to meet him.  Bo makes it to their feet and says to the Mailman, who is looking at bit perplexed at the pair, "Oh I can take the mail, you don't need to put it in the box."  Bo attempts a conversational tone thinking perhaps this might hide the rather ridiculous scene and make it seem a bit.. normal.  The mailman leaves and Bo and Willow take the mail and go back into the house.   Bo notices that Willow no longer has the gloves and that they are likely in the icy back yard still.  Bo decides to buy new gloves.
     In Canada many of us don't lock our front doors.  I don't usually, and Americans think its because we have no crime and are very trusting.  The truth is we don't lock our front doors in case there is an ice storm and we get stuck outside in our pajamas without keys.  That's the real truth.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

New arts grant from Canadian government

     I was just informed a few days ago that I have been awarded another grant from the OAC, a
Canadian government arts funding organization.  I am so pleased and would just like to thank the OAC for their continued support over the years.   This is the fourth time I have been awarded a grant by them and to be honest I am not sure where I would be in my career without their financial help.  There is a saying in Canada among artists that many of the larger art organizations support Canadian artists once they have become successful elsewhere, almost as though they need evidence that other countries think we are talented in order for them to accept and support us.  They don't take us while we are fragile and encourage and support our growth thus helping to create the success, but rather appear once it is evident from the perspective of other Countries that you actually do have talent.  I don't know if it is true or artists griping, but when I look at my own successes ranging from Vogue, to television in other countries to exhibiting in museums in Germany, Moscow and galleries and festivals in the USA... I have to admit that I have never been approached by anything Canadian except Universities which have me on their syllabus.  Actually Universities have been really great too.  So I would like again to thank the OAC because they do support me and it is very much appreciated.

     So about the grant.  It is substantial and will allow me to further embrace working with the Oculus and other technologies to create immersive spaces.  One element of the grant is to film the work "Hand" and build it in Sansar (will also go in Second life).  The first obstacle?  Sansar doesn't support the space navigator mouse which is used for filming.  From what I understand it is not going to be supported anytime soon either.  There is a feature request that I submitted a while ago if anyone wishes to encourage them to work on it https://help.sansar.com/hc/en-us/community/posts/115018282103-Space-navigator-3D-mouse-support
     I understand that Sansar has lots of things to work on and they are often coming up with new features.. just a few weeks ago they announced the ability to sit in chairs.  They are doing great but my humble suggestion would be to focus on things which will help promote Sansar.  Machinima is a great promoter and Sansar might be  an ideal place to make machinima.  A news article or blog post is great too.. but they are static and show the space in 2d snapshots.  Machinima is the best was to show people the virtual space other than them actually going there to try it.  The thing is, if I can't film in Sansar for my grant,  then I will have to try High Fidelity (a competitor) or Second Life.  See I told you artists gripe about things.  Ok I will confess why I am griping today.  I am fostering a black Labrador 8 month old puppy from the Shelter.  It is exhausting!  She has leg issues so I have been keeping her at home for the last month rather than her staying in the rather cold and lonely animal shelter.  She needs people.  Once she is healthy someone will adopt her, though sadly I can't though I would dearly love to.  But it is exhausting.  I spend most of my time trying to get my gloves back after she has snuck them out of my pocket or rooting things out of her mouth.  That's a gooey job.  The other day on a walk she ate a cigarette butt.  Its like .. why? that must have tasted like stink!  Also the other day she suddenly launched herself at me while I was reading and shoved her entire tongue into my mouth.  Possibly a bit of her nose too.  She is lovely and  sweet really, but I also have had to put on one of those lamp shade things around her heads so she can't bother her feet, and then she turns into a wrecking ball.  She hasn't figured out her turning radius yet so she is constantly knocking over everything... and worst thing is she wants to go for a walk at 5am every day!.. and will  bark.  So yes I am griping but its justified! justified I say!  I am sleep deprived.  Anyway, to sum up yay! grant and thank you OAC, spacenavigator please and dog gah!.   

