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Monday, December 12, 2011

Keeping it Wheel

In four years of observing the artier parts of SL, despite the vast differences in ability, style, politics and approach of the artists here, it seems fair to say that the 99% put themselves first. There's spectacular variety - everything from screaming egotism, to strategic caution, to friendly reciprocity both inworld and in me-fest blogs- but self is the underlying theme. It's the way of the world, and fair enough, but every now and again it's nice to meet somebody in the 1%, a capable and talented artist who is keeping it real; who, quietly and without fanfare for herself, works to promote art in Second Life. 
That's FreeWee Ling
What's in a name: Freewee is not chinese, and people often conflate it to Freewing, which she rather likes, but you have to look at the whole name, the big picture, to understand. it says a lot about her. There's a lot to like. Here's her story
FreeWee Ling: When I first came to SL, I was just bouncing around, experiencing everything. It was a bit of sensory overload, and way too much angst, at first. I decided I needed new friends, creatives doing positive things.  I did a search for artists communities, and the first thing that came up alphabetically was Artemisia. I came here and met  Zephyre Zabelin. She was a wonderfully creative and generous person, who people who interested her and invited them to live here. She gave me a really nice parcel with about 2K prims. I was blown away; I know how much it costs. We became good friends, and, when she had to leave SL for personal reasons, she gave me the sim. Of course then I had to figure out how to pay for it. I had a gallery here with changing exhibitions, and a core group of residents who helped pay the tier. I just charged them my cost.  Eventually that all just couldn't be sustained anymore. I'm not good at recruiting, and people were having to leave for various reasons. So now it's just me and fiona Blaylock. Fiona rents half the sim and I'm spread out over the other half.

Her extensive lab is laid out on multiple levels. Little here is what she considers 'finished' - art is always a work in progress. In that spirit of moving with the times, she recently got hold of one of the LEA sims; it's a 5 month 'lease' with the possibility of renewal. Characteristically, she's not taken it on for herself, but rather, with a project in mind to support art in general. Freewee has documented all 850+ entries from the last year, taking a phenomenal 443 pictures of the October round alone.
FreeWee Ling: I thought it was important to record what was done. Art is so ephemeral here. We need something to look back on and laugh at how seriously we took it all.  My art? lol.. I don't really call it art. It's more experimentation. That's why I call this my laboratory.  I've always had an affinity for all the arts. I grew up visiting art museums and going to concerts and plays and dance performances.  I work professionally in support of arts and cultural organizations. Mostly using technology. I don't have that great physical dexterity. I can't be a musician, so I became a musicologist in RL. With art, it's the same thing. I have a good eye, but not such a good hand. So I use technology to help me.

 FreeWee Ling: The avocado It was a gestalt of several things I was working on learning back then. I usually do my own scripting. I'm not an expert, but I can usually figure out how to do what I want.Particles, animated textures. Sound triggers. There are sensors in the floor. When you walk around they trigger the lightning and thunder.  It;s fairly simple looking, but it used a lot of different skills. It was a good learning experience.  I like the glowing portal. So that's a good example of an early piece.

FreeWee Ling: The hardest things I've made don't exist anymore. I led a team of about 20 artists in the Caerleon group in a collaborative project, and I built a rather large museum building for that, which I demolished at the end of the show. There's a cool video of the demolition on my website. It was spectacular, and led to my UWA full sim installation all about creative demolition, called Angry Gods.
The ambitious and complex Angry Gods build was an intense, and intensely satisfying experience. The sim was only available for a month, and it took her two weeks to put together the installation, the result of weeks of prep work.  To work so very hard, only to have the install on show for two weeks really drove home the ephemeral nature of SL.

FreeWee Ling: Taking things down is the hard part. I do a lot of documentation. At UWA, I've taken nearly 3K photographs of the entries there over the last year.

This is her contribution to the Caerleon show ARCANA. Each artist got one of the cards from the pack, or 'Major Arcana', and FreeWee chose to turn her assignment, The Magician, into a diorama, with poses and a camera controller to frame the image, meaning that visitors can become part of the artwork. It was a great success and she has had lots of people send her photos of self inside the build. Avatar as art is, of course, central to her work and there's a whole wall of reminders at the Lab. As for dioramas...

FreeWee Ling: This one is probably one of my faves. From my series of pulp fiction book covers and vintage ads.  I made the outfit and the pose and everything,. I also have a wearable version of the spaceman,, heehee.I have a whole series.  Oh they're all based on real illustrations. Part of what makes all this experimental is that I'm often playing with ideas from other artists. Much of my stuff is derivative. I can often tell you specifically who influenced what. You should see my Barbarella!

