27 February 2014

The Pines at Jacob Pond

The pastel trees and quiet paths that caress the shores of Jacob Pond impart a beautiful solitude to the sim The Pines at Jacob Pond, designed and owned by Holly (Dacotah Longfall), a playful seven-year-old who delights in giving tours and chatting it up with visitors. The wilderness, meadows and farmland are exquisitely landscaped—havens for horses, blackface sheep, geese, cows, chickens, raccoon and especially deer. "I still lookin for some mesh birds to put out," adds Holly.

From the arrival point you can strike out on the east or west shore of the pond, either way eventually arriving at the southern edge where a lakeside cottage awaits, smoke lazily drifting out of its chimney and a barn at its side (cookies in the kitchen, too). Taking the eastern route will lead to an area that Holly describes as her favorite—a small clearing where four large pines have recently been felled, their trunks and branches now lying in the meadow grasses. Other trails wrap around the perimeter of the sim, providing a gorgeous view of the shoreline. A second smaller pond lies on the northwest corner of the sim, sustained by gentle waterfalls.

On both sides of Jacob Pond are hidden places: look carefully and you'll spy the entrances to two mines, which snake underground a little ways before emerging into the open once again. At first I assumed these were coal mines, their walls dark with soot, but then I noticed that the minecarts had something quite different in them. ("Shhh it be a secret or dem all be over taking mine white chocolate from me," I was admonished.)

The sim is clothing optional, so don't be too surprised if you arrive and see people innocently frolicking about—it's all in good fun, as this obviously isn't an adult or sexually themed region. And if you enjoy The Pines at Jacob Pond, please consider leaving a contribution for its support, which you can do at the landing point. Click on any of these images to zoom in; I'll be adding some to my flickr stream.

25 February 2014

Linden Village

In commemoration of her sixth rezday, and now feeling the effects of age (time being what it is in Second Life, and her arrival on the grid having been prior to six years ago to begin with), Grandma Ziki gathers all the Young and Newborn Residents around her for storytime as she sits in her rocking chair.

"Now then, children," she begins, "today's story is about a place called Linden Village, and it's where many of us used to go to say hello to the Lindens." The children look up at her with doubt and furrowed brows, and one young boy blurts out, "That's not true! The Lindens are just a mythological creatures." "No, no," Grandma Ziki reassures them, "there really were Lindens who were there, and you could locate them by their blue dots on the map!"

"Blue dots?" asks one girl incredulously. "Oh yes," replies Grandma Ziki, "and Linden Village, you see, was built way back, years ago, for a special purpose. Here, let me read what the Lindens had to say: '
The Linden Office and Village is a project to create opportunities for Residents to communicate with Lindens in a creative and collaborative setting. We want to increase our approachability in a public way, have a central place where we can distribute inworld information, and have a nice place to hold public meetings or classes in Linden-designed areas. We are also using this as an opportunity to further support the efforts of the Live Helpers, Greeters, Liaisons, and all Lindens working to communicate with Residents.'" "But..." begins a boy before his voice trails off.

Well, OK, I'm sure the path was paved with the best of intentions. Nowadays, Linden Village stands as a relic—and, frankly, a rather sad-looking one at that—of an era when you really could see Lindens milling about and socializing with people. And many Lindens had homes there, too, as each was offered a parcel of land. The main landing point for the Village sets you down at the base of a temple constructed by Michael Linden in 2005. It was a lovely place with an art gallery and balloon rides (now forlorn and broken). A notecard one can obtain there, written by Pathfinder Linden, explains that the Village is the "surrounding area is where Lindens can build whatever they like, creating their own completely personalized spaces to meet with Residents. This space also gives us an opportunity to spend more time inworld as part of the community of Second Life, learning firsthand about issues that Residents deal with every day." Hmmm. Well, as I said, best intentions.

And what are all these images? Well, they're what are left of many Linden homes (but also some in use!). The earliest areas were around the sim Ambleside, but as need grew more plots were added in sims toward the north, stretching up in a column toward Cirano. In fairness, some Lindens do still use their plots—for example Baker Linden's land, fifth image here with the quaint farm and trees, is quite charming and current. But others, such as Dan Linden's plot (second image) are either littered with prims or more often empty. If you're the inquisitive type, you might want to grab your walking stick and head out on a trek of all these Linden lands, so I've created a quick list for you. Many plots are or were owned by Lindens who have now left the Lab. (And quite possibly I may have missed a few locations—and they do change once in a while, as in the past year some plots have actually been cleared. And I'm not poking around the sky, either.) The majority of lands in Linden Village remain unclaimed.

