Friday, December 31, 2010

some thoughts and ramblings

 Philip Rosedale, the creator of Second Life, had come back on a temporary basis after Mark Kingdom had stepped down as CEO of the company.  He was essentially looking for a new leader while steering the damaged ship.  Linden Labs in june had laid off 30% of their workforce, viewer 2 came out and bombed somewhat and land discounts to universities and non profits were eliminated.  On the positive side mesh imports are coming along, the company stood up and punished Emerald viewer (which I loved) for essentially using our computers as a tool to punish someone they didn't like.  They used our computers, without us knowing, to attack a website.  Emerald learned that despite their massive popularity they were not untouchable and everyone can be replaced.  Hello Phoenix. And the Second Life economy is somehow still strong despite spending years in this recession as a non essential form of entertainment.  Things are tight everywhere yet the virtual economy is still strong which is interesting. 
     So just last week Rod Humble, a former Electronic Arts executive, arrived.  And for me it shed some light on a few things here and there.  Mr Humble is a really accomplished person responsible for hundreds of popular games including the biggest of all time... the Sims.  I used to play the first sims a bit and for those of you unfamiliar with it,  you pretty much build a life and try to keep yourself happy.  It was addictive.  You would get a home, then furniture, eat, sleep, date, and find ways to become popular or not.  I used to put out an aquarium on the sidewalk outside my house to catch the people walking by.  I think I had a pinball machine outs there too.  I am not going to get too much into what that game was about but it is not too far removed from Second Life.  In SL people buy houses, then furnish, they go shopping for clothes, they date, explore, and sometimes work in SL. A little while ago LL gave each premium membership account a free house. I think LL have been watching and analyzing successful models like the sims and the thought was that by giving the user a house it begins the process of furnishing it, creating a community etc much like the Sims game.  However, SL is not a game.  But is it time to bring in game elements to SL for its survival?
     It seems everything out there right now revolves around a "rewards" model.  There are air miles for credit cards, Pepsi points and so on.  In games there are experience points for fantasy characters (Prior to working at Electronic Arts, Humble served as VP of Product Development for the MMO EverQuest), most facebook games work off the reward addiction too.  Even on many discussion forums everyone is given a title of newbie and the more you post the higher your title climbs to things like adept, master etc.  We pretty much just have the title of Noob in SL.  A very old resident from say 2002 is indistinguishable from everyone else unless you perv their profile.  Would these things help?  I have no idea.
   I did a post a while back when there were the rumours of Microsoft buying Second Life.  I got all excitable about making part of SL a place for online gamers to hang out before they start playing their games.  Have SL pre installed on an Xbox.  Then when someone wants to play against other people online from their living room, rather than finding a place to play by reading text about a game on the tv, you would instead log into the virtual world, hang out with friends in a home or something and then from there you would go join a game for say Halo 2.  You could play the game and then when you are done playing you might decide to go to a club in sl with those same friends or whatever.  Right now you turn on your Xbox, you go online and shoot people then when you are satiated you turn off your Xbox.  It could be better to turn on your Xbox, then enter a virtual world with an open ended, endless social platform which would be a middle area or staging point before you then proceed to play a game with friends.  From this point the possibilities would then become endless provided prim allotment for sims was increased to 45 000 and each sim could hold double the amount of avatars that we currently can.  Why do we need more prims? well if we want people buying things for their homes they should have an endless amount of space to furnish.  I don't think about the amount of prims I use when i work.  That is not how you create.  You build until you are done your creation then you check to see how many prims you needed to get there.  My work ranges from 100 prims to 1500 prims usually, with environmental builds like Standby being 14, 988 prims.  Right now a person rents an apartment in SL and gets say a 60 prim allotment.  Its pointless for them to buy my work and that is essentially why only art collectors and sim owners own my pieces.
   I want SL to succeed naturally, and while I wouldn't want SL to be a game, I have no problem with it evolving into a product with game elements.  Bloodlines is a vampire game in SL and its pretty big, but if you are not a player then generally are you even aware it exists?  As long as the professional side of SL remains and can be kept separate then by all means double the population of SL by combining it with Xbox users or whatever.  The purists will disagree with this no doubt, but the way I see it is that on the day Second Life shuts down operation, that is the day we cease to exist.  Some might say we could migrate to Open Sim and things like that, but the reality is they suck.  They really do.  I have taken projects on other grids before and its a nightmare because they are like SL only a buggier version of 3 years ago.  If they were identical to SL then that would be another story but they are not.  If you just work in non scripted prims then they are ok.  They have 45 000 prims and have cheap land which is awsome but I am here for creating and that has to be top notch in all areas.  If I were painting and someone took away my paint brush and said "I am afraid you will now have to paint with this here basketball" then that would be difficult to accept.  "Go on dear, dip the basketball in the paint, and rub it on the canvas its almost the same as a paint brush!"  In my mind that was said with a British accent which is much funnier.

