Sunday, September 7, 2014

One Man's Odyssey

          If you trap lightning in a bottle, is it still lightning? Man Michinaga would probably say no. The academic and artist Patrick Lichty has been researching and making art in virtual reality for over twenty years now, and is probably best known in SL for his work with the Odyssey group. They use the sim to put on performances, like this one, Dido's Lament but the region risks extinction later this year through lack of funding - they're paying the Lindens a whopping three hundred bucks a MONTH to stay open! (how can that make any sense when you can get a Zetamex hypergrid enabled region for three bucks? *shakes head*) Anyway, Patrick's entry to SL is an interesting and erudite variant on the common theme.
Teleported rubberneckers
Patrick Lichty: About 9 of us were interested in doing performance art in Second Life based on what Marina Abramovic did in 2005 with her Seven Easy Pieces decontextualization of performance art into the Guggenheim, and then our friends' Eva and Franco Mattes' further decontextualization of performance by taking the flesh and blood out of it in their Synthetic Performances in 2006. Around then, Jeremy Turner, Doug Jarvis, Scott Kildall, Liz Solo and I though all of this was a bit absurd and we formed Second Front as I was building The BitFactory, an art center that gave rise to Odyssey.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Bridge Span

          It was a tie dye goodbye.
          Four Bridges has been in Second Life since as long as most of us can remember, and sadly today, it is no more. The region offered a home to harmonious ideals, activism, to awareness of real life issues, both social and ecological; many fine builders have worked here, notably Trill Zapatero, and there have been countless ensemble art pieces, expos, poetry events and concerts. So why is it closing? The reasons are the usual ones - time and money. In a good way, really, because Four Bridges founder Millay Freschi is busy getting a Master's degree in RL, and also in a good way because change offers a challenge and new opportunities.

Friday, July 18, 2014


They may be taking the proverbial, giving her LEA 1. Because nothing could be further from her mind than using just one prim, or even one thousand.
Wizzy Gynoid: let's just say there are more prims on this sim than you have seen on any sim in Second Life.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Adieu Le Cactus

          Dense. That's what it was. That's what I was, too, come to think about it, for not going back more often, for not reading all the material. Because there's always so much in a Maya Paris build.
          Last night was the last night of Le Cactus on SBCC after an outstanding 2 years on the sim; this morning, there's just mist and Art Blue, still falling over dead drunk on a sky platform. But last night... Maya and Simotron Aquila (shown above) were dancing when we arrived, and together with Art Blue, cautious about putting on any attachments that might mess up his hair or teeth (teeth? he has attached teeth?) we were a group of five.

