Monday, October 28, 2013

The Dance of Death with Peter Greenaway

     Several months ago I received a request to speak with European director Peter Greenaway on Skype.  My first reaction was alarm then mild nausea as I imagined the many, many scenarios of how I could make a fool of myself in front of someone whom I admire.  Mr Greenaway is known for a variety of movies such as The cook, the thief, his wife & her lover starring Helen Mirren, The Pillow Book with Ewan McGregor, Drowning by Numbers and dozens more.  He is also an author and painter.  I am a.. well .. anonymous cartoon character in a virtual world... nice to meet you Mr Greenaway.
      When we spoke on Skype I actually forgot we were talking for a bit as he is an orator of the traditional sense, full of narration and information quite spellbinding. I had to prod myself to at least attempt to make interesting conversation.  I don't recall what I said, which is clearly a defense mechanism instigated by my brain to protect me from embarrassment.  Thank you brain I own you one.  I probably said, during a pause, that I liked orange juice.  I just don't recall.
     Anyway, Mr Greenaway is fond of my machinima and asked me to create five for an installation work to be shown in Basel Switzerland this weekend.  If you happen to be in that area then do go by and take some photos.  The project is called Danse Macabre or the Dance of Death and it is connected to a church mural that was destroyed during WW2.  The age old concept is, that regardless of our station in life, whether that be King, Whore, Priest or Beggar we are all equal in death.  The ancient depictions of this idea often shows a skeleton gently leading various people off to their demise.  Skeletons today are rather loaded images and have become quite sinister, yet I don't particularly see them that way.   For this artwork I was asked to create five machinima depicting characters from this imagery.  They need not have been connected to one another but I chose to create a narrative linking all five characters together.  I have included my quick sketches which I sent to Peter for approval.  I modernized some of the traditional characters and chose the Painter, Doctor (computer repairman), The Herald (reporter), Child and Mother.

The real life installation takes place in a church graveyard.  As guests walk through the artwork sensors detect them and when they enter a certain radius, a projector plays a machinima onto a gravestone.  An additional challenge within the project was that the film had to fit the gravestones themselves.  So that meant filming in 9:16 rather than widescreen 16:9.  That meant physically turning my monitor on its side so that it was long and tall, then changing its orientation from landscape to horizontal.  Unfortunately YouTube won't show movies in that orientation without adding two black bars on either side or I would have uploaded it for you to see.  I may figure out a way but for now here are a few images taken from the scenes.

I am going to receive some images from the installation and opening in a few weeks or so and will do a second post talking about the artists involved and then I can include some photos of the event so that it makes more sense.  I was sent the invite and information in a PDF file which sadly prevents me from copying then pasting the information which I can then Google translate.  That Google translation would naturally be completely incorrect but closer than what I am offering which is a screen capture of the pertinent information.

My blog info tells me that I have readers from Switzerland so if you have the opportunity please go and let me know what you think of the installation.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

UCCSL meeting with IP Lawyers

     Since the TOS changes there has been a slow but steady movement within the community to evaluate what the TOS actually means and just what might the intentions of Linden Lab be.  People like Kylie Sabra have stepped forward along with others to create groups such as The United Content Creators of SL whose membership, in just a few weeks,  is at 370 and growing.   I have been watching the blogger community and it is kind of interesting to see who puts out fluff daily while completely avoiding the topic, to those who give an opinion one way or the other.  So if you are not sure what groups or people will stand up for you as an artist or creator then all I can say is there are a few groups, some behind the scenes, but perhaps for now join the The United Content Creators of SL.
     Below is a long but informative video hosted by the UCCSL  which recorded yesterdays in-world meeting with three IP lawyers discussing what the TOS language means.  I would start at 7 min in, then play it in the background as you do something else like build a pillow fort.  I found it quite informative, especially when discussing other TOS wording by companies such as yahoo, Facebook and so on.  Why they used certain words and what text is most disturbing.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Imogen and the pigeons - closing

     Imogen and the pigeons has been a great success with just under 50k visitors and surprisingly it is still getting quite a few people daily.  However I have a terrible building itch and a new idea that I have been waiting to try out for ages now.  The Bienal de Cerveira is complete and sadly, in order to make new things, the older things must be deleted.   I am midway through filming parts of Imogen so that I may hopefully make a machinima of the story at a later date. I expect to be done in two or three weeks and will, at that time, delete Imogen and her story.  So if you have not seen it or wish to bring a friend then you have a few weeks left to do so.