I am going to start my top ten favorite builds from last year soon.  Here is a reminder of the elevensies from last year.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Black Box Gallery


So this slurl won't seem to work for whatever reason. 

To find the gallery do a search for the avatar named Therese Carfago in Second Life.  In her picks at the top is BlackBox Gallery.  Just click that and you are there.

I have always been a bit resistant to 2D galleries in Second Life. The main reason is because I see virtual worlds as an art medium or tool which need not follow the "rules" of real life. For example, in Second Life we can fly. Why on earth do we create houses with stairs then? Stairs are something needed in RL due to gravity. We have no real gravity in sl. The reason why many of us follow the rules of real life in a virtual world is because it is how we attach meaning to the experience. For new people it might even be essential to create a sense of psychological comfort in the virtual environment in order to make the innitial experience less daunting.

It allows us to go within a comfort zone we can understand and recognize. If, for example, you meet a new avatar who has piercings, tatoos and a mohawk you take this visual stimulus and create a personality profile for them. They are the clues which help us understand who we are interacting with. It is what we do as humans in RL, and we take the same methods of interpretation into this virtual realm.
considering that about 50% of the people I know in SL are actually the opposite gender in SL to their RL, it seems this RL approach might be faulty. I know quite a few prominent "male" artists in SL who are actually female in RL. What you see in SL is often miles away from the person in RL. And that is exactly how it should be. When I first came to SL I created an avatar that looked like me in RL. It was the novelty of seeing myself as a cartoon character. It didn't take long for me to think what a complete and utter waste it was to be myself in a virtual world that allows for so much more. So I then became a great big white moth and eventually how I am seen now.

Back to the gallery. So I have always resisted traditional gallery compositions in SL because traditional galleries in RL suck donkey balls and its really not necessary to mimic that conservative way in which things are displayed. I have a much stronger dislike for showing paintings in SL because they lose so very much when exhibited in a virtual world. The rich colours, the texture and brush stroke... all gone. It would be like a musician composing a work, then channeling it though the speaker of one of those novelty musical gift cards that play when you open them. I don't mind paintings as additions to things, I mean I put my own paintings in many of my builds, but they are just background with the prim build being the main focus.
The Black box gallery is the creation of Therese Carfago and really is just her collection of art she likes in SL. Its been around a while and she has never told anyone it existed. Traffic is 0. It is one of the rare examples of a 2d based gallery in a traditional format which I like. Why? because the artwork she has chosen suits the virtual world. They are pieces created in Second Life and worked on in photoshop and gimp. They don't lose anything by being imported as a jpeg. She has also placed prim art here as well, which creates for a nice balance. We are seeing them as they are meant to be seen not as a watered down product that is far inferior to what we can find in RL. There are a few RL artworks as well but they also seem to work nicely due to the manner in which they were created in RL. For example, four Yip has one of her classic paintings there and due to her smooth brush strokes and blending it seems to translate better here. There are a few rare rl works by AM Radio as well. Anyway have a look if you wish to see a nice subtle gallery whose dark design really allows the artwork to stand out.