I did!
Collaboration is key, for FreeWee, and she's grateful for the opportunities that have come her way.
FreeWee Ling: Thanks to Sabrinaa Nightfire,  I was brought in on the Interactive collaboration led by Artistide Despres, and the Caerleon group . Then I was working on the Identity Museum project with Sabrinaa, who was the team leader for that. When she became ill, it fell to me to complete it. It was a huge project and Sabrinaa would have done it much better. It was really a tribute to her.
One thing led to another.
FreeWee Ling: I had submitted work several times last year to the UWA competition.  I would always hang around the gallery and look at the stuff seriously, and I'd engage JayJay in conversations about it. I have pretty strong opinions, but I can usually back them up. Although JayJay doesn't have an art background, and had not, at that time, spent so much time looking at things in SL, I really respected that he was willing to engage and learn, and he does have a good sense about things. He came to see the Caerleon museum. We had over 2K unique visitors to that show. Some time later, when Quadrapop decided she didn't want to be curator at UWA anymore, JayJay asked me if I'd be willing to do it. The timing was perfect. Working for UWA was not only a really cool job, but it allowed me to keep my sim. I was on the verge of losing Artemisia, and was looking for someone to take it over. I've been really blessed and honored to work with so many amazing artists there.

If you've voted at UWA recently, you'll have noticed the more streamlined voting system, which has been a great leap forward both for the general public, and behind the scenes.
 FreeWee Ling: The old system was a horror story. It was insanely difficult to keep up. By some miracle GeeJAnn Blackadder showed up and offered us a system she was developing as a commercial product. At no cost to us. We were her beta testers. And it was amazing. She made several changes that we wanted early on and it has worked flawlessly for us. I'm a strong supporter of the People's Choice process to get people to come engage in the art.  I sponsored the awards during the first year out of my own pocket on behalf of the Artemisia community. It's been a great opportunity. I had a paper about it published in a Russian conference proceeding. And JayJay is looking into finding a publisher for the complete exhibition catalog of all 858 entries.
FreeWee with winning art: Daco Monday's fata danzante in the foreground.
In a way, she's UWA's 'fairy godmother', helping make it all happen behind the scenes, together with her boss Jayjay Zifanwe. Living on almost exactly on opposite sides of the world, 12 hours apart, works better than you'd think, as they both manage to be online around 9-12 morning and evening. That's handy because there's a lot to discuss, as you can imagine, with so many different things going on at any given time.
FreeWee Ling: What happens every month is JayJay takes the pieces from the deposit box and puts things out, and I make adjustments. The November round had 99 entries, many of them were large, and the gallery was packed to the gills. After the awards each month, the winners get transferred over here to the Winthrop sim Winners Platforms. So most of this stuff has accumulated over the last year. But since the Grand Finale round has a separate category for nonscripted, I made this floor for that.
Iono Allen and UWA's JayJay Zifanwe 
Having been on the jury for this year's UWA Machinima competition, I got a little taste of how much work FreeWee must have to do. Just watching all the videos and keeping track of the best ones took time. The winning machinima didn't make my top 10, there was such variety and originality. As the crowd faded away at the grand Prizegiving ceremony, I asked these two handsome devils what FreeWee's work means for the art community.
 Iono Allen: It is very simple: without people like her, or Jayjay and others, who take from their time to organize things, SL wouldn't be what it is. I know I would not come anymore, a big lot of my machinimas have their source directly or indirectly at the UWA so - without these people? no machinimas! or at least, or not so much.
Jayjay Zifanwe: FreeWee has been absolutely amazing. The time and thought she gives to each of the artworks is unmatched. The UWA 3D Open Art Challenge wouldnt be what it is without her. She is the 'silent sentinel'... who made it all happen !

FreeWee Ling:  The future for FreeWee? Well, the UWA monthly challenges are over, but I still have the gallery. I'm planning to have some theme shows, I'll be announcing something for December.  But I think the future is going to be mobile. Gridhopping.  I like physics. The other grids are not good for the kind of work I do.They're supposed to be getting a hot physics engine in Inworldz. When they do it could be a game changer. I'm expecting virtual and real worlds to start merging. Augmented reality - I'll see you on the street with an overlay of your avatar. We won't be tied to our desktops or to any single grid. I like to think big :)


FreeWee said...

This is really nice, Thirza. Thanks so much for taking the time to do such a thoughtful piece.

Wizzy Gynoid said...

yay free!!

Miso Susanowa said...

Thank you for this article, Thirza. Any comment or critique Free has ever made about my work I treasure more than any award, because of her enormous range of knowledge, her forthrightness and honesty. She is one of the best people I have met in SL in 3+ years.

alizarin said...

eloquent tribute to a truly deserving person - three cheers for FreeWee and three more for Thirza!