Wednesday, September 29, 2010


There's no getting away from it, you can always recognize a Caerleon build. No matter who is in charge of the construction, or whether you're in SL or reactiongrid, they suggest the study of an absent-minded professor, a mess of precious manuscripts and useful equations jumbled about the place. The cardigan and pipe tobacco imagery fade, though, when you get down to the individual sections of the build, and the new show Identity is no exception. A work in progress for about a year, it will be up through the month of October, starting this Saturday.
Marshalled by the talented Freewee Ling, many fine artists have become involved with the project, I'm sure you can find a copy-n-paste to give you all eighteen names. Best of all, check out Botgirl's manly blog on the subject - OK, don't actually read the whole press release, it's like War and Peace, but there's a video presentation, Woot! It's a great introduction to the show, as well as a fine example of why voice morphing wins hands down as the creepiest idea LL ever came up with.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Chasing the light: Thoth Jantzen

It's a simple idea: take images and sound and make them more than the sum of their parts. Well,
OK, it's a little more complicated than that. There is all that scripting and prim-pinching hoodoo. Thoth Jantzen has been chasing this idea of turning out a different kind of 3D entertainment, prizing open the flat rectangle of a music video on Youtube or Vimeo and expanding it in every direction so that your avatar, ears and eyes become swallowed up in the moment. 
When you think of a kaleidoscopic or psychedelic dance environment, you think Tuna, and there's none better. This is something different. Dancing is part of it, but there is a different sort of narrative to Thoth's builds. It's a restless process of refinement, tweaking, and expansion over the past few years, starting with the Cosmique series - you can see the third incarnation,  Cosmique III, on Open Habitat.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Arts Parks

Cercando or questo et or quel loco opaco,
quivi in più d'una lingua e in più d'un stile
rivi traea sin dal gorgoneo laco.
 Satire, Ariosto

It was Giuditta Broome's idea to start Arts Parks, back in early 2008. She came to the group with the notion that virtual worlds offer the opportunity to expand on a real life phenomenon, the literary park, and illustrated what she meant by showing us two places not far from her home, Parco Pirandello and Parco Salvatore Quasimodo. The parks aren't just museums to two Nobel prize winning writers; they go further than simply ... pickling their poetry, as it were.
The poetry of E Millay and Michelle Babii's photos

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


It's a turning world. It's one of the first lessons you learn in Second Life, playing that strange game of wavelength catchup with people on the other side of the planet who are breakfasting when you're ready for a night on the town. Not to mention the phases of virtual existence, from the newly hopeful to the jaded and fading. In the global community, to be able to connect with others it becomes necessary to aim your conversation with these things in mind, sort of the way you aim your body when you grab a suitcase off the baggage carousel, so that you don't end up walking away with the pink polkadot carryall, which would be bad, because that one has my stuff in it.
Or contrariwise, the Coriolis effect.  Nothing pink and polka dotty in the frame of reference of Oberon Onmura's very masculine new installation Coriolis, in the sky high above TCC Island. Six months in the making, it contains many elements familiar to those who've visited other Onmura build, but this is far from a repetitious dramatic arc. This time, the apparent twist in the trajectories of moving objects - even the weather -  due to the turning of the earth is at the heart of the concept. You will also find notions of weight and propulsion, the cycles of creation and destruction, the phantom and the physical. Soon you become aware that what had at first seemed a fairly empty space is populated with discrete sensations. The opportunities to interact with the different elements - whether it's sitting inside the Ghost Mountain, obstructing the cube spiral, or riding a spouting prim -  draw you even deeper into the artwork.
A single aluminium chair lifts to a central column on a square, edgy, quartered plane. A flock of creatures, halfway between birds and paper planes, flies restlessly about the build and chairs, more chairs, suddenly appear, pale and plain, shifting and falling over. Sit on one and see what happens.
Like four seasons, each quadrant has its own mood, sounds, and effects, its own point of focus, from the fizzing white energy of the Moire to the violence of falling cubes and the spectral music of Xenakis in the Mountains, to the exuberance of the Yellow Geyser and the stately swarming singing prims of the Cooling Tower, which contains within a hidden message. Turning, each quadrant turns on the viewer, offering for a moment the optical illusion of seeing where we are in the world.
Coriolis opens tomorrow, September 15 at 1pm SLT with a concert by Zachh Cale.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Art about town