Kona Linden's house, vacant except for a bear: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Ambleside/45/241/33

Jack Linden's house on a plot called Jack Lived Here (a nice plot, too): http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Ambleside/83/241/35

Cyn Linden, an even nicer plot than Jack's, but empty: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Ambleside/120/241/30

Don Linden, a nice house: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Ambleside/222/129/28

Dee Linden, a furnished home, nice place: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Ambleside/189/132/26

Mia and Lexie Linden, a joint place nicely arranged: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Ambleside/219/98/36 — and Mia has a tiny spot of her own, too, with objects about Magellan Linden: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Ambleside/195/102/29

Kelly Linden, empty: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Ambleside/166/76/30

Lotte Linden, whose home is quite welcoming and offers you absinthe: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Ambleside/246/64/28

Dan Linden's place, littered with prims: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Ambleside/163/27/30

Samuel Linden's place, a blue tile base for a house and a stray prim: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Ambleside/107/27/29

Amber Linden's gazebo: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Ambleside/99/81/23

Ethan Linden's vacant shoreline: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Ambleside/55/61/23

Rowan Linden's hobbit house with a few stray prims: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Ambleside/132/146/25

Where, you might ask, is Philip Linden? He has a forest, Philip's Forest (lowest image), the description of which says, "Come and find me here." If your browser permits, cam underground, where you'll spot his old meeting place, now for some reason hidden away: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Waterhead/225/15/33

Callum Linden's land is mostly submerged—perhaps he had a home over the water: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Waterhead/248/71/22

And Hamlet Au, formerly Hamlet Linden, has a plot in the Village area too, although it could really use some attention: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Waterhead/219/74/24

Nyx Linden has a frame structure: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Borrowdale/81/212/33

Aura Linden has an island all to herself (third image): http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Grasmere/157/211/25

We're banned from Betsy Linden's land, but you can still see inside the parcel: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Hawkshead/22/129/35

Patsy Linden has quite an interesting place with pitchforks, tree stumps and frogs: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Beaumont/203/112/29

Enkidu Linden's plot is a bamboo grove that says, "The Place Where Which Linden Occasionally Was At": http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Beaumont/147/48/24

Garry Linden has quite a striking Japanese-themed mountaintop: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Levenhall/161/100/63

Bacon Linden has a well-built house: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Levenhall/81/104/26

You can visit Sabin Linden's "Super-Sexy Shindigs": http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Levenhall/105/37/25

Teeple Linden has a display of bears from 2009 at his plot (fourth image): http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Levenhall/223/97/22

On the largely deserted sim Longfellow, CeeLo Linden has a large home: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Longfellow/109/224/25 (and to the south is a plot from which we're banned, curiously abandoned by Ombwa Pivot in 2012, whoever that is)

In Denby, Simon Linden has a big place with a pirate ship: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Denby/216/43/33

I mentioned Baker Linden's place above, the hands down winner for style and landscaping: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Denby/226/83/36

Brett Linden's place: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Denby/48/44/24

Patch Linden's place, a nice hobbit house: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Denby/170/115/27

Only a single plywood prim marks Bender Linden's home: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Hanley/214/105/26

Coyot Linden's land is empty: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Cirano/93/166/25

Alexa Linden's land is empty: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Cirano/99/108/25

Kyle Linden's land is mostly empty: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Cirano/216/213/24

Drofnas Linden's land incorporates a treehouse owned by Alexa Linden: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Cirano/157/207/23

And Bundah Linden's land seems to have some curious scripted things going on (image immediately below): http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Cirano/41/223/23

There are things other than Linden homes around Linden Village, and some of those are well worth a visit. At Kirkby, you can visit the Second Life Wall of History, created for SL's second anniversary. At Waterhead, learn about Real Life Education in Second Life, or what it used to be, at least. You can visit the Second Life Planetarium, which quite astonishingly suggests you make a contribution to Governor Linden to help support it, and above the Planetarium investigate early tutorials for learning how to change your appearance, chat, grab and move things. In Beaumont is Jeremy Linden's Community Tools User Discussion Space where I remember attending meetings. Other historic sites include Pooley Stage in the sim Pooley, and other locations in nearby Brampton and Borrowdale.