Monday, June 30, 2014

The Big Country

The bleak splendors of these remote and lonely forests rather overwhelmed him with the sense of his own littleness. That stern quality of the tangled backwoods which can only be described as merciless and terrible, rose out of these far blue woods swimming upon the horizon, and revealed itself.
Algernon Blackwood, The Wendigo
               In the middle years of the 1800's, Europe was revolting. Tired of the old autocratic regimes, sick of an expensive, drama-filled existence where new technology threatened their way of life, many dreamed of a life with more freedom, autonomy, and the chance to make a place of their own. As the Old World lurched from one paroxysm of uncertainty to the next, many wondered: is there a better way?
           To leave home, however crowded and drama-filled it may be, is not easy. It takes courage to face the unknown, get rid of your stuff, leave behind the comfort of familiar surroundings. You have to be willing to adapt to new customs and circumstances, which may be good for the soul, but can be hard on those with a weaker constitution.
            And on the other side of the Atlantic, things weren't all only sweetness and light. The New World experience in Dickens' Martin Chuzzlewit may be a caricature, but plenty of people made the trip, didn't like what they found, and returned to the devil they knew.
          But many stayed, and pushed beyond the cities by the sea  and went further West, out into the big wild empty places, not quite empty, inhabited but sparsely, where what you had was mostly what you made yourself, or shared with neighbors. The path less traveled can be rough going; self determination has its price, but also levels of satisfaction with which no amount of soft living or online shopping can compare.
        The expression 'open sim' means different things to different people. Some think of a standalone region, a sim on a stick, a boring private playground on your home computer. Others use it to mean any grid that rivals Second Life. Still others think it is the name of a specific grid, InWorldz, or ReactionGrid, or (more logically, but still wrongly) OSGrid. To those who have not been there much, or have not been there in a long while, 'open sim' means: no quality content, a lot of bugs, stability issues, and no people.
          Things have changed. It's not your grandfather's open sim any more. For example, JayR Cela's recent post on the subject reveals he knows as much about open sim as he does about the correct use of apostrophes. It is not a place standing still, far from it. Jumping from grid to grid, occasionally one comes across a region frozen in time, just as you do in SL, but on the whole it is a community project, moving ahead on the strength of imaginative believers committed to improving their chosen art form.
          And if you were wondering, all these pictures were taken in open sim.
          Open Sim is an archipelago of independent grids, not a monolithic corporation. There are more than 300 known worlds out there; I personally have visited 86. Each grid is as different and varied in character and appearance as the Louisiana swamps are different to the Cascade Mountains. Some are commercial, like Kitely or German Grid.
          Most don't use money except perhaps to pay rent, at a fraction of the cost of Second Life. Most people are there because they like to build, and they 'sell' their creations without charge. The idea is that you will find something you're good at, and donate that to the common good too.
           In the past two years, the quantity and quality of open sim content has gone through the roof, and while it doesn't have the same 'Search' feature we rely on in SL, there are plenty of people writing blogs who can point you toward shops and showrooms and interesting builds, for example Virtual Christine, Minethere, and the Hyperzette. And every grid has several teleport 'stations' which will take you to the goodies in a single leap.
You need a completely different mindset for this place. If you're into gossip and poker and preying on naive women, you may get bored. If you want to create, it is paradise. If you can't live without constant fawning praise, you'd die here.
The natives are friendly but cautious - many have been burned by SL and the wannabe crowd. The snob factor won't cut it here; don't look for committees or vendettas. The lack of commercial imperative means there is less drive to outdo other fashion houses, so if you're life's goal is to be runner-up in next year's Miss Uruguay competition, this is not the place for you, but for your average freak or geek, there's more than enough choice.
          With the latest version of the open sim software, variable size regions, improved physics and many other features have come online. Not all grids use the same version; there are no rules out here about that. Grids vary in size; they may be just a few sims, rather like a farmstead on the prairie, like Jamland or Miki Kiti Tiki, or they may be Great Grids like Metropolis, Craft, Francogrid, Kitely, and the greatest of all, OSGrid.
          Each has its own flavor, credo, level of reliability and respectability. Some are Dodge City, some are New Harmony. Depending on your smarts and people skills you can be as lonely or as busy as you want. Just like Second Life.
          The 'real' Open Sim is perhaps the 150 or more hypergrid enabled worlds. You can log on in one world and visit many others, picking up content, networking with new friends, visiting builds or going to concerts. Hypergridding is still hit and miss, which is why we have HG Safari, a club for hypergrid jumping. When it goes well, it's a hilarious romp, and when we can't jump, it's hilarious anyway. We of open sim are rough riders, used to a few challenges. Out in the wilds, we are free, free to make prims as big as a sim, free to make mistakes in textures without paying uploading charges, free to have as many avatars as we want, to control our creations without consulting LL's ToS, to be grown-ups and treat others as such. For those who know what they're doing, there's the delightful freedom of choosing not to upgrade if you don't want to. The latest is not always the best, despite what the iPhone lemmings believe.
           After the everything-on-a plate existence of SL this may seem the life of the backwoods, perhaps; the exultation of pioneering, foraging, learning and making do, and moving always onwards, aware that there are places too big and too far off, out there, potent, uneasy, exciting. But between home comforts and wild adventures, it's not an either or situation. There is no Atlantic between Open Sim and the fleshpots of Second Life.
          Scifi maven Lani Global describes it as a sort of 'Second lifeboat' - a place to keep your precious OARs and objects, should LL pull the plug, a summer home to escape drama, a workshop in which to perfect for free your mesh and textures (yes, there is NO CHARGE for uploading in open sim!). Having a foot in both SL and an independent grid - or many grids -  is very common, and probably one in three of the SL people you know already have at least one open sim account.
          You should try it. Join us on HG Safari, perhaps. You'll find details in Facebook and Google+.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Dream Girl: Kiana Writer

