Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Adam Ramona, his "Unsung Songs," and his color Blue

There's Tiffany Blue, Paloma Red and then there's Adam Ramona Blue. It's pure, it's primary, and as far as I'm concerned, it is his signature color.

This Aussie artist and musician - Adam Nash in real life - has been working in realtime 3D since 1997. In fact, all of Adam Ramona's first life work is in virtual environments, though not just in Second Life. He has several art installations throughout the SL grid, but his largest - and perhaps most celebrated - is sprinkled all over the greater part of the Odyssey sim: Seventeen Unsung Songs.

The Odyssey - affectionately referred to as "The Ody" - is the center of the metaverse where experimental art is concerned. The region is a hive of activity, featuring artists that appear to have one mission in common... to rethink everything and push the boundaries, and then push again. We have its benefactor, Pacino Hercules of the Dynamis Corporation, and its curator Sugar Seville, to thank for a number of recent shows that include Gazira Babeli's original "Collateral Damage," as well as performances by the Avatar Orchestra Metaverse and Second Front.

Adam's latest show - this gentle, sensorial feast - may well be remembered as the beginning of a new period of interactive and immersive possibilities that involve us even emotionally, but more on that later.

Adam said the most incredibly liberating thing to me yesterday:
"I'm happy when people tell me about their experience (with my work), but it is not a priority of mine because I learned a long time ago that people have the most meaningful experience when they invent the narrative themselves".

Now wait just one NY minute!!! This Artist is not going to present me with a structure... with his framework from which I am supposed to see his stuff?

Adam Ramona... who's avatar conjures a jumble of images ranging from a bow-legged pot-bellied has-been Mexican lucha libre fighter to the brocade curtains in my auntie's bedroom...

...this lecturer and researcher in Games and Digital Art at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia... the man whose work is one of the four finalists of the "1st Annual Architecture and Design Competition in Second Life," this very same man whose collaborative team - BabelSwarm - just won the largest grant to be awarded for Second Life work... is not going to tell me what I should be thinking and feeling as I flit about, first here, now there, moving within these living sculptures that move and talk (and sing) back to me?

Actually, he did guide me a tad. But first I had to get the skinny on his avatar. "(It) is a tribute to the great Australian identity artist Leigh Bowery, one of the greatest artists in history," said Adam.

Oh... my... stars... I started researching Adam's muse, and I just couldn't stop.

Want more?

Apologies for going off on such a tangent, but can you blame me? I will get back to telling you about Adam... but first I have to share that the day before meeting with him, I dropped by Unsung Songs to play a bit, and while checking out the Moaning Columns of Longing piece, generated my very own brilliant white shiny column. It talked to me!

[21:04] Bettina Tizzy's Column: Bettina Tizzy loves me!
[21:04] Bettina Tizzy's Column: And I love Bettina Tizzy !
[21:04] Bettina Tizzy's Column: My existence has meaning!
[21:04] Bettina Tizzy's Column: I am no longer just a Second Life prim
[21:04] Bettina Tizzy's Column: Because Bettina Tizzy loves me and will visit me again soon!
[21:04] Bettina Tizzy's Column: Thank you for loving me, Bettina Tizzy. Without you, I am nothing. Come back and touch me within 24 hours, or I will die.

Sure enough, right next to my gorgeous particle-enhanced column of goodness, columns that others had generated stood in varying stages of decline... one little grey one about to call it quits. I resolved not to be like those other people, leaving their creations to die.

But my column didn't know that I had every intention of returning to it, so it whimpered and whined at me via IM every hour on the hour, begging me to come and touch it, until finally last night I got this terrible message:
[21:04] Bettina Tizzy's Column: Bettina Tizzy, I have died of loneliness and a broken heart.


Adam's incursion in 3D/virtual art dates back to 1997, when he was in the (RL) precision absurdist performance group The Men Who Knew Too Much.

