Saturday, January 5, 2008

DynaFleur - the dynamics of group collaboration that flies

Once in a very rare while, about as often as a blue moon occurs, a group of people who are all completely different from each other, but unexplainably compatible, come together to work on a project that becomes much, much greater than the sum of its parts. Sparks fly. One thing builds on another and then another... and you just know that whatever they do is gonna be sweet.

From left to right: Douglas Story, Persis Trilling, Desdemona Enfield, Poid Mahovlich, Dizzy Banjo

That appears to be what happened when Douglas Story assembled his crew of unruly, hilarious, hard-working and ultimately gifted collaborators to create something quite odd, quite beautiful and quite Not Possible IRL: the DynaFleur.

Douglas Story and Desdemona Enflield, who once gave us the FlowerBall, have teamed up with Poid Mahovlich (terraforming) and Dizzy Banjo (music and sound) to create DynaFleur, a kaleidoscopic, sim-wide, kinetic installation that plays on Douglas' photographic take on flowers. Teleport directly from here.

Dyna Fleur from Kitty Lalonde on Vimeo.

I took on this lot of delightful Residents of Second Life to learn more.

Bettina Tizzy: Douglas: What's the chemistry of the team you've assembled here and how is it different from previous efforts you've undertaken?
Douglas Story: This was a larger group - and a more expansive project (than the FlowerBall). Everyone here is so skilled at what they do, and they all (you'll forgive the phrase) 'get it,' right from the get-go. I just get out of the way and let them do.
Bettina Tizzy: But why did you pick each of them?
Douglas Story: Good looks. Purely. I mean....just look at 'em! Dizzy's a little bit homely, but still.

Douglas Story

Bettina Tizzy: Were you always this fond of Real Life flowers?
Douglas Story: It started when I acquired a digital camera a few years back after many years away from photography. Reading the instructions, I noted that it would focus as close as 3/4". I took it out, and stuck the lens into one of my neighbor's roses.
Desdemona Enfield giggles.
Douglas Story: Voila! Amazing beauty... and I was off. The Xmas gift I sent to my friends, was a stargazer blossom given to me by a friend whose niece is a ballerina.

Bettina Tizzy: Desde: How did this experience vary from the FlowerBall project and what is new and different to Second Life with this work?
Desdemona Enfield: This involves motions, the use of Keystone's (Bouchard) idea.
Douglas Story: Yes, we were riffing off that.

Desdemona Enfield, photographed by Poid Mahovlich

Desdemona Enfield: This also involves hundreds of interacting scripts instead of tens. One of the main issues has been administrative.
Bettina Tizzy: How so?
Douglas Story: Testify, Sister Des
Desdemona Enfield: Central control, update procedures, version control... the dull stuff. What if we get it all installed and then someone reminds me "duh. sound!"? Ok, I need to upgrade 400+ scripts. There are simple ways to do this.. but the catch is to make it simple to do. Technically it is like any updater.
Douglas Story: I originally envisioned a veritable field of cilia... the entire back half of the sphere, (what Dizzy named 'The Void'), covered in the pink cilia. But we found that with too many cilia, the motion was not as wiggly and nice as it was, in Des' lab.

The cilia! They make a fluttering, then sucking noise as you pass through them. Photograph by Poid Mahovlich

Bettina Tizzy: Poid: I had no idea that you were also a terraformer! What are the main challenges and do you have a tip or two you'd like to share with us on how to approach terraforming?
Poid Mahovlich: I like to terra by hand and use no 3D tools, so all is created in-game. Douglas gave clear conceptual guidelines via maps and a 3D mock up. I filled in the blanks and we worked together on what he envisaged. As for tips, don't eats hot dogs at the same time as terraforming :)

Self portrait by Poid Mahovlich

Douglas Story: I showed Persis my draftsmanship, and was advised not to quit my day job.
Persis Trilling: That drawing was nowhere near as nice as the mock-up.

Poid Mahovlich: The main challenge was to get the scale in place.
Douglas Story: Poid's landscape contributed so much. Her ideas were crucial.
Dizzy Banjo: Yeh, we did little models of the sound design, too.
Bettina Tizzy: Poid... you've also taken an active role in marketing this, and evidently to much success. How do you think that is going?
Poid Mahovlich: Extremely well - and better than I had anticipated - I am a bit taken aback by the fast momentum of it all! The collective response has been comprehensive and the feedback outstanding.*

Bettina Tizzy: Dizzy, what was the first thought that entered your mind - from a music/sound standpoint, when you first saw the DynaFleur? Did you take one look and think... dang... that brings such and such a song to mind... or?
Dizzy Banjo: Initially I thought it would be more musical (the actual sounds made by the objects), but as I was writing, making the sounds... they became more and and more sound design oriented, and about portraying a certain type of characteristic. For this end, it felt right to make a mechanical technological sounding "cloud of sound."
Desdemona Enfield: Molecular bonds and thermal vibrations.