Friday, January 4, 2019

An image in Vogue

     It is ironic that I am in Vogue magazine as my fashion choices involves various clothes in black.  I will stop wearing black when they invent a darker colour.  That's not true I actually do wear grey sometimes.  I am as elegant as a black friday Wallmart aisle fight.  I have all the grace of someone
trying to put on a sweater with one sleeve inside out.  My sense of direction is so poor I would get lost on the runway.  All these attributes add up to someone who should not be in Vogue.... unless.
    Unless it is about art, I can do art ok.  So it was a nice surprise when Linden Lab said they were contacted by Vogue who wanted some of my images.  My plan is to get the print magazine and strategically open it to the page where my art is shown and pretend the magazine fell off the bookshelf to that page for when friends and family visit.  They will stoop to pick it up and say "Oh is this  your art?" and I will be all like "Oh seems so, I am not really sure how that magazine got here but yeah I guess they must have put my art in there, I hadn't really looked at it.  I don't keep track of that sort of thing"  play it all cool and indifferent.  And if they don't notice it on the ground then maybe I will say something like "I think I dropped my contact lens on the floor by this magazine.. can you help me find it?  it may have fallen on that picture there" or actually I could just tape the magazine, open to that page, to my face so that when they talk to me they actually have to look at the article instead of my face.  Anyway, I have plans.

     So here is the link to the article.    https://www.vogue.in/content/this-is-how-technology-is-changing-the-way-we-see-art/

     Would have been nice if they had embedded the machinima in the article since it better shows what the virtual space is like, though still not the same as experiencing a virtual space.  If you have not seen the machinima for Lady Carmagnolle you can watch it below if you like.  Oh and I am on instagram as bryn oh now if you want some phone candy.


Friday, December 7, 2018

Jane and Eloise opening Saturday December 8th.


My new artwork Jane and Eloise will be opening tomorrow, Saturday December 8th.  Here is the slurlhttp://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Immersiva/16/103/22

So what to say about this new work.  I wanted to play with the idea of what art can be in the virtual space.  I have mentioned before how this medium has unique traits that differ from more traditional ones such as painting, sculpture or cinema.   In the virtual space we are not passive observers to the artwork.  In a museum or theatre we stand back and look at a painting or sculpture, we don't touch
them nor interact usually, while in the theatre the movie tells us a story and we sit and listen.  We follow the camera where it leads us and should we wish to open a door or look under a bed.. well that is not part of the experience.   We are passive observers to the artwork.  In virtual spaces we can be active participants who interact and are part of the work itself.

     With this work I wanted to have a short narrative within an artistic environment focusing on colour, line and form but also creating a gamification of the artwork itself.  The story revolves around two sisters who go out fishing together.  They are caught in a storm and their canoe collapses.  The maze is a symbolic recreation of the nightmares that get embedded within our mind after a traumatic experience.  The maze is the mind of Eloise.  Now with a traditional artwork  you can then step back and say observe and contemplate!  For this work you enter the mind of Eloise and navigate a fairly scary maze trying to find the exit.  If you find the exit you get a different ending then should you never find it.  The maze will be fun to do with friends.  It is designed to rebuild itself every hour randomly so that nobody can memorize the pattern.  Once you have put on advanced lighting with shadows (directions at the start) you will find
yourself in a dark space with just a flashlight.  I would suggest using first person view, as I find it easier.  Along the way you might find, what I call, mouse holes.  The mouse holes are thin doorways that only a single avatar can squeeze through into another hallway, if a monster is coming you can slip through and they can not follow, but if you are with friends then there might be some frantic pushing and screaming as the monster approaches :)  The maze can be scary and cause some anxiety, in tests I have watched people who find mouse holes and linger by them afraid to go further out into the maze.  Also inside the maze are three "safe rooms" where the monsters cant go and you can see scenes to the story.  Inside these safe rooms your headlamp will turn off allowing you see the room in its proper lighting and also making it hard to see the corridors you just left.  I would strongly suggest taking off your facelight should you wear one as it will impact the shadows in each scene.  I love to compose with shadows so really hate when they are washed out with a facelight.  Something else to consider is to use run.. which is ctrl and R to activate.
    At the front of the maze is a gacha machine where you can get all the parts of Jane and Eloise should you like to own some.  This build took three months to create due to the really complex scripting, which I don't mind, except that it means three months of paying tier with no income from visitors.  If you could leave a small donation that will go a long way to keeping Immersiva around.
     So what else... the scripting.  This work required that a whole new set of scripting was built because other forms would not work with it.  For example, pathfinding is a great way to have a monster navigate a maze, except when a maze randomly rebuilds itself.  In pathfinding the monster would need to know where each wall is, and then it could move through them.. when you make a new maze every hour the pathfinding creature cant see those new walls.  So a new type of movement had to be created where the creatures would "see" the maze as they move while also looking for people to chase.  There are two types of creatures, the toothy nightmare which fills the hallway.. if you see him coming you should turn and run as you cant slip by him.  The other, perhaps more terrifying creature is hook Jane.  She floats down the hallways and will quickly and aggressively chase you. If you see her then try running for a mouse hole  and I would suggest praying as you do.  It is actually too crazy to get into the details of the scripting involved but let me tell you it is deceptively elaborate and very good on lag.  Might actually do another post just on all of that.  Ok I am blathering on, please come visit and have fun.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Various things