24 February 2014


Opening today, Monday, February 24 at 12:30 pm slt, is an exhibition of new works by Gem Preiz, Polychronies, at the sim le Bronx, through the invitation of Kindy Toxx and Milady Ghost. (From the teleport at the landing point, head to le Bronx, and then head into the gallery welcome space to teleport up to the exhibition, which will not be open for visitors until 12:30 today.) As with Gem's previous shows, Polychronies presents works of fractal art on a majestic scale.

I must admit that I'm usually not too keen on "real life" artwork exhibitions in virtual spaces—the image quality generally suffers from being compressed down to a maximum of 1024x1024 pixels, and Second Life isn't very friendly about stitching multiple 1024x1024 images together—there are artifacts at the seams. But Gem has found a (laborious) way around this challenge, and the result is that his images when presented are immersive: at up to 60 meters wide, they can encompass our entire field of view, and the images shown here don't really manage to convey the experience.

The seventeen images in Polychronies are presented in several rooms connected by walkways—you'll literally need to move through some of the artworks, and you can follow the paths of the little robot orbs if you'd like (or even try to hop a ride on one). As I write this, Gem is still working on the English language notes for the exhibition, but we sense that we're perhaps looking at the temples of ancient civilizations—somehow imbued with a sci-fi feel. If by chance you have the space to display the images, they're all available for purchase along with an exhibition catalog.

23 February 2014

Final Day for the MadPea Celebrity Auction

Today is the final day to bid on Second Life celebrities at the MadPea Star-Studded Celebrity Auction! Since the time I blogged about the event on February 16, many more people have been put up for bid, so don't delay if you had any plans to win someone's time. (I'm at L$6,000 right now—want a photography lesson? Just bid higher!) According to a note I just received from MadPea, the current list includes: Kess Crystal, Thirza Ember, Jaimy Hancroft, Kattington Resident (Milk Chan), Sean (bluesean yiyuan), Kehl Razor, Dante Spectre, Aikea Rieko, Iono Allen, Cutea Benelli, Ziki Questi, Draxtor Despres, superflufee (Flufee McFluff), Noma Falta, Marky Helstein, Arduenn Schwartzman, Generazioni (restlesssoul blackheart), Maya Paris, Betty Tureaud, Eupalinos Ugajin, Harter Fall, Saffia Widdershins, Mr. Biggins (Logan Ellsmere), Victor1st Mornington, Abramelin Wolfe, Bryn Oh, Ole Etzel, Pooky Amsterdam, Aeonix Aeon, Fuschia Nightfire, Thea Maiman, Morgana Hilra, Chibi Lexenstar, Scottius Polke, Moeuhane Sandalwood, GertieGazoo Gazov, Fugazi Rubanis, Zachh Barkley, Taralyn Gravois, Rara Destiny, Rodriguez Munro, KatRose Serendipity, cold Frog, Don Mill, Strawberry Singh, Sasha00 Laryukov, paramparamm Papp, LaPiscean Liberty, Acuminous Watanabe, Bear Silvershade, Brie Helstein (Brie34 Resident), Jolene McAndrews, Naxos Loon, Corey Segall, Ele Brandi, Xela Woodford, Chéri Hana S.S. (kiyokomari Resident), Twstd Ruggles, Yellow Core, Bobbi Bashir, Trinity Winterfeld, Piedra Lubitsch, Eve Kazan, KirstenSmith Resident, Dizzy Banjo, Sedita (Seductive Dreamscape), Nieve Thor, Bryce Sun, SalmanHameed13 Resident, Shona Black (seonaid Resident), Ayzegul, Armon Aeon, Tutsy Navarathna, Syn Beresford, Harvest Dezmo, Canary Beck, Harvey Crabsticks, Roman Godde, Starrfish Ohmai, Katya Valeska, Denny Mac (aramanca), Kris Spade and TerryLynn Melody. Events and live auctions are happening right now.