This below is how Therese describes her gallery.

"This is my new gallery dedicated to the artists I love the most. There is a permanent collection with works by AM Radio, Berta Liliehook, Bryn Oh, CapCat Ragu, Cestra Segall, ColeMarie Soleil, Del May, Four Yip, Glyph Graves, Haust, Kean Kelly, Keiko Morigi, Marie Lauridsen, Nevery Lorakeet, Sledge Roffo, Suzanne Graves, Thea Denja and Veronika Obviate. The main part of the gallery has rotating exhibitions, and right now you can see "Piano & Pearls" by Eva Grimes."

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Bob Barker and abandoned houses.

I think i mentioned a few months ago that I was going on vacation to work on Standby.
My brother gave me his time share which he wasn't going to use and so I decided to go to a ski resort called Blue Mountain ... without the snow. A ski resort with no snow is a very quiet place. They would have buffet breakfasts in the morning essentially for me, because I would be the only person there. It felt very decadent.
I think I may have also mentioned that I used to be involved with this Urban explorers group some years ago which involved getting into places you are not supposed to go to. Mostly abandoned spots that are interesting such as the Whitby psychiatric hospital (which is now demolished sadly) or closed subway stations you have to run down tracks to get to. All kinds of stuff. As a result I can't seem to drive past an abandoned building without trying to get inside to explore. What is even more fun is to drag my friends to these places and watch them get freaked out.
So I happened to have my video camera on me and filmed this abandoned house I found. I explored a second one too while i was there but forgot my camera that time.

One thing I would like from Linden Labs for Christmas...

Linden Labs are testing out a way for people outside SL (without Second Life being installed on their computer)to come in world to experience it. Currently they can do so with great results graphically, but can only stay for one hour and can only visit a few select sims. What I need is to be able to send out invitations via email to various people with a link they can click to come to my specific location in second life where I may have an exhibit. It would be an extremely easy way to bring people outside sl to see my work without requiring them to download and install the client, come inworld learn how to bugger about then eventually make their way to see my work. For example, suppose I were to apply for a grant for my SL artwork. Explaining SL and the virtual space is a real pain and time consuming, but if I were to be able to just supply a link or something similar, then they could easily just arrive and experience immediately. Direct to sl. It would also be nice if i could customize their viewer with sky settings and perhaps customize their avatar ahead of time as well... but perhaps I am asking too much for that.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Bunch of topics


Chantal Harvey is well known for her machinima skill as well as her ability to organize large events such as the MMIF which last year was shown in a variety of locations to great success in both SL and in Amsterdam on a movie theater screen.  Grace is a beloved songstress who was also a mastermind behind Mummersion which was a unique musical performance whereby the audience was transported through different scenes during her performance.  Link here to see that.  Salome Strangelove wrote the lyrics to the song.

Chantal filmed the machinima in Standby and I think she did a wonderful job.

I was speaking to someone the other day and we were lamenting the problem with SL being a "closed garden".  I have heard this term in the past and adopted it along with everyone else.  A closed garden, for those of you outside SL and unfamiliar with the term, suggests that due to the problem with people having to download the software to enter second life, combined with work created in SL being difficult to showcase to the "outside" world, then we tend to not get attention for all the great stuff we are achieving.
This really is a new frontier in art and damn if only we could show people what we are doing.  But then I started thinking back to 2010 as we approach 2011.  I think the garden walls are coming down slowly.

