Tuesday, November 3, 2009

So long, farewell...

Back when this blog began, 750 posts ago, there were few blogs that did write-ups and reviews of great content and installations in Second Life. This has changed dramatically, especially over the past year. Today, a number of academic journals are gearing up to focus on virtual content, and they will be the appropriate venues for most of the topics we've been covering lately.

I like to think Not Possible IRL has raised awareness of quality content, not just in Second Life but in other virtual worlds where User Generated Content is possible. We've certainly showcased a lot of extraordinary talent and work.

I've had dozens of brilliant collaborators, chief amongst them Alpha Auer (aka Elif Ayiter), who blogged at least 100 meaty posts. Alpha is not only an academic, and a spectacular virtual artist in her own right, but also an inspired thinker and writer.

Of course, none of this would have been possible without the intoxicating encouragement, imagination, resourcefulness and originality of the members of my virtual working group, Not Possible IRL, all of them Giants of the metaverse.

Instead of tiring of it, my interest in great 3D immersive content is at an all-time high, so I'm not going away, just redirecting my energies in new ways.

A big thanks to all who have been so supportive, galvanizing me to look in this direction and that... leading me to uncover (and showcase) treasures (and people) under every pixelated rock and leaf. Don't stop.

I'll still be twittering my adventures and discoveries, so feel free to track Bettina Tizzy there.

So long.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Seifert Surface breathes (real) life into virtual content

Seifert Surface (aka Henry Segerman), a mathematician and also a bodacious creator of both virtual and real math-inspired art, is doing so many new and fun things that I had to get out of my blogging funk long enough to post this.

Three years ago, and over on his New World Notes blog, Hamlet Au did a great write-up on Seifert's recreation of Robert A. Heinlein's fictional "Crooked House" in Second Life, a house shaped like the unfolded net of a tesseract. "--And He Built a Crooked House" is a scifi short story about a mathematically inclined architect who "has what he thinks is a brilliant idea to save on real estate costs."

Now Seifert has shot two videos in-world so that even non-Second Life'rs can have a look and understand what it's like to walk inside it. It's 'the awesome,' don't you think?

And just in time for Christmas shopping, eight of Seifert's math-inspired investigations and sculptures have come to life, thanks to Shapeways' 3D printing. I'm buying as soon as I finish this blogpost.

Sphere Autoglyph

Torus Autoglyph

Prices range from $12.95 to $57.29.

Friday, October 23, 2009

An interview in Chinese and English with virtual superstar Cao Fei - Will you be the next artist showing at RMB City?

Cao Fei (aka China Tracy in Second Life) is one of six finalists for the 2010 Hugo Boss award. The $100,000 prize is presented every other year to “the artist (or group of artists) working in any medium, anywhere in the world” for making the most important contribution to contemporary art.

In Second Life, we know her as the artist who conceived and produced the four sim/islands work collectively known as RMB City, and also for her 3-part i.Mirror machinima, a documentary shot in Second Life and presented at the 52nd Venice Biennale 2007.

This is a second blogpost in a two-part series we are publishing today. The first, "Wherein I finally love Cao Fei's RMB City," can be found here.

These days, it is almost impossible to pick up an art journal, read an art blog, or watch a TV documentary on the arts without hearing about Cao's Second Life persona, China Tracy, the pig-tailed avatar that looks to be a cross between a medieval dragon slayer and a space-age bot girl. This global fawning is not without merit. As PBS' Art:21 points out in its recent episode Fantasy and Contemporary Art, Cao "reflects the fluidity of a world in which cultures have mixed and diverged in rapid evolution. Her video installations and new media works explore perception and reality in places as diverse as a Chinese factory and the virtual world of Second Life."

Now that I've confessed (in the preceding blogpost) that I'm late to the China Tracy fan club, I can also say that I've been making up for lost time by learning considerably more about the artist. Soon after my epiphany and subsequent appreciation of RMB City, I sent Cao nine questions, and I didn't pull any punches, either.

B. Tizzy: 如果让你说出你事业中最关键的时刻,它对你选择从事现在的工作起过至关重要的作用,你觉得是什么时候?为什么?
If you were to identify the most pivotal moment in your career; that moment that most shaped what you are doing now, what would it be and why?

