Sunday, October 18, 2009

A self-healing tour de force in the virtual desert

Selavy Oh's work, as long as I've known it, has always involved math and physics and, for the most part, it features cubes or sticks coming together and/or falling apart in different ways.

I can think of four recent installations by Selavy that break this pattern or do something entirely new: Dancing Mountains, a landmark Land Art piece in Second Life consisting of mountains that rise and fall guided by scripts, even in her absence; The Final Show, her entry in the Final Five showcase for the Brooklyn is Watching Best of Year 1 Festival, where she curated the works of other artists within her own virtual recreation of a Real Life art gallery; the monumental State of Formation piece at the IBM Exhibition Space last month, where land rose to meet your feet as you crossed water and a camera guided you right back to the inside of your avatar's head; and finally her latest and for my money, the finest work at this year's Burning Life: Irregularity.


Photo by Selavy Oh

The contrast between the brutally dry desert land of the thematic build festival and this delicate structure is already striking but it was in conversation with Selavy that I learned that it is also self-healing and not in the way that you might think. It seems it has a mind of its own: "I'm really curious what the end result will be. It transforms. Every visitor flying to it adds to the irregularity. The edges don't go back to the same place; it already is different and no longer completely regular."

"I added random numbers to the position to which an edge moves back. It's basically adding noise. In reality, everything is affected by noise, but the point here is more that the visitors cause changes. When an edge moves back, it is displaced from the last location by maximally plus-minus 0.2 m in x and y and +0.5 in z, so it'll slowly rise. One edge may, by chance, move completely away; another one may approximately stay there, and on average the whole structure will retain its shape."

Selavy was inspired by Sol Lewitt's minimalist sculptures, which are mostly cube-based - and doing very well in art sales, by the way. Last week, his Horizontal Lines, Not Straight Not Touching sold £3,000 over estimate at auction for £11,000.

The notecard offered at the site of Irregularity reads:

'irregularity' consist of 1872 identical poles. The poles are arranged so that they form edges of a three-dimensional regular grid of 2.5x2.5 cubes. By omitting cubes and edges, the remaining poles, still organized in a regular grid, form a hollow sphere. thus, constructing the sphere can be conceived as removing those parts of the grid which do not contribute to the shape, like a sculptor carving wood.

Initially, the structure is completely symmetric and regular, but becomes more and more irregular over time. Each visitor actively participates in this transformation: When avatars fly through the structure and collide with it, the edges touched fall down and the structure temporarily becomes damaged. After a certain time, which depends on how many visitors are present, the edges will start to rise and slowly move back towards their original position. However, they never end up in exact the same position, thus resulting in an accumulative disarrangement of the structure.

Irregularity will be even more irregular after my hard work at the site

Teleport directly from here.

2 comments:

Spence said...

I had no idea it could do all those things. I need to read notecards more often. I do know it is like an amazing apparition in the desert. Congratulations, Selavy. Great work.

Ruina Kessel said...

I had had a long day and decided to relax by visiting Burning Life and wandering around the exhibitions. All the ones I saw were alternately beautiful, intriguing and amusing, but this one, by far, held my attention longest.

I also didn't read the notecard, I simply responded to what I observed - when I collided with the pieces the fell. Having been stressed and exhausted, I just started methodically colliding with as many as I could and it was rather cathartic.

But the best part was, when someone asked about it and I stopped to talk to them, as we stood there the pieces began to rise to their places and the sight of the thing rebuilding itself had this remarkable soothing effect on me ... like, the sphere's self healing was healing to me too.

The whole process was wonderful and extremely good for me lol!

It's even better to now understand the further complexity of the piece - to know that my touch on the sphere, while healed, has still left it changed ...

... it's an incredible metaphor for life, if you think about it. And a beautiful, amusing, and engaging work of art.

Thanks you Selavy. <3