22 February 2014

Playing Cards (maybe nsfw)

About a month ago, Eli Wallace announced that she would be closing the venerable Gallery Assis, a premier venue for the display of erotic photography and art, but since then Joaopedro Oh has stepped in to resurrect the gallery in a new location and promises to carry on the tradition with an ongoing series of exhibitions. Tomorrow, Sunday, February 23, from 10 am to 12 noon slt, the gallery will reopen with a display of works by Joseph Nussbaum entitled Playing Cards, featuring a delightful conceptual presentation. Using the standard deck of playing cards as his inspiration, Joseph has created groupings of images by rank—jacks, queens, kings, aces and a joker—with suitably erotic images on each (women on the queen cards, men on the others). The jacks, queens and kings are designed in traditional playing card fashion, with the top image inverted below (click the lower image to see the queens), while the aces depict burly men in twosomes (above). (As for the joker, I won't spoil the surprise.)

Tyrehl Byk's Catharsis

Tomorrow, Sunday, February 23 at 1:00 pm slt, Tyrehl Byk's immesive work Catharsis will return for a single performance at the Eden Celebration sim. (Please plan to arrive early, as seats are limited.) The 24-minute performance piece takes place within a specially scripted theatre in which one witnesses impressive, dynamic particle effects, and all from several vantage points as one's camera view shifts about. If you haven't experienced any of Tyrehl's works before, I can assure you they're more than worth the time—and I've never seen anything else quite like them.

Now, for a few rules to follow: sit down when you arrive (the chair controls your camera view, so there's no best seat in the house), set your draw distance up (at least to 128 I'd say), set particles to maximum, hit the escape key to release your camera, and remove any major scripted things to reduce lag. (These images aren't from Catharsis, but they'll give you an overall idea.) And stay tuned about Tyrehl's upcoming installation at LEA29 and exhibition at the Rose Gallery and Theatre.

Avatar Orchestra Metaverse at the Vector Festival

Tomorrow, Sunday, February 23 at 11 am slt, the Avatar Orchestra Metaverse will perform in a simultaneous Second Life and real life performance led by Humming Pera (or Tina Pearson in real life) as part of the Vector Game + Art Convergence Festival. The AOM describes itself as "a global collaboration of composers, artists and musicians that approaches the virtual reality platform Second Life as an instrument itself. The Orchestra conceives, designs and builds its own virtual instruments, making it possible for each individual performer in the Orchestra to trigger sounds independent from one another and to play together in real time." And the event description continues, "This special performance will feature new collaborations created by the Orchestra specifically for the Vector Game Art Festival, and will include a live video stream of the audience on screen within the virtual environment, inviting interaction and awareness between the telematic performers and their spectators." In real life, the event will take place at Interacces at 9 Ossington Avenue in Toronto; in Second Life, because of concerns about lag, the orchestra would prefer to have a closed performance—but I'll try to send an alert before their next public event.

21 February 2014

Vector Festival: Creating and Collaborating with Sound in Second Life

If you're in the Toronto area, you might consider visiting the Vector Game + Art Convergence Festival tomorrow, Saturday, February 22, for a workshop entitled Creating and Collaborating with Sound in Second Life, to be held from 1 to 5 pm at Bento Miso (862 Richmond Street West). The workshop will be led by Tina M. Pearson, an internationally recognized Canadian composer and former editor of the journal Musicworks. In Second Life, she's known as Humming Pera and is one of the leaders of the Avatar Orchestra Metaverse. "The workshop will touch on connection spaces between virtual, dream and other worlds, mixed reality and hybrid performance practice, and making soundart in the contexts and cultures of social networking and game art. The virtual world of Second Life will be explored as a conceptual space, an instrument, a venue and a collaborative interface that gives a framework for inquiries into identity, belonging, perception, perspective, and other themes concerning the extension of mind and body into and through technology."