...that's about levels after levels after levels of puzzles and monsters
Kiana Writer
It's 2007. At La Cittadella, two newbs observe the line of people waiting to camp at the Discoteca.
Newb One: What this place needs is something to do, kinda like WoW-lite, an hour-long mini quest, along the lines of a disaster movie. Like The Poseidon Adventure. Look at all these people queuing to camp! Suppose 10 of them paid, idk, 20L to play. They'd be the cast of the story facing hazards and obstacles; along the way, 8 of them 'die'. The two who make it out alive get 50L. They meet new friends, have fun, and we make some money.
Newb Two: It's an idea. Do you know anyone who could script something like that? Or build it? Or find the land to do it on? Or deal with the complaints from disgruntled players?
Newb One: Um, no, no, no and no.
New Two: I thought not. Let's go dancing.
         He was right. I hadn't got any of those skills. But around the same time, across the grid and in Finland, Kiana Writer was taking a broadly similar notion and turning it into a dream come true. Not the Poseidon Adventure, but the Harvey Hunt.
Kiana Writer: It took me a while to figure out this place and what was possible here. I was a cop at a race track, then a host at Dance Island. It used to crash nonstop and you'd have to wait a long time to get back online but people would still do it and not whine so much. I started writing for magazines and exploring a lot, and I wondered why there weren't things to do that I enjoy. Point and click adventure games for example. I wanted to try something. A friend and I brought out Where the Hell is Harvey Wayne on Feb 22nd, 2008. I used the connections of the sim owners I had written about and placed a lot of posters around.
          They funded the cypher-driven hunt by charging the venues involved, so they didn't put RL money into the game at all. On the back of that success they then set up a Survivor-type game with two tribes competing for a prize. After a while, though, Kiana's partner got fed up with all the whining and quit, after ejecting all the members and flattening the land. Even that setback didn't dampen Kiana's spirit. She determined to carry on alone. Alone, up to a point. She set up a hunt by herself, but soon others were volunteering themselves and their friends to get involved. The Zodiac Killer was the next venture, and soon it was called MadPea, and Kiana found herself surrounded by a team, many of whom who have come to be like family. So many personalities, so many ideas. Does she have to be tough?

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Back in the rhythm: Feathers Boa

          It feels, she says, a little odd. Kind of like stepping back through a time portal. Nothing much has changed really; yes, there's mesh (which games have had for years) but it seems like Second Life has stood still. Kind of like seeing an old friend that never seems to age. So what has she been up to while away?
Feathers Boa: I've been doing art and graphics for games. Everything from casual games for smart phones and tablets to console games. I am working on a game right now that is all sketches that look like a talented child drew them colored with different color torn paper and crayons. I am animating these to make sprites and it is totally unique looking. It's the most fun I've had at work in a long time. I hope to do some more of that here.
          And by 'here' she means here in SL, where, after her three years' hiatus, she's jumped in with three different interventions in about as many months. She contributed some pieces for a show over at LEA, and that was something of a catalyst.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Rush Auer

          There is one thing less appealing than Russian avant garde art, and that is being bombarded with spam about Russian avant garde art. There's something very retro, about bombarding people with notices, it's a bit like the way TV shows used to have really long intros, with a theme song and all the credits. But time and the transmission of information is on a different footing now. People have quicker sensibilities. Less  has become more, and screaming for the attention of the masses will get you just, and only, that.
          No time for that now. If you have been paying attention to what's going on in Flickr you  will know that Lollito Larkham has been working a great deal in Blender and related programs making interesting looking creatures and household goods and other stuff.
          After seeing all his excellent photos, his event at  TKF  on sim Solaris promised well. The main attraction is certainly his Little Gray, a three dimensional morality tale which deplores prejudice.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Mind the Gap