Cao Fei: 我创作的发展旅程是一个自然发展和逐渐过渡变化的过程,没有突然的转折点,没有什么重大时刻,它是一个循序渐进的、对这个世界、包括自己的人生的一个慢慢堆积、感悟、理解的过程。
My work has developed along a natural and gradual trajectory. There haven't been any sudden turning points or significant moments. It's been a gradual progression and a process of accumulation, inspiration and understanding of the world, including my own life.

Shot entirely in-world at RMB City, this video is by Lainy Voom, with writing by Wagner James Au (aka Hamlet Au)

B. Tizzy: 你所从事的工作是从什么时候开始有全球性视野的?你是有意决定这样做的吗?
At what point did your work take on a global aspect, and was it a conscious decision?

Cao Fei: 生活在今天的中国,每个个体都不能避免被卷入这全球化的运动,都不能对我们身边的激烈变迁视而不见,我只是在用自己的方式记录、表达我对身边这些变化的深切感受。这是个身不由己的时代,时代会迫使你作出一定回应。
No living being in contemporary China can avoid globalization or turn a blind eye to its acute changes. I am merely using my own method to document and express my honest feelings with regards to the changes that surround me.

B. Tizzy: 你是使用什么软件建立起了第一个人民城寨••••••是我们一开始在Youtube见到的那个吗?你是先做好了它然后才发现第二人生的,还是你那时就已经是虚拟世界居民了?
What software did you use to create the first RMB City... the one we first saw on Youtube? Did you make it first and then discover Second Life, or had you already become a virtual world resident?

Cao Fei: 我是在2007年1月成为虚拟世界居民,然后用了半年时间在虚拟世界旅行,拍摄了i.Mirror,紧接着,就有了建造人民城寨的构想,并开始用3D Max软件把城市基本构想勾勒出来,也就是后来你们在youtube看到的video: RMB City Planning (2007)。
I became a virtual world resident in January 2007. Then I spent half a year traveling in the virtual world and filming i.Mirror. Soon after, I had the idea of building RMB City and started building the basic blueprint with 3ds Max software. The result is the youtube video which you have seen: RMB City Planning (2007).

RMB City on Cao Fei's computer

RMB City in Second Life

B. Tizzy: 人民城寨备受现实世界艺术评论家以及博物馆和媒体的推崇,但却未得到第二人生居民的充分赏识。我们是应该解决这个问题,还是转向只针对现实世界(Real World)来做这个项目?
RMB City is acclaimed by Real World art critics, museum and media, but under-appreciated by Second Life residents. Does that matter moving forward, or was this project intended for Real Life?

Cao Fei: 我想,这是个悖论,我们总是很难做到周全而完美。要得到更多第二人生居民的赏识,我还需要做很多我不胜任的工作,如如何竭力保持社团的黏性,如何不断组织虚拟居民喜闻乐见的活动,如何发展会员等等。人民城寨项目是一个艺术项目,它具有在当代文化概念上的指涉,以及在这个框架下的实验价值,它不一定要具有虚拟社会内的普罗大众的功能,而做一个在虚拟社会里很pop的地点也不是我的初衷,我更原意把它当作一个超越对固定理解之外的“现场”,不刻意针对现实世界或虚拟社群,甚至忘记其的虚拟特性和现实依据,它是一个模糊的、开放的、不被彰显定义的地带,一切事物都可被卷入而最终不再成为他们的原本。而它作为一个具有沟通现实世界特性的项目,迂回在两个世界之间,这也可能是其他虚拟城市/项目所缺乏的。
I think this is a paradox. It's always difficult to create a perfect thing. To win the appreciation of more Second Life residents, I would have to do a lot of work that I am incapable of doing, such as maintaining a tight-knit community, organizing regular activities that interest Second Life residents, develop membership, and so forth. RMB City is an art project and contains references to contemporary cultural concepts. Given the experimental framework, it doesn't have to serve the proletarian function of virtual societies.

Furthermore, it was not my intent to create a very pop place within the virtual world. I would rather treat it as a "site" that transcends fixed interpretations. I don't purposely address the real world or virtual groups and even forget its virtual characteristics and foundation in reality. It is an ambiguous, open zone that eludes definition. Things get pulled in and may never revert to their original form again. This project channels real world characteristics and rests outside of two worlds, something that perhaps other virtual cities/projects lack.

