Tuesday, March 29, 2011

#5 MrPim Hax

I have a few things I would like to mention for this post so it may be a bit disjointed.  Hopefully the connections will be clear at the end.  There are many different types of intentions when an artwork is created.  Some work towards one result, while others have no interest in that element and strive for yet another.  One of my fascinations in art is how a work can be embodied with emotion in an almost magical manner when manipulated correctly.  In the last post the artist had members of her audience weeping as they connected to her artwork.  She did this by merely moving sand around.  When I oil paint I often make my own colours.  I don't mean mixing the colours on a palette but rather making the paint itself.  I do this for a few reasons, some being that store bought paint can contain fillers that are actually stained particles rather than proper pigments.  They are created for shelf life and uniform consistency etc.  When you make your own paint you not only have much more control over the quality but you also connect to your work in a deeper way.  It's like buying a tomato as opposed to growing them yourself.  The process become less abstract. So for example Carmine Red is a pigment made up of crushed red bug shells.  Proper Naples yellow is made from volcanic rock gathered from around Pompeii in Italy.  From Mount Vesuvius I believe.  Burnt/Raw Sienna/Umber is clay taken from a region in Italy.  Actually something important to know when buying a Sienna is to check the pigment content on the back.  Ok this is getting off topic but whatever.  The clay is becoming scarce and thus is driving up the cost per pound of pigment to manufacturers.  As a result many manufacturers are substituting the clay pigment known as PB7 or PBr7 (pigment brown 7) for a synthetic red iron oxide (PR101).  The new Sienna formulation is seriously inferior to the traditional one so make sure on the back of your paint tube it shows the appropriate pigment.  It is hard to find good sienna now but hopefully you can still find the good stuff.  When you buy Dammar varnish from an art store it comes in a bottle.  Its easy to imagine that the Dammar is created in some white sterile lab from synthetic components.  When I make it,  I have the resin shipped in.  It comes in a burlap bag with each chunk of resin being chipped off a tree in another country, I seem to recall mine comes from Singapore.  The sap from these trees are like pieces of crystal amber and in many cases they contain trapped bugs inside them.  After a few days of breaking them down into a thick liquid while submerged in mineral spirits, then filtering them over and over again to get out the bugs and bark, you have the clear liquid that you can buy in the store.  However there is now a new feeling when you look at your own Dammar solution.  Its no longer an abstract synthetic creation.  So then when I paint I am arranging pigments over a 2D surface and somehow at the end it may or may not draw forth an emotion from the viewer.  I just really find it compelling that you can imbue an emotion into an inanimate object (painting) by a specific arrangement of pastes, and an empathic viewer can pick up your emotion and absorb them unto themself.  And its all done with raw basic tools.
     When we look at Second Life as an art medium there are some factors which make it quite unique and powerful.  Things that separate it from other mediums.  One such thing is the way emotions are somehow highly amplified in the virtual world.  People fall in love with minds here in Second Life, whereas in RL it's often people falling in love with bodies first and then eventually with anothers mind.  I don't want to generalize but that seems to be a unique difference.  Connections are far more cerebral than physical.
     When I came across this build by MrPim it was clear to me that it contained emotion.  Much like the artist who arranges the paint that is made up of crushed bugs or volcanic rock we have the SL artist arranging prims that are composed of programming code.  Arranging them the right way draws forth an emotion, the wrong way produces nothing.  If I understand correctly, MrPims work was created as an emotional reaction to a SL relationship he had with another.  Not a physical relationship but rather a cerebral one.  My interpretation is that he is a reclusive person in SL, as he has said so himself.  He resides in his symbolic cage as we see at the beginning of the machinima, and he is released by a girl he meets in SL.  He bonds to her as lonely people often do, but over time she meets new people as is the way in SL.  She drifts away from him and he watches her go rather than fight to keep her.  She flies out to meet the new people and leaves with them unshackled.  It is a story told from his perspective and it is real emotion connected to how he saw the situation.  And because it was based off of a real experience the emotions were able to be transferred into the artwork, and that is what made it successful.
     So for example, if I were to decide as a snow bound Canadian to make an artwork based on the Lost Boys of Sudan trekking to Kenya while being bombed or attacked by Lions.  It would likely be a complete and utter failure.  I can't associate with that experience so how could I possibly portray what it would be like for them?  A work created on a subject you know and understand, that you are emotionally attached to has the best chance of striking a chord in the viewer.  It eventually comes down to whether the artist possesses the skill to translate their emotions into another format for others to absorb.  In this case MrPims work did so for me.