     I have really enjoyed speaking to a variety of people with very astute perceptions on different ways the virtual medium can be used for creating "art".  What is exciting to me is the amount of people who are looking at the medium with the intention of imagining where it can go to and what makes it unique as an art form, rather than trying to mimic what we recognize as traditional art.

The story for Imogen is intended to be slightly vague as to allow the viewer to interpret the narrative with more freedom.  I feel that it may be more engaging for the viewer if they are not told a definitive story which can make the viewer passive, but rather to live and interact within a story which requires them to activate their imagination.  My stories are always very personal to me as they are created around aspects or observations of my own life, so I do have a particular narrative behind Imogen and her poems.  Many do ask for my side of the story and if you are one who likes to know the ideas and concepts behind a work then I have listed a series of posts I did to explain the work.  If on the other hand you prefer the mystery then their is absolutely no need to click any of these links below.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Farewell LEA

A 20 region build using only the cube
     A few CEO's of Linden Lab ago I was asked to be part of a committee whose goal was to
encourage the arts in Second Life.  I was, and am, a bit of a hermit so had no real desire to be involved.  But one thing I do try to do is promote virtual art when I can, so I accepted.  The original group, for those of you who might be interested,  was AM Radio, Bryn Oh, Bettina Tizzy, Chantal Harvey, Dancoyote Antonelli, Dekka Raymaker, Jayjay Zinfanwe, L1Aura Loire, Sasun Steinbeck and Werner Kurosawa.  Bettina Tizzy resigned almost immediately when Linden Lab said they would not allow megaprims on LEA land... you remember megaprims?  AM Radio, Chantal Harvey, Dekka Raymaker, L1Aura Loire, Sasun Steinbeck and Dancoyote Antonelli all left over time for varying reasons with only JayJay, Werner and myself remaining from the original group.

   The original members were given nine regions to work with and pretty much Linden Lab just left us alone to set it up.  We began planning out what to do and learned how to create an arts council.  None of us were experts and so had to learn how to create an efficient and fair committee.  People like Rowan Derryth, DanCoyote Antonelli and PatriciaAnne Daviau were key organizational people in those areas.  Others like Sasun Steinbeck and later Solo Mornington were instrumental in creating all the web infrastructure etc.  Later we approached Linden Lab and its shareholders and they agreed to give us 20 more regions which we then gave to artists to create content.

     Over time we brought in different advisors who came and left.  Dizzy Banjo, Zachh Cale, Chantal Harvey and Rowan Derryth.   The current LEA is comprised of JayJay Zinfanwe, Werner Kurosawa, Oberon Onmurra, Chic Aeon, Honour McMillan, PatriciaAnne Daviau, Lapiscean Liberty, Quan Lavender and Solo Mornington.  A nice mix of artists, academics, bloggers/media, planners and tech people.

    After the new TOS came out I had to decide if I still felt comfortable being associated with the LEA, not the members but rather the concept.  One thing I do in both first life and Second Life is try to convince artists that they and their art are worth something.  You see, artists are quite often taken advantage of.  People will pay a plumber to fix a sink or a roofer to fix a roof because it is a skill they do not possess themselves, and they accept and recognize that.  However, most people also can not paint pictures as an example, yet they will suggest that it would be great "exposure" to put things in their Law Office or Hotel.  When I was just out of art school I was convinced to do 25 pen and ink drawings for an expensive coffee table book.. for "exposure".  They thanked me in the back of the book.  And somehow I felt like they did me a favour.  They probably paid everyone else but me.

