Sunday, March 26, 2017

"Hand" final post - The Dollhouse

The Dancer
    As we come up to the final scene in the story of Hand we pass through a few rooms and obstacles.   The first is past the Dancer who I have a very exciting post about next week.  I have taken the plunge to do something RL with her and will share it soon.

     So first we come to a room with a variety of boxes, planks and other debris that the kids have placed in order to make a ramp or stair past a hole in the floor.   They did this because the emergency
escape running along the outside of the building has collapsed in one part.  The visitor gets to climb this in the light of day but as they get to the next floor of the apartment we discover it is one that has had all its windows boarded up making it quite dark inside (if you used Firestorm then you will see just this level go very dark as I have set the windlight by altitude)  while in the dark you come across a dancer in a room with another Spiderbot peeking in projecting an advert for the Shelterball. Another set of boxes and ramps to climb in the dark and you have reached the top floor where Flutter and the others live.

     When you first enter their home you might notice a variety of things
sitting around which seem out of place.   For example a TV set and vacuum cleaner which don't work without power, nor do the kids really even understand what their function is.  But why would they collect them?  The children, along with the occasional steering help from Milkdrop, try to piece together what the old world was like.  The comb the cites and libraries and have focused on old children's books called Fun with Dick and Jane.  The would cut out and staple different pages that seemed to elaborate on what life was like or more specifically what a family was.  The Dick and Jane's that they have cut out all have a connection to how they are feeling or what they
are trying to understand or missing.  Flutter uses the mannequin hand as a surrogate mother.  And the children also collect various things from the pages they see.  But their biggest treasure is a dollhouse.  They have, over time, collected all the parts to fill the doll house from the ravaged city.  Tiny beds and chairs, children dolls and on the couch lay a father doll.  They had everything except one missing piece.  The mother doll.  And that is what Flutter carried home in her suitcase throughout
the story.  During her days search she came across a 1959 Barbie doll and excitedly she brings her home to the other kids.  How the children learn about families and the past is by playing it as a sort of game.  They play at being a family and on different days they each get to pick one character from the family to be.  They role play the stereotypes they have learned and, Milkdrop hopes, they will eventually create a new society whose goals and morals the Singularity AI can shape.  Milkdrop is starting the world again with these children and others.

     The children also collect references to the sleepers.  Mainly stories about sleeping beauty or things going away.  Flutter craves a family as do the others, but they also are building a family with the subtle guidance of Milkdrop.  In the final portion below Flutter unveils the Barbie doll to the other children.  The 1959 doll, the first Barbie I believe, inexplicably has her in a bathing suit.  Teddy, from the previous story Gretchen and Teddy, can be seen being held in Gretchen's arms and is a PowerPet that existed during the period

before the long sleep of society.  He is old and broken but remembers how it used to be.   He mentions that the Barbie looks cold and instantly draws the ire of Birdy, a boy who.. well... always pretends to fly like a bird hence his name.  The Barbie has already become a idol of sorts, mere moments after emerging from Flutters suitcase.

Below is the final part to the story "Hand".

Ironically it was my tenth rez day yesterday in the virtual space, and Hand is the latest chapter in the overall narrative that began almost ten years ago with the Rabbicorn.  I hope you enjoyed the story.

Dick and Jane
 Flutter gently, almost reverently, took the Barbie doll out of its packaging.  She held it out for the other kids to see as though presenting a religious relic found amongst the bones of a lost civilization.
Gretchen whispered to Teddy  "It's a mother."  The PowerPet was old and damaged, there was a distinctive whir as it looked down upon the doll.  "She looks cold" he said in its warm teddy bear voice. 
"You are just jealous Teddy!"  exclaimed Birdy  "All mothers dressed like this!""No they
The dollhouse
replied Teddy who had existed before the big sleep.  "Did too!"  Countered Birdy using the ageless children's retort.  "Well Jane doesn't"  stated Billy Boots looking across at the Fun with Dick and Jane pages mounted on the wall.   

