Friday, April 27, 2012

Family Unit machinima

     Family Unit was a work created for the MiC (Museo in Commune) a region in SL as well as a RL museum located in Rome, Italy.   I created an environment there for Mexi Lane a well respected curator.  It no longer exists.. I just have taken a long time to make the machinima.
     The build is a mildly introspective piece that deals with my own family dynamic.  I take parts of my family and twist it around with the final portion being a visit to my Grandparents.  Visiting them is quite difficult for the guest as they reside outside the living.
     Some of the ideas I was experimenting with for this build, was an attempt to shape the viewers emotions as they move through the environment.  If Tchaikovsky can compose a musical work that brings emotions to highs and lows using only sound over the course of his composition, then it seems to me that a virtual space is ripe for leading the emotions in a similar manner from beginning to end.  The use of light, ambient sound, colour, texture, subject and so on will all effect ones emotions as they move through your work.   But seeing as a virtual space is open ended, meaning the viewer goes in whatever direction they wish, then that also means the emotional composition fluctuates unlike a set musical score.
     With this in mind I wanted to create an environment of neutral grey to begin.  One reason I often use grey is because it is very malleable as a colour.  It is made up of all colours and when a pure colour like red, blue or yellow is placed within or close to it, they not only gain power as a focal point but also influence the greys close by them to change their characteristics.  A grey can become warm or cool depending on how you decide to influence it.  Warm or cool being an emotional response.
     The guest enters Family Unit and follows a narrow path into a grassy plain.  There are details to observe and the scale is quite varied.  Some things are normal sized while others are larger or smaller.  This creates a sense of disquiet in the viewer if done in a relatively subtle way.  The viewer moves down the first part of the path in a leisurely fashion and then turns a corner to see a stretch of land leading up to a house.  I won't go into detail for all of the parts but the guest meets the sister, brother, father and mother.  After climbing a set of stairs they come to an Urn for the ashes of my grandparents. 
     The build ends here for some, but for the few who click the urn it will continue as they are unceremoniously pulled into a challenge to reach Heaven.  The journey to reach my Heaven consists of a mad dash up a hollow perforated cylinder.  To make matters worse you must avoid "Gods Balls" which will squish you should you be touched by one.  Spaced infrequently along the edge of the inner cylinder are what I call "mouse holes" or little cracks that the avatar can squeeze into to avoid being killed by the giant balls. 
     One of the features I like to use in my environments, which is kind of rare, is the ability to set damage on.  This allows for the avatar to actually die from a variety of things.  The idea is to create a sense of anxiety for the viewer as they explore some of my works such as Annas Many Murders and the like.  When people know they are not invincible how does it affect them?  Many tell me they suddenly become wary of falling or they tend to let others take risks etc.  It is kind of interesting because it means an immersive environment can become more immersive if you add an element of danger.  So in my quest to try to find different ways to create an engrossing immersion for the viewer, this seems to be another tool which can be effective.  The persistent guest in my Heaven will eventually reach my Grandparents who are seated comfortably having a cup of tea. Their overly heavy halo placed on a stand for the time being, as I know my Grandmother would refuse to wear it seeing as she was more a fan of subtle jewellery.  "Oh that's far too much" she would likely say to my Grandfather who would remain quiet as he always did.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Two talks

     I have received possibly two interesting discussions involving virtual art.  I say "possibly two" because the second that I will post was done at MediaLab Prada in Spanish and unfortunately I have no idea what is being said.  The assembled group do talk about SL artists though and it is nice exposure for virtual art.   My stats page for this blog tells me that in the last week people from Spain come to read my blog in the 7th country spot just after Japan.  So there you go, some people will be able to understand the talk and if you do please sum it up for me!  It is kind of compelling to read blog stats though.  You can spend an hour just reading through page after page of things that are not really important but kind of interesting none the less.   Like how long does someone stay on your blog, what country are they from stuff like that.  If you want one for your site a free one is called Statcounter.

This first video is described as "The idea the book is centered on is how “the meteoric evolution of different digital tools and their popularity have revolutionized digital creation. By using any of the three techniques and individual mediums described, or by using a combination of them, we can talk of a new artistic and filmic manifestation that involves virtual sceneries, where the audience can be immersed in new visual, sensorial and narrative experiences: ‘Cinemapop’.”
Theoretical classification and curator: Cristina García-Lasuén"

The other is two recording done at the recent Visual Effects Society event entitled "Immersive Experiences: The Future of Entertainment".  I can not embed the video so you will have to follow this link should you wish to listen to their perspectives.

Part two is here.. and you will even see this blog for a second at the start of it.  This portion of the event was done by Dr. Jacquelyn Ford Morie – Senior Scientist at the USC’s Institute for Creative Technologies and presents the latest developments in the creation of art within virtual worlds.  A very accomplished and interesting lady.  Sadly some of her dialogue was drowned out by the sounds within Standby when she came in world to show the audience the virtual environment during her talk.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Contra article - The Curious World Of Bryn Oh

Mellissa Fox from Contra recently wrote a piece about Bryn Oh.  You can read it here...