     Along the way the confidence of some artists can be beaten down to the level where they don't really believe what they do has value.   Many people believe that artists shouldn't take money or they will lose their "purity".  It's silly.  I mean really, a painter may create a family portrait that goes on a persons wall giving them and their family joy.  That painting can be passed down through generation after generation for around 400 years if taken care of properly and the original was done with quality paints and support structure.  So they really can't provide an artist with a bit of money similar to other skilled trades so they can continue doing this?  Grand Theft Auto just came out and made $800 million in a single day.  The vast majority of the employees for that game company are artists, and they didn't do it for exposure.  Hollywood's biggest movie this year has been Iron Man 3 at around $400 million for its entire showing.  That also has quite a few artists involved.  They also didn't do it for exposure.  Without the creatives neither of these would exist.  Linden Lab doesn't build the world the residents enjoy.  The give us the ground we stand upon and then try to make it work properly with varying degrees of success.  Their virtual world is built by its users and without content creators there is no second life.  They have an easily measurable value to the product.  Content creators in general appreciate what Linden Lab have created for us, and they don't demand much.  The population appreciates them.

     I have seen many times over my years in SL a media outlet writing a derogatory and poorly researched article on Second Life.  I have seen residents, who a moment before were complaining bitterly about Linden Lab, suddenly stand up loyally en mass to chastise the media outlet with thousands of comments in defense of their virtual world.   Much of the community, though rarely admitted, feel or felt that SL is a unique little niche in technology that they are a part of, and they feel a kinship of sorts with Linden Lab for creating it.  It is quite remarkable that SL has lasted ten years when most virtual worlds die out quite rapidly.   The reason is not the graphics nor exciting game play but rather the community itself.  Linden Lab have, over time, been determined to distance themselves from the community by removing support for community events and such.   They decided at some point that is it better for us to have a self sufficient community and to just be the provider of a platform.  The new TOS is strictly a business decision made by a company whose employees generally have far less experience with the virtual world than the average citizen of that world.  The proof is in the Firestorm viewer made by residents vs the Official viewer made by Linden Lab.

 The Path
 The Path is an Exquisite Corpse narrative created by virtual world artists. They were by order of scene.. Bryn Oh, Colin Fizgig, Marcus Inkpen, Desdemona Enfield, Douglas Story, Maya Paris, Claudia222 Jewell, Scottius Polke and Rose Borchovski.

The artists were given a random order and upon composing a short narrative would then pass it on to the following artist in the sequence who would then add to it and continue passing it on until reaching the final artist.

     In the LEA there are a few who feel Linden Lab are justified in owning everything.  They argue that we can complain all we want but Linden Lab wont care.  That might be true.  Others say we shouldn't fight Linden Lab because our work only exists due to their platform, if they closed it then we would be hurting ourselves...  so essentially lets not rock the boat.  Some are completely quiet on the topic.  Others like Chic Aeon are quite annoyed over the new TOS and Honour, Patricia and Solo seem critical of LL.  Though I never got along with Dancoyote Antonelli I must admit he would be fighting LL vigorously if he were still part of the LEA.  Anyway, long story short I have decided to resign from the Linden Endowment for the Arts due to the current TOS.  If they rolled it back I would return perhaps, if the door were still open, and would work to promote and encourage the arts in virtual worlds, but I don't expect they will.

     As it stands now I don't feel comfortable luring artists into creating content for Linden Labs who can pretty much do whatever they want with it.  I will take the risk with my own content but I wont encourage others to do so.  For example, if you developed a revolutionary method for treating people with Schizophrenia by using specific techniques combining art, original music and the virtual space then built or demonstrated it in SL, it would no longer be yours exclusively.  Linden Lab could scoop it up and put their money behind it, while you struggled to promote it from your basement.  The TOS is at the bottom for you to view.  It is just another indignity artists and thinkers must suffer and I don't want to be a part of it.  People say "Oh but Facebooks TOS is just as bad" as though that is a reason for us all to just roll over and expose our bellies.   I don't honestly believe Linden Lab would do these terrible, immoral things yet they have not explained anything to the community.  They have not said "Oh hey I can see how it looks alarming but really we just need that wording to help us market the product easier etc ect.. and we needed to add "sell" and "re-sell" to the wording for this reason.."  Do you want to sell our content through Desura your new digital distribution acquisition as some have speculated?  If so then explain and share and you might have a willing partner.  But right now there is a lot of speculation, distrust and no clarification.