"Not Sleeping Beauty either."  They all turned to look at Willow, their unofficial leader.  She had been looking quietly and steadily at the dollhouse.  The Father on the couch, the children upstairs.
     "It doesn't matter," she said finally.  "The Dick and Janes don't tell us everything."  After a moment she continued "Whose turn is it?" 
Flutter stood up excitedly "It's my turn today.. and I pick the Mother" 
"Of course you do," said Birdy.  "I am next and I pick the Daddy."  Everyone groaned.  Birdy
was not a very good player and all preferred him to be one of the children instead. 
"Gretchen why don't you be the daughter and Billy Boots you be the son.  I will be the fact checker."  Said Willow.  Birdy stepped towards the doll house  "As the Daddy I tell the TV to make dinner." 
"TV's can't make dinners!" shouted Billy Boots "Mothers do that!""And sometimes Fathers" added Gretchen.  "Well then what about TV dinners!?"  Said Birdy victoriously.  They all turned to look at Willow the
Sleeping Beauty
checker for a ruling.  "TVs told stories to the family, sometimes during dinner, but they didn't cook."  she said decisively.  Willow turned to Flutter.

"Your turn" and everyone watched expectantly.

Flutter looked down upon the mannequin hand, then gently placed it within the suitcase.  She took the Mother doll to the front door of the dollhouse and then said in a whisper.

"Honey, I am home."



Wednesday, March 22, 2017

"Hand" post nine - Juniper

"Juniper! Juniper!"  Flutter whispered excitedly to the figure on the bed who was draped under some blankets.  "I have the final piece to the house with me!"  Flutter watched the head and shoulders under the blanket turn to her voice like some unresolved clay. 
"It is not safe out there Flutter, come under with me."  Flutter climbed under the blanket with Juniper and held her close as the opened the suitcase to show her.  "So beautiful" said Juniper. "What do you think will happen?" 
     Flutter thought for a moment then replied excitedly while bouncing "I am not sure but I go first tonight!"  The blanket rose a bit above the bed as she bounced and Flutter felt a burst of cold air invade the warm blanket world.   "Oh lucky" said Juniper with just a hint of envy.  "What do Dick and Jane say will happen?"
  "They don't so we will have to make it up."  Flutter put the prize back into her suitcase and gave Juniper a hug, before sliding out from the half light of Junipers blanket world.

 The visitor has a few precarious places to navigate before getting to this part of the story.  The first
part involves some old wooden planks assembled to the outside of the apartment building with a ladder to the next floor.   We can see Flutter walking this portion pretending the hand mother gives her help in navigating the rickety planks.  Flutter has naturally done this part hundreds of times and needs no help
crossing to the Slinks building
being the agile girl she is, but what we need and what we want are two different things sometimes. A bit later we cross some long planks spanning a chasm to an old Slinks building, and then we return to another broken window in the apartment building.
     So I am an evil person.  It is true.  These parts are unforgiving and should the visitor fall they must start again unless they have come with a friend who can teleport them back up.  One of my philosophies when creating an immersive environment is that the visitor must feel a sense of engagement to the extent that they fear for the themselves to some degree.  In other stories people could actually "die" in my artwork and would be sent out of the story.  While this one isn't that ruthless, it can be stressful to walk the wooden planks knowing that a fall would still be
A PowerPet and its owner
somewhat horrible in its own way.  A few people told me they were sweating as they slowly walked these areas and to me that is exactly the kind of engagement and investment I would like in the story.  I really feel that working hard to get something, in this case the story itself, leaves a much stronger impression than being handed something.
   Along the way we find a few more sleepers.  One has long since run out of food in his canister and now sleeps in bones.  On a comfy rug on the floor beside them lays
The Obese man
a dependent Powerpet whose food ended along with their owners and they too lay waiting as bones and computer parts.   In another room is the Obese man.  For an artist it is fairly easy to take a beautiful subject and make a lovely artwork that pleases people.  What some artists crave is to test themselves with an ugly image and attempt to make it beautiful in its own way.  I think perhaps one of the most famous of these attempts was a reaction by Mary Cassatt to a comment by Degas where he said "What do women know about style?"  they were great friends and he was a rather caustic personality.  Mary took an unconventional
Mary Cassatt
subject and through her skill as a painter made it beautiful.  Degas later bought it.  I was thinking of this because yesterday someone sent me a comment on a flickr picture taken of the Obese man which said "Les trucs de Bryn me mettent toujours dans un sacré malaise. je trouve ça limite malsain.... my opinion!"The translation from French to English being something like "Bryn's stuff always puts me in a state of discomfort. I find it unhealthy limit .... my opinion"  I realize this comment was meant to be a negative attack, but I couldn't help but be pleased.  I don't think an artists job is to try to make people comfortable.  The story behind Hand is not meant to be comfortable but to have social commentary on a range of topics.