In 975, the mind of many a Wessex nobleman was exercised by the increasing wealth and influence of the Benedictine monasteries and a quarrel between the great lords Aelfthere and Aethelwine. Civil War was in the air. St Dunstan, who had been himself a monk and later Abbot of Glastonbury and was now Archbishop of Canterbury, had allied himself closely with Edgar of Wessex and indeed it was Dunstan who devised the coronation ceremony (still essentially used to this day) full of mystical imperialism, which moved other monarchs of Britain to pledge allegiance to Edgar, King of the West Saxons. The achievement was short-lived. After only two years Edgar died, leaving his teenage son Edward (born, some say, of an illicit relationship with Aethelflaed, the 'White Duck', cloistered away in the nunnery at nearby Shaftesbury) to take the throne. 
The succession was anathema to Edward's stepmother Aelfthrith who naturally favored her own boy, Ethelred, later to prove himself 'Unready' (meaning 'without good advice'). For the next three years Aelfthrith plotted Edward's downfall. And so it was that in 975 AD after a reign of little more than a thousand days, King Edward, not yet seventeen, was lured under mysterious circumstances to the castle at Corfe, a Saxon word meaning 'gap', and there met his death.
It is a place of ghosts.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Excellent I

What, then, shall we do?
John Cage

          What, then, does Machinima in Second Life do?

          Iono Allen makes machinima. He gained fame as a noob, with A Question Of Honour, in which long-time friend and colleague Larkworthy Antfarm also appears. It was shortlisted for an exhibition at MOMA, no less. The cinematic power of the film's unspoken story is even more remarkable since Allen had never made machinima before coming into Second Life. You will find 44 original uploads on his YouTube channel, with his latest short, Passion, notably available in full only on Vimeo, but more of that later.

Second Life Machinima is not fan-mod or art-mod, to borrow Rebecca Cannon's terms; it doesn't sit with the taxonomy of mainstream machinima with its professionally built sets and scripted or meta-scripted quests. It's quite easy to make a slick looking short when you have a game like Halo as a backdrop, and quite another thing with the homegrown props and lag of Second Life.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


          Maybe this is what we need. No more raging against the absurdity of institutions and form-filling-in in a virtual world. Maybe we should all just step away from competitions and workshops and discussions. And by we I mean you, naturally, because that's the kind of crap you get caught up in while the rest of us are building the future in open sim where you don't have to compose a proposal and send it to a committee just to get a few paltry prims to play with for free.
            Anyway, no point in pointing this out, you guys are trapped inside your own egos and won't be helped, and it's fun to visit the mad house once in a while though god knows I'd never want to live there again.
          Surely of all the screwed up activities SL has to offer, role playing is pretty high up there, whether it's playing traffic warden or pretending to be Scandinavian. So naturally, when a RP sim is thrust in your face as

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Head Cases: Cherry Manga's Insanity

...the fatality of the big Clock playing with our lives
 Cherry Manga

For those of us who have had to deal with problems of the mind, from depression, to brain tumors, to senility, questions of what is real or unreal, what constitutes the real self are deep and substantial questions.
          It is a shame that discussion in SL about what shapes and what truly represents the self has been largely hijacked by vapid women and pervy men (often with matching Lolas Tangas). For those of us who deal on a daily basis with mental problems from depression to cancer to alzheimer's via a host of other conditions, physical and psychic, such piffle is annoying, unhelpful. Yet the need to communicate these howlingly large questions remain. What are we, if not our memories? Which of our many states of mind is the true one? Does such a thing exist?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


What viewer do you use?
This laptop has LL3, Exodus, Kokua, Cool, Phoenix, Imprudence, and Singularity. Imprudence was such a great viewer for visiting open sim, very stable, comfortingly familiar UI, but of course like Phoenix, it can't see mesh. Anyone who loved Imprudence naturally gravitated to Kokua, but that bloody UI is exhausting.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Big Wizness

If you haven't seen a hoodron, try going over to sim Clive it's the SL home from home of the Great Geometrist Wizard Gynoid.
Today, she was trying to figure out how to lip-sync in a movie. Turns out, lip sync-ing works just fine in opensim, also, by the way, Wiz, OSGrid's dan banner confirmed it, so probably it's just fine on InWorldz too. The details of Wizzy's lip syncing adventure will emerge soon. Neat, to see her in SL. The SL her has USB hair and an inability to use the letter 'f'.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Nine Lives: Coppelia's first year