     Banks pretend to love us individually when we all know that we are just account numbers.  Linden Lab is currently straddling that awareness with one side of the precipice a big smile not seen in the eyes and the other the chance to show they appreciate the concerns of the community.. that they are the Linden Lab some of us still remember.  If they adjust the TOS then simply put, they still appreciate us and have listened.  If they don't then its business as usual and fuck the community and their wants.  They saw that Facebook users raised a cry of outrage over that TOS yet they desired the service more than they were willing to make a stand by leaving.  Lets watch.  If in a few weeks they still have not addressed the concerns from the community then perhaps its time we preserve our avatar names in other virtual worlds as well.  Cloud Party has sent me some really nice emails lately and they are advancing rapidly with unique features.  I have a Bryn Oh there now.  Inworldz is a user focused version of SL.  I have a Bryn Oh there now too.  Perhaps spend an hour in a different virtual world each week.  Check out Kitely and Opensim in general, make an account so nobody else gets your SL name which everyone knows you by.  Hopefully it is all just a big misunderstanding and we can be reassured that our ideas and content are safely our own even if they need to claim partial ownership for legitimate yet not obvious reasons.
   Here are some of the events that I curated for the LEA over the years I was there.  I wish good luck to the remaining members and may they lead the art community to bigger and better things.

The Avatar Games 
With thanks to Crap Mariner, Honour McMillan
Galea and Sasun Steinbeck for their help

 The Cube Project (Bryn's portion)

Bryn Oh, Cajska Carlsson, Charlotte Bartlett, Dancoyote Antonelli, Giovanna Cerise,  Haveit Neox, Kicca Igaly, L1Aura Loire, London Junkers,  Maya Paris, Misprint Thursday, Nessuno Myoo, Oberon Onmura, PatriciaAnne Daviau, Pixels Sideways, Pol Jarvinen, Rag Randt, Rowan Derryth, Sea Mizin, Secret Rage, Solkide Auer, Remington Aries, Solo Mornington,  Tony Resident, Werner Kurosawa and Xineohp Guisse.

Further Along the Path (Bryn's portion)

 The Path is an Exquisite Corpse narrative created by virtual world artists. They were by order of scene..
Glyph Graves, paramparamm Papp, Alpha Auer, Bryn Oh, Oberon Onmura, 
Eupalinos Ugajin, Ux Hax, romy Nayar and Ub Yifu.

The artists were given a random order and upon composing a short narrative would then pass it on to the following artist in the sequence who would then add to it and continue passing it on until reaching the final artist.

Except as otherwise described in any Additional Terms (such as a contest’s official rules) which will govern the submission of your User Content, you hereby grant to Linden Lab, and you agree to grant to Linden Lab, the non-exclusive, unrestricted, unconditional, unlimited, worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual, and cost-free right and license to use, copy, record, distribute, reproduce, disclose, sell, re-sell, sublicense (through multiple levels), modify, display, publicly perform, transmit, publish, broadcast, translate, make derivative works of, and otherwise exploit in any manner whatsoever, all or any portion of your User Content (and derivative works thereof), for any purpose whatsoever in all formats, on or through any media, software, formula, or medium now known or hereafter developed, and with any technology or devices now known or hereafter developed, and to advertise, market, and promote the same. You agree that the license includes the right to copy, analyze and use any of your Content as Linden Lab may deem necessary or desirable for purposes of debugging, testing, or providing support or development services in connection with the Service and future improvements to the Service. The license granted in this Section 2.3 is referred to as the “Service Content License.

[21:29] Bære (semaj.ivanovic): LL TOS would have been much shorter if it just said MINE! MINE! MINE! ALL MINE!

BTW a new group was recently created called United Content Creators of SL which you are welcome to join if this cause interests you.