We move along and see a candle with an ant trapped in amber.  Clicking this brings us to the story of Elliot Amber.  I am going to talk about Junipers comment
"What do Dick and Jane say will happen?" and Flutters reply "They don't so we will have to make it up." at a later post.  It is an exchange that
Elliot Amber
makes more sense at the end of the story and, as with most of my work, requires the reader to revisit earlier pages to see connections.

     Juniper is a character seen in previous works such as Imogen and the Pigeons and the Singularity of Kumiko.  Each character that I create is a representation of a part of me.  They are not all of me, but a sliver, or a piece.  Juniper has a poem which defines her which you can see in the machinima below.  She hides from the world as people do in many forms around the world, but also, as is my focus, in the virtual space.  This is not meant to be critical of those who hide, the beautifully broken.   I have never been one to blindly swallow the comments of those who suggest the virtual space creates this.  The simplistic mind uses a broad brush to define others.  Juniper may be seen as being broken, but to me she possesses heightened empathy and an a sensitivity lacking in others.  She doesn't want to Twerk nor does she need to be seen by everyone.  She sees and craves the root or heart of a maelstrom which spins and obstructs, she sees past the world and its distractions to the one simple thing she desires most.  To hold hands under the blanket with someone she loves.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

"Hand" - post eight - Advert Spider

(part five) Advert Spider
Flutter and the Spiderbot

     Flutter opened the door to a room finding an Advert Spider clinging to the outside of the apartment building.  When it saw her it began projecting an advertisement upon the designated wall inside the room.  "Oh hello spider" said Flutter in a familiar sort of way.  "Greetings Ms Flutter, may I say, with all due respect, that you are looking a bit tired today?"
     "I think, perhaps, you need a bit more "You" time Ms Flutter.  Are your children brimming with curiosity and asking endless questions?  You could always enroll them in Retelevise, a 16 week program which will imprint your child onto a device or media such television, social media or general media.  This will return the "You" time to your day so you may relax in a VR and drink a coffee.  And are those wrinkles around...."  Here Flutter interrupted the advert spider.  It was important not to let them get on too much of a roll.  You could make friends with them, in a limited sort of way, but today she was too excited and wanted to get home.  "Thank you spider, but you know very well that I have no children.  I don't really even know what you are talking about"  The Advert Spider, long bereft of adults to advertise to, still attempted to fulfill its programming.  "My apologies Flutter, have a wonderful day and I will speak to you soon when I have even more exciting opportunities for you!" 
"By the way Ms Flutter," Spiderbot continued "do you have spider points?! you can redeem them for...."  But Flutter had already left the room.