For example Chantal, as I mentioned above, had a movie theater outside sl showing work we created here.  Tons of people and lots of attention.  Last year Caerleon art collective had a show in Boston at a gallery where myself and others were able to showcase our work.  There was the World Expo in Shanghai organized by the Spanish curator Cristina García-Lasuén.  That event at the Spanish pavilion highlighted our work to literally millions of guests.  I had machinima in Nuit Blanche as well as renowned director Peter Greenaway showcased our work in Warsaw, Poland earlier this month  and it appears Big Bang may become a traveling art show.  My work was shown in a variety of RL publications and we were covered by ART 21.  Oh and there was a machinima exhibit for Queensland University of Technology (images above) where Evo Szuyuan showed her machinima of 4Jetpacks4 a build I created a few years ago with Glyph Graves and Nonnatus Korhonnen.  And yes that is me on the cover of the catalogue and postcards.  What else?  Earlier this week was the Italian conference on Digital Innovation.  These are just things off the top of my head but across SL there are many stories like this I am sure.

Now combine this with the ability for guests to come into SL without having to download the client and the walled garden may be a thing of the past in a few years. If I now have a RL show with Bryn Oh then I will need a way for people to come see it without having to download SL. Not for the people who come to the RL gallery because really opening night numbers are fairly insignificant. A good opening for an artist is generally 40-80 people coming and god forbid you have a tornado on the night of your opening as I did last year, and the year before that? a snow storm. A gallery doesn't care if your big opening night was ruined by these types of things, they wont actually even remember. It comes down to sales, you have an opening night where you hope people buy, then after opening you have a trickle of people over the course of the month you show, with hopefully a few more sales. Then once your show is down it's another year of trickle sales until your next show. In one day on this blog alone I get more people than a typical gallery opening (depending on the gallery). They are not restricted to being locals, and generally are genuinely interested in ones work unlike the Thursday night gallery hop to get drunk of free red wine (which is fun btw). Things are changing with traditional news media slowly dying and being replaced by legions of information wizards using blogs, facebook, twitters and so on. They are average people who generally focus on things they understand and are interested in.

Before the car peoples lives were spent in a tiny radius. Driving an hour on the highway to visit family was probably out of the question for a horse and carriage. 120 kilometeres is about an hour which is not going to happen for walking or riding a horse. Bicycle, car, plane, jet and now internet. It's not so much physical travel anymore but mind travel. And I think this type of mind travel will supplant most things.

Next time someone starts bemoaning the walled garden I think I might be done agreeing.

There is also some other news I just worked out today.  I met the director of the gallery which represents me, and after a long talk we might be removing me the RL painter from the gallery and adding Bryn Oh to take my place.  I have long said that eventually my goal was to have Bryn Oh be represented by a RL gallery as herself.. a digital character.  As far as I know the only virtual world artist represented by a RL gallery.  The gallery will have its traditional stock of flesh and blood artists and one cartoon with no connection to a rl person.  I just find that fascinating I don't know why.  It naturally sucks to have me in RL removed from the gallery as I need that financially, but hopefully I will find another gallery to show my work.  The thing is that Bryn Oh must remain anonymous and so that's how it has to be.

So hopefully sometime next year Bryn will have a show at the gallery and it will be a combination of my machinima, maybe projectors allowing the viewers to go through my SL builds and I will also put in my encaustic music box insects which you can see here...

So I can't really commit to Bryn Oh more than that :)  It's either a catastrophic mistake to remove me in RL and switch to Bryn or it might get Bryn closer still to being in art history books because she will now be officially represented in RL (provided I can work out a good way to exhibit with her).  And wouldn't that be cool. I already know students study bryn in art schools somewhere because the students often come up to me in SL and say they just did a class on Bryn.   Another good thing is that I can now sell my paintings privately without giving half to the gallery.  So if you are looking for a painting ....