#5 from 2009 mushROOM by Scottius Polke

#5 from 2008 Light Waves Night Dreaming

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Kseniya Simonova - sand art

     I have never really gotten along well with my computer.  It tolerates me and I grudgingly accept its power over my daily life.  That was until about five days ago when my computer got a virus.  Intentionally I believe.  I was working on something and noticed my computer was all sluggish and petulant.  I then noticed that my Nortons was completely off.  So it either didn't load when I turned on my computer (which is extremely rare) or the virus turned it off somehow.  So long story short everything on my computer was infected due to my computers bad attitude and so in retaliation I erased its brain.  I realized later that by formatting my hard drive I had lost a lot of things.  Thousands of songs, word documents, all my pictures and many of my SL videos.  The thought of starting over was exhausting to contemplate, so I instead lay around grumbling.
     The one positive element was that I was victorious over my computer.  I erased its brain so that must be considered winning I suppose.  I don't think it thought I would ever go to that extreme measure, but I did and it learned a valuable lesson which it has now forgotten because its brain is broken.  But it learned a valuable lesson for a very short time.  I am not sure what that lesson was but its something like don't be a jerk and get viruses.   I now have a fresh install and I am going to really make an effort to be friends with this new computer.  I have named it Gargamel.  One thing I did do a few years ago was to buy a external hard drive which I backed up most of my stuff on.  Unfortunately I kept telling it not to back stuff up.  Its name is Azriel.  So yes there is a Smurfs theme going on for my computer (I have a second hard drive named Papa Smurf).  Anyway, my whole point to this post was to say that everything will be delayed a bit.  I lost my top ten movies so need to redo them.  So what I will do is put up interesting things I like until I am ready to continue with my top ten favorite builds again.  This video below is the first.  It is what I believe to be a European talent show.  The vibrant girl in the video is working with sand, which is probably obvious.  It was so beautiful when I first saw her perform that I had tears in my eyes and I think I fell in love with her for a bit too.  Her name is Kseniya Simonova and is incredibly talented.  Her ability to conjure scenes and emotions with just a few quick loose movements of her hands is fascinating to watch.  She is so decisive and confident in her movements.  Not even a touch of nervousness.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

#6 Oberon Onmurras "Coriolis"

Some of my favorite non representational artworks in Second Life are created by Oberon Onmurra.  I see his work under the light of a few different movements in art.  Not fully under one, but with elements of different schools of thought.  I filmed the video above as though it were a work of Seprematism.  The idea behind Seprematism was that everything we see in the physical world is meaningless, with significance only coming with feeling.  The Suprematists often worked only with very basic geometric shapes like cubes and cylinders, because they felt that by picking the form of the square, they had chosen a shape not found in nature nor the traditional painting of that time.  The square symbolized something greater than our world of appearances.  They would, in some cases, work white over white as seen in these paintings done by Kazimir Malevich in 1927 or so.  The idea being that they were purified form and colour.  You can also see echoes of             De Stijl and Elementarism in Oberons creations as well.  If you look at Oberons work in the video, you will see that it is almost exclusively made up of cubes.  The most basic of shapes in Second Life.  Each of these cubes is given life by the use of scripting.  The scripting is their animator, their soul, it is what allows for them to gain the feeling or emotion which is sought by Suprematism.  I have actually made the video with more and different emotion than Seprematism would have liked, but I wanted to show that the space was malleable to interpretation.  It is how I see the space.
Even the chairs are collections of basic cubes combined to create the object.  The particles streaming from the cubes that rise to the sky or from the flying creatures also are of a fairly minimal nature in the world of particles.  His work Coriolis, can be seen either  from the emotional manner by which I filmed the video, to that of a rigid impersonal landscape, with the coldness of a computer land.  The viewer imparts their emotions onto the minimal landscape.  The fact that it is minimal, I believe, allows one to project onto it with greater ease. Its not exactly a blank canvas to work on, but it has areas of space for us to fill in.
     I really enjoy Oberons approach to art creation in Second Life.  His juxtaposition of the chaotic movement and engulfment of his cubes on the viewer, to his quiet empty areas of reflection. These elements are what drew me to this work in particular.  Its simplicity of form and the way it allows for the viewer to project their feelings onto its surroundings are one of the features which stood out for me over a year of viewing various art exhibits.

#6 from 2009 - ColeMarie Soleil - Particles

 #6 from 2008 - Nonnatus Korhonnen - Needlebirds

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Grant from the Canadian Government

     I have some really wonderful news to share.  I just received this in the mail....

"On behalf of the Ontario Arts Council (OAC), I am pleased to inform you that you have been awarded a
Media Artists Emerging Program grant towards Standby in the amount of $10,000."