20 February 2014

Chasing Butterflies

Now open at Tanalois Art and torno Kohime Foundation is the exhibition Chasing Butterflies by Pol Jarvinen. Rezzed on a platform measuring approximately 70x110 meters, the artist has constructed an environment of cages—or at least they could be cages in the abstract, as we can easily move through them, and in most cases their forms entirely overlap, creating a maze of cubes and rectangular prisms. The "bars" on these cages are fine lines that cover all sides, and they're thin enough—or in some cases transparent enough—that we can see through them, in effect looking through the walls of dozens of cages at once. As we move, their textures interact, creating shifting and constantly changing patterns. (This effect is fairly impossible to convey in still photographs, and reminded me of the work of Giovanna Cerise.)

And there are butterflies here and there: some within these cages and some without (including a little display toward the far back wall of the installation—these are free, and fly from us as we approach). Although most of the butterflies are confined, we view them from within their cages, not from the outside—"to experience the feeling of caged animals," Pol explained to me. "Like a labyrinth of cages, [and] some may like the beauty of their cage, some the beauty of freedom." If you enjoy the presentations at the gallery, please consider leaving a contribution at the landing point.

A Cathedral Dreamer at Plusia Ars

If you missed the opportunity to view Gem Preiz's massive work A Cathedral Dreamer (read here for more information) when it was presented at LEA6 in January, you're in luck. The curators of Plusia Ars, MAREA (Marea2007 Praga) and Seaside (Paolo Seaside), invited Gem to present his work on their island, and the large pieces went on display yesterday—click here to reach the landing point. At LEA6 the artwork was presented in more of a traditionally gallery space, but here it's outdoors in an environment that might distract a little from the images. Still, it's good to revisit them. Additional works continue to be on display and on sale at Gem Preiz's gallery at Tinamoon Arts.

Machinima + Contemporary Art at Vector 2014

If you're in the Toronto area tomorrow, you might want to visit a session at the 2014 Vector Game & Art Convergence Festival focusing on Machinima and Contemporary Art. Panelists Eddo Stern, Clint Enns, Foci + Loci (Chris Burke and Tamara Yadao), Isabelle Arvers and Angela Washko, with moderator Emma Westacott, will engage in a critical conversation about machinima and its intersections with contemporary art practice. The panel addresses the issue: "Often associated with gaming fan cultures, machinima (the practice of using video game footage in films and animation) has seen the rise of a critical practice, employed by contemporary artists. At one point does machinima move from fan cultures to artistic discourse? How are the aesthetic/narrative/commentaries different between fan employment of machinima and artists’ employment of machinima? What are the common tools used to accomplish such works?" The panel will be held from 6 to 8 pm at Bento Miso, 862 Richmond Street West.

19 February 2014

The Time Tunnel and Eyeworld

"Walk through the stargate into the event horizon of a surreal parallel dimension," begins Ronda Saunders as she invites us to explore her immersive installation The Time Tunnel. (Indeed, an additional sign cautions us to walk, not run.) Comprised of two long tubular chambers, The Time Tunnel's first half (above) reminded me a bit of Douglas Story and Desdemona Enfield's DynaFleur, although the resemblance is only superficial. Revolving around the cylinder are strips of protruding blocks that wrap about it diagonally, producing an ever-changing environment.

In the second half (second image), we're greeted by a more complex and more active scene as curious lifeforms (some amoeba-like and some with protruding pairs of eyes) appear and then disappear after a few seconds, with particles of light and bubbles whizzing by. At the end of the tunnel, we're invited to continue our journey into Eyeworld (or Eyelands, as it also appears).

Eyeworld (third and fourth images) was originally constructed in February 2013 for an exhibition at Nitroglobus Gallery. It's a surreal and alien place built primarily on two platforms, and eyes are everywhere: on mushrooms, dripping from mushrooms, on the curious TVhead mom and kid, and all on their own, dislodged and darting about. The sim is also home to Ronda's gallery, Gallery Paradiso, but it's currently under construction, so plan to stop back at a later date to enjoy her photography. Thanks to Josef K (apw9900) for encouraging me to visit.

Inara Pey on Ebbe Linden

If you're not a regular visitor to Inara Pey's blog, Living in a Modemworld, you probably should be. This is just a quick note to point you toward her interview (jointly with several other bloggers) with Linden Lab's new CEO, Ebbe Linden, who shares his initial thoughts on the Lab's portfolio and in particular on Second Life.