Wow one mimosa too many at brunch today, better walk off the calories with a bit of art about town. Oberon Onmura reccommended Solkide Auer's new two part immersive install at Aeonia, Oberon liked the lower, pyramid part best, I was intrigued by Sol's take on Escher, up above. Solkide's work is alway exquisitely precise, and the central mouselook on both builds really draws you into the geometrical magic.
At the garden of Arte Libera on sim Nonsense I peeped over the 'work in progress' barrier at the new install by Pol Jarvinen and Noke Yuiza. It's just one chapter in a fascinating build that takes its inspiration from The Sandman, Hoffmann's short story of fear, fiends and physics made famous by Sigmund Freud.
Arte Libera is a very special place, always welcoming thoughtful and imaginative artists and this build is no exception, can't wait to see it in all its glory.
Speaking of glory, shellina Winkler has just opened The Knot, her personal gallery where she will be rotating works from over the past three years. It's something of a unique opportunity to be able to see how her style and technique has developed over time, her favourite is a bug in a script that creates the ethereal visual effect in her sculpture Second Star to the Right.
shellina Winkler: I like to think of my art as a portal, something like StarGate - it should take you from Second Life and project you even further.
If it's space you want, what better than birthday girl Betty Tureaud's new build 9 Steps to Heaven Betty's an Arthur C Clark fan, and this amazing set of environments features glorious pictures of nebulas and the music of UltraViolet Alter Why nine? No special reason, but each level offers a different experience and you go up by sitting down. Love those chairs.
A delicate allegory of change, love, and identity, Love and Creation offers a path up through what might be fingerprints or DNA strands. The build comes together in stark lines that question both inner and outer space in what I hope is the first of many collaborative builds between Daco Monday and Aloisio Congrejo now on show at Tanalois. 
Finally at noon, the big event of the day! The opening of soror Nishi's Tree of Trees in its full glory. Another mimosa just to celebrate? oh go on then....

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Arbor virtualis: the trees of soror Nishi

A certuni gli alberi
non dicono nulla
Ma pochi possono sentire 
il canto della corteccia
Sentiero, Thomas di Blasi
From nut to ember, trees warm, shelter, and  feed body and imagination alike. Like us, they stand with their heads in the clouds, their feet trapped in this earth, shaped by storms but forever reaching out to the wider world; like us they know times of plenty and of loss.  In their ancient, productive silence can be read all the knowledge of the world, into their form, a bridge between worlds. 
If we could go to a Gloucestershire valley right now, I'd show you a coppice of Linden trees that is two thousand years old, where there is the scent of the sap, and the light dances through rich broad greenery.
But we can't.
Which leads one to think: what about trees in Second Life? At places like Straylight, the technique of tree making has become so advanced that the standard SL Pine looks pathetic, except perhaps in old forests like Kahruvel. Yet not even in the new, picture perfect Cap Estel can you smell the sawdust, or hear the busy rush of wind against leaves, or suddenly spot a squirrel on a tree trunk, suspended thirty feet in the air, grey against grey. But this is not that world. What is needed is another route to the vertical highway. Shouldn't the metaverse have its own true woodlands?
soror Nishi says yes. The daughter of a flower seller, she has during her life turned her hand to both farming and architecture, and loves to paint, but rather than using SL as commercial outlet for her RL pictures, she prefers to bring together all these interests in 3D compositions.
 Using large, high-quality scans of textures in crayon, watercolour and oil, and Gimp and Blender, her flora virtua exotica originates from a taoist approach to the subject.
soror Nishi: If you don't understand the patterns then you can't really build a tree. I've seen plenty of unconvincing trees here in SL. If you don't look, you dont see, and if you don't see, you can't learn the patterns.
Soror's trees are like her - bright, bold, whimsical, fun, and beautiful.
She has created two-prim beech trees, and woods that run to the many thousands. She made the Norse tree Yggdrasil at The Companion, Frigg Ragu's folklore sim, currently under reconstruction. In her version, the monumental tree of doom that connects the underworld to our realm and to the heavens above floats in serene glory, the roots caressing the weight of the world below.

Playwright and lover of all things Irish Maeve Eirin filled her Celtic storytelling mountain, Skellig Medb, with soror's trees, including a stand of the Tree Sisters, with their distinctive red canopies. 
Mythical woods grow best among poems as lovely as trees, when the quality is right. Before importing a texture, one should consider whether it is good enough to hang on the wall in RL. If not, then it will disappoint on the screen.
 In the garden she has created beneath the UWA gallery, we talked about the panoply of bricoleurs and engineers to be found in the creative community of Second Life.
Taoist practice is working with the ordinary acts of life without any fabrication, how does that work here? We spoke of Levi Strauss, and I asked: If you understand the bricoleur as a hobbyist, a tinkerer with existing material, and an engineer as a pioneer who strives to understand how things work and get beyond the limits, in whatever field that might be, do both groups have their place in the metaverse?  Have SL quality standards gone up over the past few years, have limits been significantly overcome? (You know, just general chit chat.)
soror Nishi: Well, when it comes to textures, lazy is easy. Quality it isn't always top of people's list. I would like 2048x2048 for large prims, but we have had no new tools for years. Technique is important, in fact technique may be responsible for style. But without emotion there's no reaching the audience or pleasing oneself, and the funny thing is that it has nothing to do with textures. Is it a question of heart or head? I think both have to be present, I think probably it's more about synthesis - good art, anyway. I feel strongly it should stand on its own, without pages of explanations and theory it used to be called 'post-creative intellectualisation" but, having said that, people do like to be told what to think...
Soror's latest build is, of course, the IBM-sponsored Tree of Trees. It rises from a serene pool of of swirling greenery, illuminated by emerald particles. 
(Gosh did I say Emerald? Sorry.)
A forest of stumpy, almost fossilized topiary forms the rootstock and trunk of a massive community of trees, its nebulous crown lost in the region's clouds.
 Up here, the delicate white and blue canopies of goddess trees fan out over little islands of greenery, where orchids grow, protected by Doris the Dragon and her companion. The triumph of the tree as a village, a home for the diverse; resting, growing, flowing upwards together. 
A family tree.