A Spiderbot projecting for Flutter
      A theme that regularly runs through my work over the last ten years or so has been the aware
machine.  A man made machine that recognizes and interacts with the humans around it.  Some are more advanced than others such as the Rabbicorn and Mr Zippers who could love or the Daughter of Gears who was the human mind of a young girl inside a machine.  Others like the Veralynnbot fulfill their programming yet still possess
an attachment to humanity.  The Spiderbots in this part of the story are Government sanctioned advertising robots that are permitted to walk apartment buildings and project advertising onto designated walls.  As it says on a plaque attached to their back "It is a serious offense to obstruct or disable the HomeAdvertiser".  At this stage in their society advertising bombarded the population in most forms similar to how we are, yet they found that too many were not reading the passive advertising so it was permitted to allow a more "engaging" variety... the Spiderbot.
     Flutter knows and spends time with all the Spiderbots as well Veralynnbot and others.  Had she not been in a hurry to get home she might have chatted with the bot for a while in a limited way.  The Spiderbot can have a conversation but it must try to advertise within a certain amount of time.  It may even try to interact with the Veralynnbot or the sleepers in their pods.    The Spiderbots have been roaming the city since its collapse trying to promote the paid advertising of its obsolete society. 
     In this work, as with others of the past, advertising can be found in various spots of the story.  I
use advertising as a means to help define and elaborate on the society within my stories rather than spend time in the actual narrative describing it.  It helps fill in parts to the greater whole without having to unnaturally fit too much of that type of description into the text of the narrative.  The visitor to my story can shape a view of the society on their own.  An important thing for me when creating an artwork is to not simply force the viewer into a passive state where I tell them a story and they simply listen such as in most other mediums.  The viewer uses their own creativity and explores in any way they like as an active participant.  They interact with the work rather than are told what to think and the culture and society they come from often helps shape their interpretation.  Hand has had about 15,000 visitors so far, and all from different parts of the world.  What I have discovered with this story and many others is that someone from Japan, for example, sees different things in the narrative than someone from Germany, the middle east, Africa or a tiny hamlet in Sweden.  It is a shared experience which, in some cases, has the person beside you interpreting it in a very different way than you are.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

"Hand" - part seven - Milkdrop

      Leaving through a creaking fire escape door the visitor climbs the metal stairwell up to the next floor.  In one room lay another sleeper.  A naked man with a faint smile on his face, due to something pleasant no doubt occurring in his virtual life.   Often the rooms the sleepers are found in are completely barren of all expected furnishings.  There are few with book shelves, stoves, fridges, entertainment screens or even
furniture for hosting a guest.  The rooms are now functional spaces to hold the pods.  Apartment buildings already are an inefficient use of space when compared to the pod apartments.   Across the hallway into another room we find part four of the story.

Flutter walked into a room to discover a pale boy sitting upon a giant white moth.  A little rabbit hopped about pestering them both.  "Oh mother this is Milkdrop, he is the Singularity
Milkdrop and Flutter
  She paused a moment as though arranging her thoughts.  "He is more like a person than the Advert Spiders and Drones, but he is not like the other kids.  He is very nice though, he makes games for us like Turing Weekend or Turing pups and kittens.  We have to pick which things are real or pretend."  Flutter smiled to Milkdrop "Milkdrop this is my mother."  
     The Singularity AI looked upon Flutter and replied earnestly.  "That is a plastic mannequins hand taken from the Christmas display window at Robins clothiers,"  He paused for a moment.   "However, it is a pleasure to meet you Hand."
"Mother come pet the moth, it is so soft and powdery."   Flutter caressed the moth gently with the
Milkdrop from Singularity of Kumiko
hand.  The moth barely reacted having been petted countless times before.  Flutter stood up.   

"Well goodbye Milkdrop we must get back, I have finally found the lost piece to the home, and I get first pick tonight!" 

"Goodbye Flutter, goodbye Hand" replied Milkdrop.