16 February 2014

MadPea Star-Studded Celebrity Auction

Do you have a crush on Strawberry Singh? Do you wonder what Bryn Oh does for kicks? Well then, head over to the MadPea Star-Studded Celebrity Auction to place a bid on them or one of many other well-known Second Life personalities. People are still being added, but the auction is now open, so far featuring Fugazi Rubanis, Kiana Writer, Bryn Oh, Draxtor Despres, Jaimy Hancroft, Noma Falta, KatRose Serendipity, Kess Crystal, Arduenn Schwartzman, Harter Fall, Chibi Lexenstar, Aikea Rieko, kattington Resident, Iono Allen, Ziki Questi, BlueSean Yiyuan, Rodriguez Munro, Desiderya Dreamscape, Betty Turead, Fuschia Nightfire, Strawberry Singh, Aeonix Aeon, paramparam Papp, Sasha00 Laryukov, Eupalinos Ugajin, Bobbi Bashir, Saffia Widdershins, Logan Ellsmere, Victor1st Mornington, RestlessSoul Blackheart, Taralyn Gravois, Don Mill, Morgana Hilra, Moeuhane Sandalwood, Maya Paris, Clicquot Oh, LaPiscean Liberty, Abramelin Wolfe and cold Frog. I'm going for only L$1,050 right now—a steal!—and Berry just got listed and is at only L$100!

Just click on each person's auction board to get more information about them and what they will (and won't) do on a one-hour date. If you get outbid, your money is refunded and you receive a message that someone else has topped your bid. The auction runs through February 23rd, when it culminates in a series of live appearances by some of Second Life’s most famous artists, creators, musicians and bloggers, all of whom will be available for anyone and everyone to bid on. There’ll also be entertainment and music provided by popular singers and emcees, with KatRose Serendipity, Shannon Oherilhy, Noma Falta, Marky Helstein and Kess Crystal being just a few of over a dozen performers scheduled to appear throughout the day. And this is all for a good cause: the proceeds will benefit the Feed-a-Smile program, which helps feed 400 children daily in Kenya, and also provides education, medicine, food, shelter, and foster care. "Our goal with this event is L$1,200,000, which will feed all 400 kids in the Feed-a-Smile program for a month," says Kiana Writer, Founder and Director of MadPea Productions. "We did a small event for them last year and saw that the whole money goes to them. That's important." Watch below for a message from the kids!

15 February 2014

Wal Mart

Even with its blocky white letters now strewn on the ground, we can't help but recognize the old corporate logo of Walmart, the retail giant whose stores reach across twenty-six countries internationally. Artist Trill Zapatero's creation, Wal Mart, now open at Art India Gallery, curated by Quan Lavendar, presents a building very much in decay, its doors boarded up (although you can kick in the one on the back, which is great fun) and its windows smashed. Great trees now grow out its foundation, thrusting their branches through the once-formidable concrete walls. Rusted letters for The Ritz, high above, look down on the scene.

But not all is doom and gloom: inside we discover a colorful, idyllic cultivated garden filled with ferns, flowers and places of repose. Graffiti-covered walls, perhaps once part of the decay, now become part of the rebirth, melding with the hues of the foliage around them. Even some materials have been repurposed: for instance, a set of old tires has been transformed into a chair (image above, click to zoom in). Don't miss the small loft area overhead.

If you enjoy Trill's work, you might want to stop by the Art India Gallery Shop (about which I recently wrote here), where a large assortment of her distinctive lamps are on sale, and works by other artists are also on display at the gallery—there's a teleport board at the landing point. Wal Mart will remain on display for at least the next two months. Please consider leaving a contribution to help support the gallery if you enjoy the exhibitions.

13 February 2014

The Singularity of Kumiko

Opening tomorrow, Friday, February 14, is a new installation by Bryn Oh, The Singularity of Kumiko, on her sim Immersiva. Like the artist's other builds, most recently Imogen and the Pigeons, it stands as evidence of the power and potential of art in virtual spaces, and is an exceptional creation that should be visited multiple times to fully appreciate. The Singularity of Kumiko presents a narrative, although it's one that the visitor must piece together from non-linear material gathered from locations throughout the sim: we detect messages being sent back and forth between two characters, Kumiko and Iktomi, that need to be read and considered as one traverses the build. (Indeed, parts of the story, related to me directly by Bryn, don't appear anywhere, at least not yet.)

