Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Bryn Oh chronicles the fall of the angels: A story in prims

It is hardly surprising that Toronto artist and painter Bryn Oh’s installation at Second Life®'s answer to Burning Man, Burning Life 2008 which opens on September 27, has many steampunk features, or that it includes dozens of humming robotic insects, for these are acknowledged and signature elements that we have come to expect in her work.

What I hadn’t anticipated were the delicate, intricate details… the lightness that she has given steampunk overall, and I certainly had not expected a story, or one as sad as this artwork conveys.

Better quality viewing is available here

Art: Bryn Oh
Music: Arcadia and Tiny Fuge by Kevin MacLeod
Machinima: Bettina Tizzy

Bryn’s most recent installation at arcspace, the Gashlycrumb Tinies, has already appeared in the hardcover book Bryn Oh and the Tinies by Aiko Aichi and Ritva Nybacka.

What follows are excerpts of a conversation I had with Bryn a couple of days ago.

How long did it take you to create this, and how is it different from previous works?
Bryn Oh: I have been here for about a month. Kind of lonely really, but for me the main difference is the finished piece. I am really happy with it.

Are you going blind? All this tiny prim work! How many prims is this all told and how tired have you been?
Bryn Oh: Very. It’s been a nightmare. This is about 2,000 prims. No rotating textures, just tiny rotating prims. It is shown for one week only :) I hope the music plays okay.

Condos in Heaven is based on a poem she authored for this project. Before she got started, Bryn researched real angels from the Bible. Apocalyptic writings have explored the concept of fallen angels who succumbed to temptation or rebelled against God, and have therefore been exiled or banished from Heaven, but in Bryn’s scenario…

The bee at the heart of the captured angel

This has a new feel about it... more delicate, but also looks more real. It is the closest to real I've seen virtual steampunk get.
Bryn Oh: I was contemplating how angels would appear to us (in the future). Mystical gods… but would that change and would they become less mystical as we became more advanced technologically? They would (ultimately) allow us to conquer them. What would happen if mankind discovered a way to heaven; what would we do? For resources, we will destroy habitats, etc., and drive species to near extinction, but what would stop us? What are our boundaries? So I thought, perhaps, finding heaven would be. I am becoming more and more interested in the narrative, immersing one into a story in Second Life.

Bryn Oh: This is a store that sells accessories taken from the angels.

In fact, the store's “accessories” include the wings taken from Hadraniel, the guardian of the gates of heaven who is five stories tall and Cassiel, the angel of solitude and tears that appears in post-biblical Judeo-Christian mythology, and presides over the death of kings.

Gabriel's wings

Why ice? (Referring to the texturing of the building) Did the Playa have anything to do with your decision to use ice as well?
Bryn Oh: It is what mankind would build in heaven… their idea of what a structure should look like. It is faux ice. It is a way to glamorize the selling of chopped up angels and make it so people are not horrified.

Bryn Oh: I think of the angels as a kind of beekeeper with the human race as the bees but with the ability to sting. I am hoping that people will come in and sense that there is a story to figure out and piece things together. See the little boy and his father who are shopping? The angels have been defeated and their wings are removed and sold as accessories.

The shopkeeper's face... is that rust or blood stains or both? He also looks like a drone.
Bryn Oh: It is rust. I don’t like overt imagery like blood. They are all meant to be advanced but flawed. There is a secret room, of course. (Most of Bryn’s installations include one or more secret rooms). The gramophone plays, too.

There is the notion of artificial replacement... a futuristic selection of the species. You have put the beetles to work.
Bryn Oh: Steampunk insects are not cute, but edgy. The beetles are an idea that I have not put in words yet… a feeling, sort of. So let me try now. I think of them as something made by mankind and brought into heaven, kind of accidentally, much like a foreign bug comes into a country in a crate. They are a replacement to the bug that went extinct, to maintain the food chain. When something becomes extinct, it is replaced with something else to keep things working. The good pyramid. For example, if the fox became extinct, rabbits would overrun the countryside, causing problems for other layers of the food pyramid... so build a robotic fox - a steampunk one :) That is how I see the beetles. They came from earth to heaven accidentally. I think too much.

Do you hope that your virtual work might someday become much more of a full time thing?
Bryn Oh: I see Second Life as a possible new frontier. For example, when I paint in Real Life, I use large canvases to block out the peripheral vision and allow the viewer to come into the painting and become more immersed, but Second Life is absolutely immersive. It is being inside a painting.

Has your Second Life art influenced your Real Life work?
Bryn Oh: Originally, I brought Real Life ideas that didn’t work into Second Life. I guess that right now I have stopped bringing in Real Life ideas and am now exporting Second Life ideas to Real Life. It is reversing. This build, for example… could it be as effective as a painting in Real Life?

Love notes

The baby carriage: The baby’s eyes are watery earth orbs, and the infant holds a praying mantis - The Violinist, a tiny (and musical) robobug – as its toy. Gently floating just beyond the baby’s reach, is a robotic june bug

How does the baby tie into the story?
Bryn Oh: It is the wonderment that he has. Unaffected and still pure, but a product of an advancing human race.

The surgical procedure

The slurl for this installation will be posted on opening day of Burning Life 2008: September 27.

See also:
* Crap Mariner's marathon video session
* Edward Gorey's alphabet gets steampunk'd
* Self-hypnosis and Bryn Oh's "Steamgarden"


Anonymous said...

Oooohh REAL angel research. SHOW ME THE FOSSILS!