Using VRML with an open source client/server java package called VNet to enable multi-user functionality, The Men began mounting performances in virtual space, as well as real space. In 2000, for their Virtual Humanoids show, they captured, textured and uploaded audience members in realtime into their virtual world and then made them run around chasing their hero. "It was funny, and very silly. We took a very un-serious approach to technology which was kind of rare at the time," says Adam.

By 2002, Adam had begun to see virtual environments as the performance medium, so he left the group and began to do solo work, while sometimes collaborating with the UK group Igloo and the Australian group Company In Space, though they've dissolved now. He continues to collaborate with one of their founding members, John McCormick - a pioneer in the field of telematic performance and motion capture - and the two are now preparing a work called Ways To Wave, which will premiere in San Jose next June, at 01SJ, the second Biennial of Global Art on the Edge.

Regarding collaborators, Adam said, "It's funny, I'm really a very moody, hermit-ish kind of person, but I always end up working with people!"
He is also working with fellow Aussies Christopher Dodds (Mashup Islander) and Justin Clemens (S1 Gausman) on BabelSwarm, a simultaneous installation in Second Life and in a real world gallery which explores the possibilities of literary, music/sound art and real-time 3D arts practices.

Importantly, Adam doesn't see any meaningful distinction between SL and RL. "It's not possible for SL to be a separate reality any more than music is a separate reality. Certainly, it can transport one's consciousness, and many people have transformative or transcendant experiences inworld, but this is also very true of all art and media," he says.
Adam uses a range of environments including VRML/X3D, Quest 3D, Multiverse, Torque, Unreal and Pure Data with GEM. He told me, "I do a lot of sound work for other artists, but that is another virtual environment really. In fact, the first thing that attracted me to realtime 3D was that it seemed to similar to the inside of my mind when composing music."

"SL is very limited, but technical limitations are exciting for an artist, and they make many formal decisions automatic. There is the huge advantage of virtuality, meaning that there are no physical constraints. An artist can fill a space with lots of invisible sensors, place sounds anywhere in the space, and have limitless triggers for sounds and vision, without having to worry about physical possibilities.

Of course, this freedom is countered by the many, many technical limitations in-world. The one I find the most limiting is the inability to play more than 40 sounds simultaneously, and of course the 10-second sound limit, although in many ways I enjoy that particular limitation," he added.

Perhaps the most complex of the Songs is "Mitosis." Adam stimulated the pistil...

Whereupon it expelled pollen, which then became larvae...

... which sometimes - not always - produce insects. We got lucky! We chased after the five flying critters...

...that when touched, turn into blue blocks, that grow musical branches every 24 hours: blue musical trees.

Teleport directly to Unsung Songs from here.

For a fantabulous blow-by-blow analysis of several Unsung Songs, you might also want to refer to Dr. Lisa Dethridge's superb piece in the SLART magazine, including a reference to "Yves Klein blue." ;-) That was then... today it is Adam Ramona Blue.

January 10, 2008 addendum: A more recent but equally interesting review on Adam by Helen Thorington of Networked Music Review delves into his work with sound.


Douglas Story said...

Bettina wrote "Now wait just one NY minute!!! This Artist is not going to present me with a structure... with his framework from which I am supposed to see his stuff?"

Wow! What a concept! I heartily aprove. Most artist's statements are so bogged down in purple prose and self-congratulation that they render themselves useless to the viewer. Let your work speak for itself, sez I.
When I've met Adam Ramona in-world he's been nothing but cordial, low-key, and helpful - so his attitude on this issue does not surprise me.

Bettina, you also wrote of your exchange with the "Moaning Columns of Longing" piece (which could just as aptly be titled "This One Girlfriend I Once Had") as follows:
[21:04] Bettina Tizzy's Column: Bettina Tizzy loves me!
[21:04] Bettina Tizzy's Column: And I love Bettina Tizzy !
[21:04] Bettina Tizzy's Column: My existence has meaning!

I hate to tell you this, but that's the reaction of pretty much everyone on meeting you. (grin)

Bettina Tizzy said...


/me *hugs* YOU ~loads~