     You may have recognized Milkdrop from the Singularity of Kumiko or The Gathering artworks.  In the Singularity of Kumiko he appeared later in the story when the doctors feared the introduction of Mr Zippers, her childhood PowerPet, to her induced coma didn't go as planned.  He was a mysterious character who we now discover is the physical representation of the Singularity AI
Milkdrop from The Gathering
which controls everything.  Essentially Humanity entrusted its future to a mind that grows exponentially.  The advancements and inventions arrived rapidly but while Milkdrop began is life programmed to be close to human in its goals and morals, exponentially it changed its perceptions on what was best for the world.   Milkdrop determined that it might be prudent to start over again where humans were not destructive parasites on a planet, but something more benign with less materialistic and violent goals.       Humans created a concept called an economy which dictated decisions that were detrimental to their habitat, yet they ignored the planet and its natural sustainability to house life.  Strangely backwards.  The planet, being indifferent to that which grew upon it, had developed a fine balance, over time, that had allowed for life to exist on its surface.  Milkdrop truly appreciated this remarkable and unlikely balance that allowed for humanity to exist, and determined that humanity should follow first the biological laws of the planet before the man made laws whose importance was vastly over rated by humanity.  This, Milkdrop felt, required a reboot.  A reboot that required a gentle euthanasia of the affected population.  Flutter and the other children were the Adam and Eves or perhaps the Dick and Janes of the new world.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

"Hand" part six - Pod Girl

time lapse with embrace
      The visitor follows Flutter across the broken antennae and jumps to the roof of Robins clothiers.  From there we walk across some wood beams into a broken window of the apartment building.  The rest of the story takes part in this building as you climb.  Some rooms are fairly empty.  An old bed or cupboards with cans of food.  Some furniture but in general most are quite deserted.  Flutter goes to one room where rests a pod person.

     Flutter continued her routine by stopping to visit one of the pod people.  She looked upon the girl and squeezed the plastic hand within her own comfortingly.  She could almost feel the hand continue up into a warm embrace as she looked upon the still form.  "She looks a bit like me, and I like to think that she could be my mother.. but I don't remember.  Birdy says that she is his mother but they don't look anything alike."  She said dismissively.  "She is sleeping and dreaming in her other world.  They are all like sleeping beauty,  I have kissed her before but she doesn't wake".
     "You see the jar on the side mother?  That keeps the sleepers alive,  and we eat those too." said

Flutter taking on the role of a teacher patiently explaining something to a child.  "They don't really taste like much, but just a little on your finger and you won't be hungry for a month."  The woman was naked for comfort, yet decided to sleep still wearing the latest fashionable hat.  Flutter watched her for a few minutes then continued " If the food canister runs out for a sleeper then they die not long after.  My mother still has lots in the bottom and she will come back to me before then... I know she will."
 Most of the kids have long since grown accustomed to the pod people in the various apartments.   The kids live and play around them, relegating them into a type of living furniture, but many, out of the corner of their eye or in quiet times such as now with Flutter, many will watch the sleepers with longing. 

Sunday, March 5, 2017

"Hand" part five Drones and the Dreaming class.

Part two

     Flutter picked her way through the quiet empty city.  Past the Rebirth store and VR Podworld.  Curious Drones occasionally flew down to take her picture, thinking, with their simple AI, that they were camouflaged by their kites and dead birds.  They tried to disguise themselves by tying objects they knew were sometimes seen in the sky, to their aging metal bodies.  Behind her lay a broken cell phone, and nailed to a telephone pole was a digital Jesus.  An artist's
social commentary now lost and forgotten.
    "Mother you must always look both ways when crossing the street," Said Flutter wisely.  "because..." and here she faltered at a loss as to why, seeing as she had never witnessed a moving car.  "Because.. well so that you know where you have come from and to see where you are going."  Flutter climbed the boxes and walked balanced across the downed TV antennae towards her home in the apartment building.  Beside her stood row upon row of pods for the dreaming class, as the working class often derogatorily referred to them in the early stages.  Everyone though, eventually, became a sleeper.

The visitor, when reaching the surface, will find themselves regularly bombarded by drones who will circle trying to get the best vantage point for a not so discreet picture.  The drones were used for surveillance in the city and were given a limited AI to take these pictures.  Their programming was to catalogue and monitor the population but to do it in such a way that people wouldn't really notice and become alarmed.  Their AI left alone to fill these directives considered camouflage as the best option.  In the story there are four different drones with camouflage. 
There is a kite drone which you can see in the image above with the pod apartment building.   There was the Cardinal Drone who has attached a dead bird to itself to try to pretend it
is simply a bird flying by.  The butterfly drone has found a Blue Morpho butterfly and sneaks about with it as its cover.  And finally there is the balloon drone who is attempting to appear as a balloon lost to the hand of a small child and now innocently floating about the sky.