B. Tizzy: 人民城寨被认为是具有讽刺意味符号集合的典型。事实如此吗?还是你有别的看法?
RMB City is typically described as a satirical collection of icons. Is that what it is or is there something else?

Cao Fei: 除了讽刺,还有赞美,甚至歌颂,但这都不是它的全部。它还有失落、忧郁,以及回忆和怀旧。作为一个文化意义上的“空间”,它具有研究、讨论、实验、实践的特性。作为一个心灵景观,它无时无刻都在上演流动的戏剧。作为一个折射当代中国的镜像,它有着后现代的狂欢和梦呓,同时有着反省与自悟。当然也有包括其他城市都共同具有的特性 ——“虚空”。
There is satire, but also praise and even admiration. But this does not describe it in its entirety. There is also loss, melancholy, memory and nostalgia. As a cultural "space," it lends itself to research, discussion, experimentation and realization. As a spiritual site, it is a constant, ongoing drama. As a reflection of contemporary China, it has the revelry and balderdash of postmodernism. At the same time, it is introspective and self-perceptive. Of course it also includes the one trait that all cities have – “emptiness.”

B. Tizzy: 飞机撞上大楼的景象让美国人见了就火冒三丈,什么促使你把它带进了人民城寨?
The image of a plane flying into buildings is nauseating for Americans. What compelled you to introduce that to RMB City?

Cao Fei: 我想这个问题所表现出来的先入为主是文化差异的表现,或者是差异所导致的联想。我们城市里的飞机不是撞上大楼,而是卡在密集的建筑之间,中国急剧的城市化导致建筑密度大幅增加,不断外扩的CBD淹没我们的天际线,逐渐的,我们只能在楼宇和城中村的缝隙间看到飞机越过天空,而在RMB City,飞机一旦掠过城市,就再也飞不出去了,永远地卡在这个溢出的都市中。
I think immediately of cultural differences, or rather the associations that form as a result of difference. The planes in our city do not crash into buildings; they are caught between densely concentrated architecture. China's rapid urbanization has resulted in a building boom. The constantly expanding CBD has submerged our skyline. Eventually, we will only be able to see planes from inside buildings or gaps within the city. When a plane flies over RMB City, it can never leave, and is forever trapped inside the overflowing city.

B. Tizzy: 人民城寨有什么需要发掘的秘密吗?有什么是第二人生居民不能理解,或是觉得不值得关注的?
Are there any secrets that need discovering at RMB City? What haven't Second Life residents understood or picked out that is noteworthy?

Cao Fei: 人民城寨从来没有什么秘密,也没有什么需要去发掘的,去慢慢体味它可能更适合,或者你尝试放弃飞翔去徒步漫游,再或者飞到城市之颠或无限接近城市的边缘。喜欢一个城市与否,和你喜欢某本书一样,有人喜欢畅销书,有人喜欢冷门的诗歌集,大部分人喜欢流行乐,还是有人喜欢偏门的噪音,这就是趣味和选择,我们很高兴人民城寨能成为另外一种选择或者众选择之一。欢迎大家,也许,有一天你会爱上它,或者短短的一次性旅程能让你记忆深刻,以至于它在某天突然消失了你恍然间感到隐隐不舍。
RMB City has never had any secrets or things waiting to be unearthed. It's probably more appropriate to slowly experience it yourself; you can give up flying and walk around or fly to a high point in the city or one of the countless peripheral points on the outskirts. Whether or not you like a city, is the same as whether or not you like a book. Some people like best-sellers and some prefer obscure chapbooks; most people like pop music, but still some prefer experimental sound This has to do with preference and choice. We are very happy that RMB City can be an option or one of many options.

B. Tizzy: 请再给我们介绍一些关于人民城寨新古根海姆大楼的情况。
Tell us more about the new Guggenheim building at RMB City.

Cao Fei: I have been invited by the Guggenheim Museum to participate in the 2010 exhibit: “Contemplating the Void: Interventions in the Guggenheim Museum Rotunda” for the museum's 50th anniversary. The Guggenheim invited approximately 250 artists, architects and designers to imagine their dream intervention in Frank Lloyd Wright’s rotunda.

