Thursday, September 11, 2008

It's a Pillflower World, after all

Douglas Story likes flowers. A lot. He photographs real flowers and then manipulates those images in striking ways to come up with memorable art installations such as the acclaimed FlowerBall and DynaFleur. In fact, I've learned that when he gets a bee in his bonnet about flowers, we are - inevitably - going to get the full story. That said, I was not in the least bit surprised when he alerted me to an upcoming show he was especially fascinated with. "What is it called, Douglas?," I asked. "Pillflower World," came the answer. Yep.

Douglas is a regular contributor to this blog.

by Douglas Story

Back in December of 2007, I saw a group notice for a gallery show in Second Life® that had the Real Life component of the image from SL being projected onto a screen in the gallery. Me being the show-off that I am, I donned a bizarre avatar and went by the gallery, and made the acquaintance of the artist, Nar Duell.

It turns out that Nar’s Real Life operator is an artist working out of Toronto named Lynne Heller. She sent me to her website and I was Pretty Effing Impressed. Among other things, I loved the sensuality of the scans of the dying blossoms, not to mention the wit and of her colorful pillflowers.

A couple weeks later, Nar was talking to me about bringing the Pillflower concept in-world, and how she could do that. I gave her a few comments, but mostly....I pointed Nar to my friend and partner-in-crime, Desdemona Enfield for her scripting expertise.

Together they have created something remarkable: a world of seemingly happy, jolly flowers and snow play, all encased in a sim-spanning, dynamic, swirling snow globe. I very much like the fun, whimsical sense of it all - especially so because there's a dark undercurrent in that the pretty flowers are made of pills - and that imagery conjures up so many associations with unhappiness and illness. Nar says it better than I do in her artist’s statement. On the pillflowers themselves:

“Soothing pastel shades of the medicinals belie their power and effect on the human body and our drug dependant culture. Alluring and candy-like, the pillflowers visually signify that ‘all is right’ with the world, or at the very least, can be made so instantaneously.”

On the subject of snow globes, she says:

“Snow globes, universal signifiers of all things kitsch, are trusty souvenirs of travel and exotica. In Pillflower World the snow globe becomes a metaphor for the conflation of locale, space, culture and even time. Snow globes are ubiquitous and generic. Tropical scenes share cold weather precipitation right along with the North Pole.”

Lynne had been asked to show her work in a Real Life gallery in Australia (details below.) She approached them about including a Second Life element, and they got very excited --- so Nar put together this installation in-world. There’s a great deal for the curious and/or playful avatar to do once there: you can take a 'toboggan' tour of the world, observe the breathing flowers that creepily turn to track you as you pass, experience psychedelic effects on your avatar and view when touching the flowers, take a bath, play a pillflower guessing game, watch dandelions grow, jump on a trampoline, roll around in the snow, sled down a hill, and fly up through the snowflakes. The snowflakes are scanned from actual images of snow crystals, and are scripted to swirl in a wide vortex.

I was especially tickled that the intro to the piece is a toboggan ride.

Here, Desdemona gives me the tour

The toboggan ride is fast, and is scripted with changes in speed and acceleration, complete with swooshing sound effects. What a good idea! (Okay okay, if you must know, I suggested the sound effects.)

For those of you down under who might like to attend in meatspace, the piece will be shown at the Australian National University, Canberra, September 22 – October 3, 2008, where the images from Second Life will be projected on a big screen in the gallery.

For those wishing to attend the show with real snow outside, it will be in a more frigid venue at the Red Head Gallery, Toronto, Canada, December 3 - 20, 2008.

To add to the gallery displays, Lynne has made a mural of Nar’s adventures in comic book form, which she has had printed very big: 4 feet by 40 feet. A few excerpts follow:

I never did talk her into getting an AO, as you can see.

You’ll note in the dialog in the above image that Des gets a teeny bit obtuse. Desdemona is a literate, articulate, and witty conversationalist normally, but when she gets on a technical tear, as above, well… hang on to your synapses. I asked her to briefly describe her contributions to this project, and she replied as follows:

[16:15] Desdemona Enfield: Scripting features include script behavior controlled by the end user using extensive configuration parameters, centralized administration of replicated objects, dynamically scheduled timer event processing to reduce region loads, runtime administrative control using nested dialog interaction, use of particle effects for snow vortex and pillflower meadows, detailed, extensible inter-prim chat protocols for use in administering objects and journaling visitor presence, coordination of multiple avatar sensors by a centralized controller, precision prim rotations based on ....
[16:15] Douglas Story: (laughing) well, I asked!

[16:16] Desdemona Enfield: ... exact solutions to rotational algebra problems, coordinated flexi control with orientation independent cyclic forces.

Did you get all that? Any questions? Well… ask Des! I’m just the reporter.

The opening reception will be held Saturday, September 13th from 10am to 2pm SLT. Teleport directly from here.

The artist would like to express special thanks to Larry Pixel of the New Media Consortium for the generous loan of the sim on which the art is displayed.


Unknown said...

I love Pillflower World! It's beautiful. Thank you!