Flutter uses the mannequin hand as a surrogate mother.  She talks to it as though talking to an adult, she works out her thoughts and ideas and imagines the hand attached to an attentive listening mother.  Flutter has come across a great deal of information about what the world

used to be like, she knows old sayings and references to many cultural things such as television, Internet and so forth.. but she has never seen many and has an abstract view what they are.  An example is her telling the mother that they must look both ways before crossing the street.  She knows the saying but doesn't really know why you would bother to do that.  There has not been a working car in her memory
so she doesn't realize that it something a mother would tell a child for their safety.  Flutter interprets
the saying as it relates to the precious thing she has searched for and now holds in her luggage case.  She looked everywhere for this prize and when combing the city she didn't want to search the same areas twice. 

     The visitor, when exploring my work in general, needs to stop and observe their environment.  Those who do will discover a series of boards and boxes leading up to a broken antennae spanning two buildings.  This leads to the next stage in the story which takes place in the main apartment building.  When crossing the antennae the viewer will see in the background "Ocean view" a Pod park or pod living space.  It doesn't actually have a view of the ocean as all the pods face inward but
that is not important as all the tenants are comfortably within their VR world unaware of the false advertising.  As I mentioned before the residents of the world now live, love and work within a virtual space.  They no longer need the expense of renting or owning a spacious house or apartment, they have food canisters that last years so they need not buy fridges, freezers, stoves nor entertainment
such as TVs.  They have simplified their lives as all good self help books would suggest you do.

     If the visitor walks up the steps to peer inside the pods they may find a few living sleepers but the majority and now filled with those who starved when their food canisters became depleted.  Their skeletal remains still in poses of relaxed comfort often with blankets and pillows.  Much how we disparage the "desk job" or "grunt" in our work environments the early adopters who worked in the virtual space were looked down upon by the working class and dubbed the "Dreaming class", but as time went by all eventually became sleepers.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

"Hand" part four - The hand that holds

The mannequin

Across the street from the Subway, Rebirth store  and PodWorld is the first scene to the story for Hand.  The street has become overgrown with weeds as the city declines yet many of the things which rely on solar power still persist.  The lights in the shop windows perpetually wake and sleep each morning and night.  The advertising billboards ceaselessly rotate searching for an interested eye.  The tethered
telephone poles march in ranks to the horizon, their purpose forgotten.

 At Robins clothiers, against the blue background of a broken display window we see the girl from the subway.  She has placed her suitcase on the ground and has stepped past the  shards of glass to stand before a mannequin.  Here begins the story.

   The young girl was known as Flit to some and Flutter to others.  Today she had discovered, on her explorations, a long sought after treasure which she now had safely packed within her suitcase to bring home.  On her way back she stopped by the mother mannequin, as she so often did.  The mannequin still stood within the broken shop window, her clothes long rotted away to the wind and

the rain.  On the ground beside the mother lay her display mannequin child, broken and forlorn.  She stood endlessly looking upon her fallen child, hand stretched out never to hold again.
     Flutter watched the mother wistfully for a while, as she always did, but this time she slowly, hesitantly, approached and then gently detached the mannequins hand to hold within her own.
     In Flutters imagination the hand was not severed at the wrist but rather continued up an arm to
A mothers hand
a warm smile and soft crinkled eyes.  

"A mother has freckles in her eyes that match her children's" Flutter murmured.  "She would put mittens on your hands when it's cold.  And if you cry out in the night, she is always there.  Always.  That is a mother."  

Flutter held the mothers hand and her precious suitcase in the other.  "Come mother it is time to go home.  Everyone will be so excited."