Dizzy Banjo, photographed by Poid Mahovlich

Dizzy Banjo: The other end of the installation is organic.. and that was all about creating a sensation of the sensual, but the music is really trying to communicate the strange and intoxicating beauty of the exhibit and also Doug's photography.. these giant bizarre flowers.. with a great beauty but an almost menacing or "unknown" presence at this scale.
Douglas Story: I was thrilled with what he came up with - all his observations were dead on.
Dizzy Banjo: Musically something else has happened, which I'm not sure I understand entirely yet myself.
Douglas Story: Des and Dizzy (sounds like a comedy act) got together and bounced ideas off each other.
Desdemona Enfield: I tell jokes, Dizzy laughs.
Douglas Story: As usual, Des is the catalyst that spurs new thoughts - and adding her own.
Desdemona Enfield: Dizzy wanted sounds in the void that were random yet not random: they should seem random... but actually be deterministic so that they do not overlap. I used standard prime number and modular arithmetic to create the sequences, in the same way that encryptyed messages seem random, but are not.
Dizzy Banjo: This system.. is actually really fascinating, but plays such a passive subtle role. I think it has great potential in future projects.
Bettina Tizzy: What is your background in scripting, Desde?
Desdemona Enfield: Other than a life of melodrama? I have done programming from time to time. C Java, graphics, communication... but I only admit this when I am brunette.
Bettina Tizzy: And when you are a redhead, Desde?
Desdemona Enfield: Does not waste time scripting, (smiles).
Douglas Story: I've forbidden red hair on this crew.
Desdemona Enfield pouts.
Douglas Story: I have a weakness for redheads, and can't afford the distraction.

Photograph by Dizzy Banjo

Bettina Tizzy: Persis... have you lost your mind? Or better yet, how do you keep sane working with this crew?
Persis Trilling: I've stayed out of it for the most part, as what was going on here was so exciting. Look at our visitor logs.
Douglas Story: (smile)
Persis Trilling: Traffic lately has been healthy, and momentum is building. I'm pleased with the tight integration, particularly between the landscape and the built elements. My ideas about architecture have been evolving since I first started. I started with the idea of a real landscaper, relatively flat. A project like this has the complexity of a place like Falling Water, and Falling Water does not have a great soundtrack.
Douglas Story swoons at the comparison
Desdemona Enfield: (Thinks falling water makes a big splash)
Dizzy Banjo wouldn't mind soundtracking some Frank Lloyd Wright...
Persis Trilling: On the main campus, it was important to establish an institutional identity. On the Alexander Beach sim, I learned how wonderful it could be to have an integrated composition. This is the next step in that thought process.

Bettina Tizzy: What are the most fun comments you've all received about the DynaFleur?
Douglas Story: A favorite from Fleep Tuque: "I don't know if I'm awed or creeped out." That after passing through the cilia... The disgusting comments I get about the images here.....I just don't understand. All manner of comparisons to other things.

DynaFleur by Poid Mahovlich

Bettina Tizzy: The hawaiian upholstered furniture...? (Said furniture was later replaced with black leather couches and chairs, after a bit of inside jousting).
Poid Mahovlich: I don't want my face or image anywhere near this couch, thanx ever so.
Douglas Story: I took a photo of a shirt I have...
Dizzy Banjo: Now that should have stayed.
Poid Mahovlich: We burnt it
Dizzy Banjo: In fact, I want it.
Desdemona Enfield: Ah, the furniture management crisis.
Douglas Story: Some people of vision and good taste liked this furniture.
Persis Trilling: Others said it was . . . well
Poid Mahovlich: *blinks

Bettina Tizzy: The name...?
Douglas Story: I was expressly forbidden by the management to use the word "Thingy" in the title of this. There's a strong anti-"thingy" lobby, allied with the anti-Hawaiian shirt lobby.
Douglas called his last art installation, the FlowerBall, an "interactive art thingy"
Persis Trilling sniffs
Desdemona Enfield: Oh, I was not referring to the DF, Doug, (smiles).
Douglas Story: "DynaFleur" was concocted by Miss Enfield here
Poid Mahovlich: I liked the carwash name :)
Douglas Story: haha... Cosmic Carwash

The opening reception with the artists took place today, followed by ballroom dancing with music and DJing provided by the proprietor of the Blue Note Jazz Club, Naydee McGettigan.

Artist Information

Douglas Story creates his extreme macro photography with a 5 megapixel digital camera in and around Los Angeles. Douglas has displayed his work in group shows in Los Angeles, and in Second Life at the Aho Museum, the Angel Dorei Gallery and the Artisan Gallery. To earn money to buy new shoes in Second Life, Douglas produces and edits promos for network television.

A Second Life resident since 2005, Desdemona Enfield, in her more serious moments, studies the Zen of Scripting and occasionally dabbles in building. She's highly verbal and will scroll everyone off the screen when given an opportunity. In real life, the daydream that comes closest to her vocation would include a checkered history in computer graphics, medical imaging, data protocols, and embedded systems, plus a tad of physics and mathematics.

Dizzy Banjo is a composer exploring new methods of soundtracking virtual environments. He is experienced in providing music for more traditional media outlets, such as radio, trailers, advertising and video games ( for clients such as Czech National Radio, Boosey & Hawkes, Revlon, and Sony Playstation.) However more recently he is concentrating on developing the possibilities of non linear composition and multiple user interactive music. He is currently working on a number of projects in this field including soundtracks for the in-world presence of the country of Mexico, a book on Second Life published by Intersection Unlimited and a major virtual business event.

Poid Mahovlich says, "I build creatively using smoke and mirrors. I am a geek dreamer; driven by ethereal fuel some days, nerdtech and biscuits on others. I am a Real Life professional conceptual Artist: a self-proclaimed Wizard who has a severe allergy to Hawaiian shirts."