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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Virtual Faith

Clouds of myst'ry pourin'
Confusion on the ground,
Good men through the ages
Tried to find the sun...
Creedence Clearwater Revival,  Who'll Stop The Rain
This week on the piece of grass next to the Omega snowglobe at PiRats you can see Totem, the new installation by Kolor Fall. The heart of this piece is a painting Kolor did last Saturday, look here to see it coming together.
 Kolor's experimenting with oils rather than his usual acrylics here, mixing his own colours and, in this case, has tried stand oil, perfect for keeping those whites white as well as reducing drying time. There's a figure towards the centre of the painting, and below two more, locked, it seems, in an endless embrace. Inworld, Kolor's imported the picture and then set it up on two prims in such a way as to create depth of field, the particles standing out in the foreground just as they do on the RL painting. More than that, he has expanded the concept into the familiar surroundings of his virtual playground, placing sections of the texture on columns and blocks and bubbles, filling the space with his own cello composition, over-arched by a strange dark forceful shape, reflected in the PiRats sea.
Is this our world, in the painting? Is that us, lost in the embrace of equals, surveyed from some hazy and unelaborated higher ground? Is that a tunnel, or perhaps a throat, an ascent among the chords, or a descent into the language of myth, the lowest form of truth? Trapped in the lag of PiRats, it's easy to see ourselves as primitive beings, victims of the mysterious whims of virtual weather - lag, and missing attachments, region restarts and distorted textures - and the power of the pantheon of Lindens who may or may not be directing our lives. Are they our totem? Not in the wooden pole sense, but in the anthropological sense, a non-human entity watching over the global clan. Should we believe in them? There are better blogs on the subject, no doubt, so I'll just take a page out of  Lévi Strauss' book and give you a field example: A woman told me the other day she felt she was living a charmed life in SL: several land deals had worked out in her favour,  she'd received some L$ from an unexpected source, and then a long-time griefer had suddenly disappeared from circulation. "I'm beginning to believe I have a Guardian Linden," she said, quite seriously.
Absurd, of course... or is it? The name itself is dense with signifying function. For unclubbable me, they never cross my mind; but two camps make their voices heard - those who see in Linden an almost malefic force, to be endured rather than appreciated, and those who read 'knowing a Linden' as a badge of pride. For the latter, does Kolor's opportunity to write an original piece of music for the opening of M Linden's art show place him high on that vague staircase between the watcher and the couple below? And vice versa? Does the totem choose and exclude? Are not all avatars equal, or are they only equal to their potential?
Is that going too far? In the language of California's Wintu tribe, there are five 'kinds' of knowledge: knowledge obtained through the eyes, or through other physical experience, knowledge reached through inference, or through deduction, and knowledge gained by hearsay. In a world made up of light and shadow, and the whispering grapevines of blogs and forums, the totem hangs in the hearsay, cord in hand, capable of pulling the plug on us all at any minute. Or is the Grid the totem, at turns dispassionate and spiteful, spectacularly open and then painfully narrow, freezing and freeing according to the rules of magic, not science? Among these forces, there are men and women, tinkerers and engineers, who have know how. Is the totem the knowhow itself?
I put it to Kolor that he is a shaman, manipulating the totem but not in control of it.
Kolor Fall: I'm not sure what to make of it myself. I for sure don't control it, I guess I "guide" it. This is running on a equation that I just slightly modified. I didn't place any of the prims ... aside from the invisible ones that are in the center of it. It moved the prims itself -  keeps on moving them actually ... a bit too much I think.
Certainly the version of Totem on sim Kolor is easier on the eye. It has a desolate quality that suggests it is far less visited than the PiRats sim; the construction has the advantage of being in its own element, not sandwiched between the other  exhibits, and here Kolor has added an extra feature.
Kolor Fall: Pirats is the same number of prims I think ... but there is no animal in the Pirats one; actually I think this would be cooler with less prims. Oh .. that's the totem animal, I guess... who knows? It's fun,  not so scary.
A personal totem, perhaps? Is the totem the viewer itself, the idiosyncratic gaze? At Pirats, a full sim is a captive audience, seeing and being seen, sharing lag and laughter, a source of satisfaction and performance anxiety for the artists and organizers; but when it comes to Totem, this audience in this setting is unlikely to observe the big picture. Yet they come and look. The instinct for huddling together, even in a world of effortless communication, remains one of the strongest forces at work. Can you see it? A constellation of far-flung illuminated screens, bright eyes and minds drawn to the warmth of shared praise, inventing and swapping accolades to glue themselves above and among each other, straying from the prosaic into the magical to find a frame of reference,  tumbling down the steps of emotion and intellect, drama and invention, concrete acts and rites, staging an epic tale on a platform as wide as the world. Do you believe that anybody is watching?

1 comment:

Rowan said...

Wonderfully written (again) and fascinating! Some interesting questions here.