There is a central conflict, a moral dilemma, between the characters concerning memory: can editing memories be justified in order to alleviate pain or suffering? "Would you use memory encryption, like what is offered by that company Rebirth?" asks Iktomi of Kumiko. "You know it's been on the news and net shows. I know, since the Singularity so many amazing inventions are now just blips in the media and forgotten so soon. But this, well this is essentially immortality Kumiko. They have learned how to record your life and then convert that data onto a machine. They say they will soon be able to install those digital memories onto our vat grown organ banks, and upon our death we can start anew or rather...continue. What this means Kumi is that we can now be immortal like the gods in those fairy tales people used to follow."

First, a note on the environment. It's dark—very dark. (Click on any of these images to zoom in—I'll also be adding images to my flickr stream.) And it's not a darkness that can be achieved by simply changing the environment to midnight, but is more complex and really requires that your computer be able to enable advanced lighting model. If you can't, unfortunately you won't really see the artwork in the way Bryn intended. There are also special settings for shadow resolution and shadow blur. The viewer that can manage all of this fairly easily—although you'll still need to make some manual changes (and don't forget to unset them when you leave)—is Firestorm. At the landing point, Bryn has posted comprehensive directions for Firestorm users, and also for Singularity and the official Linden Lab viewer, but users of the LL viewer, which is quite limited with respect to these settings, will have the most challenging time.

With your environmental settings in place, you'll set out to explore. It's not easy to see sometimes, but usually you'll be able to spot a sliver of light in the distance, and, thanks to the headlamp you're wearing, you can illuminate small areas. (The headlamp, by the way, intentionally doesn't function in certain locations, such as the house.) Take your time: while you might easily find some locations, others are challenging to locate, and on repeated visits over several days I was still discovering nuances and even small spots I had missed. The scenes, little vignettes, are highly detailed and exquisitely crafted—and somehow because of the lighting there were many occasions when I felt I was very much part of the scene itself, especially at the culmination. At 14 locations, you'll see a bottle or microphone on which you can click to read or hear bits of the narratives, and clicking on many of the objects will change your camera focus, pulling your view in toward the objects. (Be sure to have sound turned up.) It's as if we're exploring disjointed pieces of a memory, and we might not be quite certain we're ever going to fully piece it together.

The place is not without dangers: you can die here and be transported home. It's most likely to happen if (or more likely when) you get attacked by Mr. Zippers, a toy bunny that seems to have developed anger management issues (image above, just about to try to kill me). ("He is her [Kumiko's] Power Pet toy," says Bryn. "After her dog died, her parents got him for her. It's a genetically mutated pet, or enhanced, I guess.") A word of advice if you encounter him: run. After about twenty meters he should give up, at least for a few minutes. The more people on the sim, the lower your odds of encountering him will be. (To keep lag to a minimum, only 10-15 people will be allowed on the sim simultaneously.) If you do get teleported home, I would encourage you to return, as odds are you've still got plenty to discover.

I asked Bryn which came first, the darkness or the story: "I originally thought about what it would be like to be in a coma," she cheerfully replied, "what it might feel like if you were made aware while in it. I read that vegetative people actually have brain activity, and that they were aware in some cases, which I found horrifying. And so I imagined how it would be if we could create an environment for them." Some of that might not make sense until you've come to the end of The Singularity of Kumiko, and there is a concluding scene—you'll know it when you arrive. "One thing i always liked as a child," Bryn remembers, "was finding things that I thought nobody else had found for decades—like a clearing in the woods far out, or buried bottles, etc. I try to do that with my builds too if I can."

Bryn acknowledges the support of several key people for assisting her in the creation of The Singularity of Kumiko: scripters Caer Balogh and Wolfur Windstorm, and voice artist Jenna Stillman/Akonia Resident (whose voice you'll hear throughout the build). Immersiva is supported by patrons Peter Greenaway, Selby Evans, Lovers Lane Studios, ENTERMETA and by many other individual donors. Bryn has also received support from the Ontario Arts Council—Le Conseil des arts de l’Ontario (OAC) through a media arts grant. To view Bryn's machinima trailer for the installation, visit my blog post here.