     I am always interested in what I guess you might call "outside" interpretations of artists in virtual worlds.  Outside referring to articles originating from sites that traditionally follow other circles such as RL fashion or trends etc.  A cursory look at the Contra website will show it to be one focused not so much on the virtual.   It interests me because sometimes there will be open interpretations or a curious wonder in virtual worlds or art, but from a fresh perspective.     At some point the writer discovered Bryn and became interested enough to write an article, and in this case it was not by first discovering Second Life and then being led to Bryn but somewhat the reverse.  The readership is quite large and very likely are only vaguely aware of SL.
     After reading the article I was interested to noticed that Bryn's artwork was attributed to a "he".   That is fascinating to me because the determination was derived just by observation of the artwork.  Bryn is anonymous and the writer has not been influenced by seeing the avatar, so the feeling that the artist was male is based solely upon the artwork and the emotion or message they convey to the viewer.  This is very interesting to me because I have long seen the avatar as a vessel or filter which acts almost like a prism to light.  The first life artist creates and then that work is filtered through and avatar (which is a part of the artwork) and comes out the other side perhaps changed. 
     So in reading the article it has prompted me to think about writing down my thoughts on this blog for what I see as the layering of art for the virtual artist.  What is new with this medium beyond traditional art is that in some ways there are new layers beyond the actual artwork itself that are what I consider to be part of the artwork.  With that in mind the next few posts will pretty much be me putting down thoughts that have been floating about in my mind but not really having expressed them in text on how I see virtual art. 

Monday, April 2, 2012

BOSL - state of the arts.

      There was a new issue of Best of Second Life magazine published yesterday.   Persia Bravin interviewed me in the publication on how I see the current health of the Second Life art community along with a few other topics.  Also there are some articles with artists Betty Turead, Sasun Steinbeck and Misprint Thursday which I enjoyed as well.

     It was with a bit of sadness that I read the introduction as it referenced Persia's first contact with the arts in SL as coming from Caerleon island.  The first space I was ever given in SL was by Georg Jannick, the founder of Caerleon island artist collective and Professor at The University of Massachusetts.  There were only six of us to start and I think they were Georg, myself, four Yip, feathers boa, Sunseeker Miklos, Kueperpunk and Nonnatus Korhonnen.  Four Yip was always one of my favorite artists in SL and Nonnatus created some really brilliant AI work too.  Those founding members might be wrong but it was something like that.  Pixels Sideways, Glyph Graves, Misprint Thursday, Sowa Mai, Luce Laval, Lollito Larkham, Artistide Despres, Sabrinaa Nightfire and Adam Ramona came soon after.    Gah my memory is terrible I probably got that all wrong.   Even Saveme Oh was a member early on... her arrival was like the Trojan Horse, but with a big grumpy Troll inside rather than soldiers.  Anyway, it is a bit sad to read because Caerleon has died a slow death since education discounts were discontinued by LL.  It had grown from a single sim with six artists to four regions and thirty artists.  It was thriving yet today has one region left and it is slated to close unless Georg changes his mind.   One thing that didn't make the interview due to space limitations was this response...

With many universities abandoning land due to tier increases-how will this affect the SL arts scene when so many universities have given a ‘home’ to SL artists?

     It was a very short sighted and perplexing decision by Linden Lab to remove educational discounts.  Universities help to bring legitimacy to not only virtual art but also to Second Life as well.  The discounts were essentially paying for good publicity by having articles and thesis written about topics beyond those some lazy reporters love to write about such as sex and adultery in SL.  A first life reporter is generally given a deadline to write an article and they have no time nor interest to become embedded in a virtual world to better understand it, as a result they grasp onto the quickest, simplest story that will captivate the reader which tends to be sex related.  Universities have been embedded for ages in this medium and they recognize and write about its importance on many different levels.  Losing universities is a blow to everyone, but especially to the credibility of Second Life as a serious place to work.

  After all the first virtual world (called a MUD or multi user dungeon)  was created in 1978 on a mainframe at Essex University.  On a side note what is kind of interesting is that the MUD was written in MACRO-10 code which eventually led it to become unwieldy as it became more complex.  It was then rewritten in BCPL the forerunner of C.  From what I understand Second Life mirrors that to a degree with LSL scripting being a bit unwieldy.
    There still are active Universities with the University of Western Australia (Jayjay Zinfanwe) being one shining example or the University of Kansas who hosts one of my favorite builds ever created in SL called the Petrovsky Flux by Blotto Epsilon and Cutea Benelli.  The UWA is here now and strong but so was Caerleon at one point.  Paying tier at its current rate can't last but I don't expect LL will change their policy until they have introduced a separate money making enterprise unrelated to SL.  The problem is that you want to catch people before they leave as I would imagine it to be much more difficult to bring back Universities once they have set up elsewhere, even with steep tier cuts.