     This is a post to keep a record of a few things going on.  Or went on like a recent talk I did for York University in their course called Art and Artists in digital environments.  This has been somewhat of a tradition doing a talk for York University over the past few years or so.  It is so fun because the students are very keen and interested.  I think I stayed an extra hour answering questions from the students.  It is interesting because the students are younger and more used to virtual spaces now and whats better, they either don't care or are unaware of all that bad media press Second Life took for so long as a result of.. well lazy reporters.  "Hey I have a deadline to do an article on that virtual space called Second Life.. and I need people to click on my article! hmmm I could write about the huge amount of money the virtual space raises for various causes such as Relay for Life or I could write about the groundbreaking art or the fascinating psychology of social groups in virtual worlds.. or maybe I will just write about people having virtual affairs.  Yeah I will get the editor to put up a giant virtual sex title for the article and loads will click it."  You know... it is shocking because the human race.. you know...  have never before tried to incorporate sex into anything.  Especially on the internet.  I mean who could have predicted it!
     Anyway, I digress, it is always fun to give a talk and rewarding because I recall being in art school at the Ontario College of Art and Design and learning about various artists.  At that time, in those art history classes, all starry eyed it seemed so far away to achieve anything even remotely like them.  And while I am not suggesting I am anything like those artists I studied, it is fun to think that my art is being studied by students in a course as part of the syllabus.  A South Korean university was on my sim several months ago too I remember.  It just cool the kind of road trips that can happen in a class now and some of their stops take them to our virtual world.
Students from York University
 Anyway what else has been happening?.  Linden Lab sent me a message a few weeks ago saying that Vogue magazine wishes to use some images of my artwork for their magazine.  That is the second time Vogue magazine have featured my work in Second Life.  No idea yet when the magazine will come out but will do another post when it does with pics.   Below is one of the images they wish to use.  From An evening at the Ballet.  The other dancers in the background looking at their cell phone rather than at the dancer.


      And finally I am working on a new build which will hopefully open in a few weeks.  It was going to open for Halloween but the scripting has been really complex and wont be able to get it done by then.  SL scripting is not really made to do the things in this build so will see if it works.  Progress has been slow but each obstacle has been overcome so I have faith.  Essentially it is a small story about living in a civilized society and the sudden intrusion of our instincts causing us to behave outside those norms.  In this case an overwhelming need to fight for survival, even against those we love.  Then the aftermath where we fight against shame and confusion when our instincts clashed with the civilized norm.  So with this as the premise I have gamefied the psychology of existing within our own minds and the various dark corridors that reside there.  The story is called Jane and Eloise and will make more sense when you see it.  It will be something to do with friends, it will be fun and scary.

Jane and Eloise

Sunday, October 14, 2018

The Body Electric

The Body Electric was launched at ICRE 2014. An inspiring selection of visual art, in a range of media – photography, drawing, painting, sculpture and film – explored the conference theme of medical technology from new critical and artistic angles.


The Body Electric is a digital visual art show to be presented at the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada’s (RCPSC) upcoming International Conference on Resident Education (ICRE), October 18-20, 2018 in Halifax NS.  

     Three of my machinima works are being exhibited there as part of the show.  The Singularity of Kumiko, Juniper and Virtual Environments which is a machinima showing the virtual work created for soldiers with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a commission for the United States Military.  Essentially we created a virtual space to  help soldiers with  PTSD,  I would like to say it was a great success, however, I have no idea if it was as those military types are a tight lipped bunch.  In fact after I completed the project they chloroformed me and I woke up in a motel on the other side of the country.  I looked at a Polaroid on the night table and it showed me with two friends and I could see that my body was slowly disappearing.  It became clear to me that I had to go back in time and get my parents to kiss in order to not fade away.  Ok that last part is a lie mixed with Back to the Future.

If you are in Halifax you are welcome to attend the show if there are still tickets.  The tickets are a bit pricey I think so I  have included the three machinima in this post below.