Anyway that was my day.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Digital Cafe on RAI - conference on digital innovation

I spoke to Christina Cilli, an Italian theoretician and curator of VR art, and she asked to interview me on an Italian tv channel named RAI.  Starting from December 5th they are going to have a yearly conference on digital innovation and I get to be on the inaugural one.  They will do a 20 min segment on Bryn Oh and it will be held at my new build Standby on IBM.  It will start at 5pm Italian time... which is 11 am for me.. and 8am SL time.
     So this is how it works if I understand correctly, if you are outside Italy you can go to the website of RAI and watch it there.  Here is the link... Digital Cafe
   If you find yourself with nothing to do tomorrow then that is an option.  It is a 2 hour show and should be quite interesting.  I really wish that I spoke Italian because I am a wee bit confused,  but if you do miss it then I imagine I can post the interview here in a few days. 

Here is the google translation from the website.

 I am hand soap wearing Second Life stink punch.  Artists jumping fly dragon love.  Woot event we all happy run run.  Bryn Oh cartoon IBM oven set on high!Flying machine gun angry rabbit :(

 Ha just kidding.  SL translators are so crap but this one below seems to be ok.

Sunday, Dec. 5 hours17.00 Virtual Worlds: the new avant-garde art and cultureSpeakers: Francesca Marinetti Barbi, Marco Cadioli, Franco Fabbri, Maryva Mayo, Mayo Merlin, Federico Mollicone, Bryn Oh, Patrizia Nofi. Coordinators: Marina Bellini, Christina Cilli Posted by: Bellini M.
Virtual worlds, particularly Second Life, now offer a large range of communication and dissemination, as well as new spaces for art installations, immersive experience. Some of the players of Second Life will show the details and trends that are revolutionizing the field of art, but also through the dissemination of scientific and cultural conferences in 3D - MiC - Museums in Rome Capital City "- the shows turned into real installations virtual. - The premonitions of Technology Futurist: it speaks the nephew of Filippo Tommaso Marinetti. - Marco Manray: from Second Life at MACRO - Burn, Pirats, Carleon: the great collective events of international art - Storytelling and poetry in the facilities of Bryn Oh - I "Science Café" Thales Flanagan)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

"Mayfly" at Split-Screen installation space

Today Dividni opens his new installation space called Split-Screen. It is a space that will be available to artist for exhibition opportunities and quite possibly accompanied by his personal interpretation of the works. Dividni is an investigative reporter of the highest caliber as can be seen by this article here
I am just teasing but I really do enjoy his interpretations of SL art.

So in a time of diminishing art spaces its nice to see a new one opening dedicated to showcasing the arts. This is Dividnis post on Split-Screen with info should you like to contact him with a proposal to exhibit there.

My build is called Mayfly and is shown in the machinima above.. I would encourage you to put in the sky setting as I find it loses alot in midday sky. But pretty much try all the skies you like as it holds up quite well under most. This build for me was a desire to create something windlight friendly. I have in the past created builds with specific sky settings that blend colours to how i want them, but I have found that many don't put them in or the build doesn't hold up well if not viewed in the specific sky i build it in. So this one is versatile.

The build was inspired by my fascination with the poetic life of the Mayfly. Living in the mud for years but transforming into a winged entity, reborn without even a mouth to feed, and lives for just one day or even just hours with the ability to fly. Its beautiful really. Here is my poem for her.

The Mayfly lives under rock and stone
or dying plants left in decay
born an orphan she lives alone
from the mud she rarely strays

She lives this life for several years
In water dark 'till fully grown
one day her body disappears
reborn, her mouth's both closed and sewn

On her back she sprouts some wings
in ecstasy flies to the sky
for just one day she spends with Kings
for night demands that she must die.

The second portion to split screen hosts a build by the talented Miso Susanowa.  Misos work often reflects on earlier stages of computer or internet history.  Ranging from the time of LPMUDs, DikuMUDs, MUSHes, LAMDAMoo's and so on to the current stage we are at in Second Life.  Miso is quite an entertaining person to speak with and has many a good story to tell so I would encourage you to speak with her about it.

Split-Screen will also have a small shop which allows the artists to sell the odd thing with no commission.  It's always nice to eat food so that will be a welcome addition.

I am going to add the SLURL here in a few hours.
and here it is...   Mayfly