People tend to resist virtual art the same way they resisted calling photography and film art forms upon their arrival.  The Daguerreotype was seen as a toy, yet now we have famed photographers ranging from Ansel Adams to Annie Leibovitz.  When I talk about virtual art and identity to gallery curators I often come away with the same feeling.  That they are now in their 50's, they have spent their life studying art forms to be an expert in a variety of areas.  And that they don't want to start over with a new medium.  It's quite understandable and I am not suggesting they all think that way, just the ones I have spoken to.  I don't bring up Bryn Oh to them in an attempt to sway their views, I merely ask in order to find out their initial base reaction, so I can build up an understanding of the perspectives I am dealing with.
     So a jury of peers reviewed my application which was based on my ghost artist Bryn Oh, and my story of the Rabbicorn.  I spent a great deal of time expressing my opinion that some of the virtual art we are creating now will inevitably go down in history books.  In fact Bryn Oh is on the syllabus to three Universities that I am aware of.   I competed against "traditional" art applications and won.  This idea is quite exciting to me as it turns into a form of legitimization of the medium.  Not that the artists working here need people to tell them what we are doing is art and important.  We already know that.  But now the next time I apply for a big event the organizers will see that a large art organization has faith in me and my medium.  You see at the top there is a logo they have supplied .  Its a magic logo.  When I now talk about virtual art to a curator, rather than them say "hmm isn't virtual worlds where dragons have virtual sex with vampires?", I will now attach that logo and they will instead say "hmm please tell me more about your ideas".

My grant is made up of two areas to accomplish.  The first is to create a 30 minute movie for the Daughter of Gears, the Rabbicorn story and Standby into one piece.  This final piece will be used to send around to movie companies to see if they are interested.  The second part is to create a show in a RL gallery as Bryn Oh whereby I create a virtual environment for the guest to enter and explore.  It would also be based around the story of Standby.  I am hoping to use kinect and virtual reality headsets (which are quite tiny now) as part of this exhibit.  So if there are any kinect programmers in the Toronto area please contact me as I will need to find a way to have them compatible.  I have seen them work together in videos but programming is not my thing.  Anyway, I am excited and just wanted to share the news on my blog.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Sabrinaa Nightfire

It is with sadness that I am letting some of the art community know that Sabrinaa Nightfire passed away last night after a long battle with cancer.  She was a stalwart member of the art community both as an artist and an organizer of events on her sim Erato of Caerleon.  There will be a memorial on her island of Erato with details to be announced later.  Her family was at her side and our hearts go out to them at this time of sorrow.  It is part of her families request that her service be conducted in both RL and SL simultaneously and hopefully that can be achieved.  If that is possible it would be a wonderful show of support to her family to see how many people were touched by Sabrinaa.  I will post more info here on the memorial and service as they are worked out.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

#7 Marcus Inkpen

   Last year Aino Baar secured a place at the World Expo in China to showcase machinima.  In the end it was determined that over 2 million people passed through the Madrid pavilion where five four foot HD screens were showing film from some of the best SL machinimatographers, as well as people from other virtual worlds or formats.
     I was given five regions to create content or sets from which machinimatographers (if that is even a word) could film narratives.  This island in the machinima was built by Marcus Inkpen over a few months on one of those regions. His work ethic was phenomenal.  No complaining or flakiness, just a solid reliable builder determined to showcase his talents.  What he built was a perfect "set" for people to create a story on, but also an environment that engaged SL residents.  You couldn't help but arrive at the sim and imagine some kind of scenario that was happening.  The machinima above was how I interpreted it, but there really were so many options for people.  By coincidence, the main character I used for this machinima was one of the avatars built by Colin Fizgig who I had at #10.  Sweet serendipity. 
     This machinima is dark on my computer so some of the texture details are lost, but what I truly loved about the creation was Marcus's attention to texturing.  He painstakingly created numerous textures for this build with each one being quite beautiful.  The way he designed the sim was in such a way that regardless where you found yourself, whether it be in the house, the shanty town towers, bridge, water, tree or so on, you were given an environment to appreciate and one which you wish to spend time in.  One of the challenges for an artist in Second Life is to keep the viewer in your creation for as long as possible.  When looking at this medium, understanding that engagement is a huge part of the art experience, it is essential to allow the viewer to have layers that keep them coming back.  You need to create a reason for the viewer to become immersed within your work.
    We create within a 3D virtual space and designing it or composing it properly for the viewer to have interest beyond 20 minuites is a very important factor here.  What Marcus Inkpen did was design a beautiful well crafted space that suited its intended purpose in creating an environment for people to dream up a narrative for the World Expo. But he also created a sim that constantly had people visiting it.  People came and spent hours there.  That is really difficult to do and is a constant struggle for artists here.  Because of Marcus's understanding of this principle and his truly beautiful and imaginative build  his became one of my favorite builds from last year.

#7 from 2010 "Fuzion" by four Yip and Mescaline Tammas

#7 from 2009 - Madpea's swamp hotel