Sunday, November 16, 2008

AM Radio's tree, reloaded

Years ago, Second Life® artist AM Radio created a digital illustration of a dead tree suspended in mid-air that he later realized in 3D for Burning Life, working within the confines imposed by the virtual Playa.

AM's Burning Life contribution, the first "Beneath the Tree that Died"

Now and through January 1, 2009, the University of Kentucky and its curator - an artist and contributor to this blog - Tezcatlipoca Bisiani, have provided him with a 256 square meter canvas on the virtual campus to recreate Beneath the Tree that Died .

The original illustration can be found on one end of a country road, surrounded by a grouping of open umbrellas which are set to "physical" and can therefore be tumbled around like sagebrush by visitors to the installation. Click to see large

AM appreciates a vast expanse that invites solitude; this much I know from visiting each of his virtual art works. The immersive environments he creates are intimate despite the apparent immensity of the space they occupy: panoramic and seemingly endless pastures or meadows surrounded by lines of trees that are far, far away. Nature is the perennial headliner and often one can sense the cycles of life, for while a field of wheat may be waiting to be harvested, the rusty carcass of an old train engine sits exhausted in its midst.

He succeeds where most others fail when it comes to enabling us to suspend belief, for while we never quite forget that we are logged into a virtual environment, the sensation is as close as I've experienced to "inhabiting" a work of art, largely because everything is executed with technical skill, taking the medium as far as it can apparently go; not quite a copy world and yet...

Hyperreal scenes then give way to the surreal as he introduces unexpected elements: violins floating in an icy pond, dozens of hammers suspended in mid-air, animations that make it possible for the visitor to hover gently over - but always near - the mise en scène.

AM has also created the hat and umbrella for the Mary Poppins avatar. This isn't surprising given that his own avatar is somewhat of a male version of the same: seemingly conventional and yet quite extraordinary, as dragonflies cling to him and he is often carrying a load of sticks on his back.

And then there is always a radio. It's the first thing you hear when you arrive at the University of Kentucky's island.

Beneath the Tree that Died

The elements of Beneath the Tree that Died are few, but not spartan. There is the original illustration surrounded by umbrellas on one end of a New England parkway. Further along, a large dead tree with its roots intact is suspended above that same country road, and a 1948 Plymouth is nearly beneath it, not quite aligned with the roadway. In fact it is crossing the line. Something may be amiss.

Turn your media on and you will note that the texture on the ground megaprim is code-generated. An algorithm will begin running in Javascript on your computer. Each person sees a different pattern and the design evolves. Hit Stop and Play and you will see a different design

Just beneath the tree and also on the road, a telegram...

This photograph by AM Radio. Click to see large

When asked what his art meant during a preview of the new show, he replied: "I think it means what you bring to it. Here I have my story. Things that are precious to me. Moments in my life, a tree, a car, the weather station my grandfather always listened to. This is simply me, my most inner thoughts and dreams and feelings. What it means, I suppose is what you bring to it, your own story. Here is a narrative that can only be complete when you view the work and react to it."

Second Life has a one-year old client-side feature called Windlight - a lighting and rendering system - that enables its residents to set atmospheric conditions such as the times of day or night. Several users have created "presets," which make it possible to share specific sky and water palettes with others. Soon after Windlight was introduced, AM created a mustardy preset called Nostalgia that is utilized today by many photographers within virtual worlds. In the past, all of AM's installations have not only invited the use of Windlight, but often benefited from it. Beneath the Tree that Died thrives exceptionally in the default atmospheric setting, or as AM puts it, "It likes the time of day."

This photograph by AM Radio. Visitors can change the color of the car by touching it.

"Beneath the Tree that Died," can be accessed by teleporting here, and touching a red door.

See also:

* At the root of the matter
* AM Radio and Miki Gymnast collaborate - Two distinct art languages converse
* Become practically perfect in every way
* The safety of spaces
* Photo restoration via Second Life
* Second Lifers' love of wheat
* Pixelated wheat buys real cows for families struggling against poverty and hunger
* The wheat field... has a secret


mindfuljenn said...

wow! am radio does some amazing work! absolutely beautiful. can't wait to see what else gets turned out.