          The art group Coppelia turns one this week, and they are celebrating the anniversary with an art show from 6-8pm SLT on Friday 28th February.
           Art groups are quite fascinating. Not the big message-board ones, but the guild type, where everyone's an artist. Some are free-for alls, with a mix of genuine innovators and wannabes whose talent is mostly for gallery politics. Then there are the B-List cooperatives where nobody is very good but nobody minds, because dancing and gossip are regularly available. At odds with the B-list are the pretentious collectives for 'premier artists', the kind of elitist BS that third rate academics love. You can see where they are coming from - all of us want to escape from mediocrity, but as the Anglo-Saxon proverb says, 'He that

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Art of Blogging ... Art

Writing about art in Second Life can be a lot of fun. You get to have proper conversations with interesting. passionate people... also quite a few twits, but you knew that already. What makes for a better blog, when it comes to blogging art in Second Life? Here are the reactions of a handful of people who know a bit about it, from different perspectives.
Apmel posts notices, reviews, and (what he probably would hate to see called) understated social comment. His blog is regularly updated, sometimes several times a day, often in Swedish, never without purpose. What would be his philosophy on blogging about art - well, not just the art but the people who make it, buy  it, and blether about it? Appropriately, his answer was a link to his blog.
Apmel: his blog is scary good.
          Let's get this out of the way before we go any further: the 'Dear Diary' style: "I got an IM, and..." "I always think...", "I was invited by my good friend Kewlkid Namedrop..." I, I, I....unless you're describing your illness or your solo trek up Everest, mentioning yourself 10 times in the first paragraph makes you sound like a raging egomaniac, not a hip young thing, or the voice of authority. We know that you were IM'd/invited/present at an event, and heck, we kind of guessed that your blog contains things you think and opine. Be warm and personal, but get straight down to the bit we care about, the art and the events.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Method and Madness

Kenya's Feed A Smile is a great charity and Kiana the maddest pea of them all is trying to raise money for them in Second Life. The MadPea crew have set up a charity auction in a park at  Mad City among the wildly beautiful New York sims. The auction starts February 15th and runs through February 23rd.
The idea is that you bid on people offering goods or services or, in the case of the celebs, maybe just 'to spend time' with them. And there are some pretty well-known names up there, all the way from Bryn Oh to Drax. (OK you're expecting some comment like :"I would pay good money to have Drax pass 24 hours without spamming about himself and that bloody Fluffee", right? You're out of luck. This is 'don't mention the Drax' week. Thank God it's Thursday.)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Convivial Pursuit

You will still be here tomorrow, Though your dreams may not.
    Cat Stevens

           Back in the golden age of SL, there were so many Italian sims it would take you months to visit them all; an immensely varied galaxy of  nostalgia and extravagant architecture, vibrant communities packed with dance and drama, passion, imprecision, and boundless enthusiasm. Many of those luminous points have gone out, while those that survive cluster together for company, almost orbiting in systems, let us say solar systems, like sim Solaris, which is home to Arte Libera, Pyramid Cafe, as well as the Torno Kohime Foundation, or to put it another way Tanalois, run by  run by Aloisio Congrejo and Tani Thor.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Life is but a Dream

Row, row, row your boat
Gently down the stream
 Noke Yuitza had some good news. Even in IM, her merry enthusiasm was infectious. It was the perfect melding of SL and real life. The birth of a new life.
Noke Yuitza: It is a very beautiful story, let me tell you it because it is attached in a certain way to this installation. They met in one of my classes some years ago here in SL; they are from different countries, Germany and Sweden, and I introduced them. I met them in RL too. They started to going out in RL and now they are together and with a baby!!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Wear it well: Kikas Babenco

          Here's Kikas Babenco, coming to you from sunny Portugal, with impeccable English, learnt 'with the Beatles' and via many, many books. She teaches graphic arts and introduction to multimedia in real life.
           In Second Life you'll most likely know her from the joint performances – or better 'Adventures' - with her RL and SL partner Marmaduke Arado. For Kikas, art is about questioning the world around us, but from a positive point of view. She's all about hope, and good companionship, and... well, let her tell you.