Therefore, I built a virtual Guggenheim that can transform into an "ox horn." I chose an ox horn because of an ancient Buddhist story. Second Life is an intangible non-physical space that has its conceptual foundations rooted in the virtual dimension. As such, our perception and comprehension of this space is largely reliant on visuals and psychological impact. Within Second Life's RMB City, the Guggenheim Museum is transformed into an ox horn floating in the city's sky, like a manifestation of the notion of "nothingness" as depicted in the story of Milarepa Thera and the horn, and the parallel relationships that the virtual and real worlds possess towards "nothingness." On some level, it is also akin to the idea of inherent harmony amongst disparate entities within Buddhist cosmology.

Director: Cao Fei (SL: China Tracy)
Concept/Script: Huang He (SL: QueenShoe Voom)
Translation: Venus Lau (SL: Nokan Vlodovic)
Project Manager: Samantha Culp (SL: Miniature Tigerpaw)
Project Coordinator: Mengxian Li (SL: Ume Freiman)
Engineer of Fengshui Project: Sinewave
Camera / Editing: Avatrian
Co-produced by Kaaitheater, Festival PERFORMATIK 09, Brussels, Belgium

B. Tizzy: 放眼未来,你对未来人民城寨合作在艺术以及艺术家发面有什么期望?
Moving forward, what are you looking for in art and artists for future RMB City collaborations?

Cao Fei: 人民城寨它是一个持续时间为两年的艺术项目,接下来还有1年的时间就要结束了。人民城寨是一个用来运转的作品,它不仅仅是用来看和游览的,它鼓励和邀请人们参与,对系统建设性地提出问题与假设,并向更开放的方向发展。称之为:行动的,自由的,系统之间的。
RMB City is a two-year project. There is one more year before it ends. RMB City is a revolving piece and not just for viewing or visiting. We encourage and invite people to participate and raise questions and hypotheses about the system structure so we can develop a more open(ly and) in an even more open direction. It should be considered: moving, free, seamless between systems.

Many thanks to Philana Woo for making this interview possible with her English to Chinese/Chinese to English translations, and to Honora Shea of Vitamin Creative Space for making the arrangements. I also especially want to thank Cao Fei for graciously agreeing to this interview at a time when she is busy caring for her baby son Cowboy Lim, born in March of this year, in addition to working on her many projects within and outside of Second Life.

Wherein I finally love Cao Fei's RMB City: Part I

China Tracy is the Second Life® avatar of Cao Fei, a Beijing-based woman born in Guangzhou, China in 1978, and the most acclaimed virtual worlds’ artist in Real Life. It is therefore illogical that this blog, which has logged 745 posts to date and the majority of them about virtual art, has never featured China Tracy, Cao Fei or her creations.

I do so today, not because Cao was selected by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation as one of the six finalists for the 2010 Hugo Boss award. The $100,000 are presented every other year to “the artist (or group of artists) working in any medium, anywhere in the world” for making the most important contribution to contemporary art. Certainly the most appropriate museum in the world for observing, fostering and archiving virtual art is the Guggenheim. We've been waiting for it to "arrive" with acute and, I suppose, guarded anticipation. How will things change when they take their rightful place?

Furthermore, Cao's virtual work was just featured on PBS’ Art:21 Fantasy and Contemporary Art episode last week. Here is the preview:

There are multiple ironies running through this story, for China Tracy's much celebrated virtual oeuvre, the four sims/islands work known collectively as RMB City, is thoroughly unvisited and unloved in Second Life - except when a bevy of hired content creators are constructing some new area or exhibit, the occasional “party,” and RMB City's illustrious first home-away-from-home, YouTube, is often blocked and inaccessible to most of her countrymen, and even to her. For all I know, it's possible that she may not even be able to read this blogpost.

The sorry truth is that even though I recognized that her work was important, brilliant even, and a credit to virtual worlds, I didn’t have much to say about it. The computer generated version of RMB City depicted in the video was charming and oddly alluring...

...but the realized construction of it in Second Life - though impeccably recreated by hired metaverse developers - left me cold. The plug and the socket were both present but the work failed to solicit any connections. Speaking for myself alone and as a frequent user of virtual worlds, RMB City felt lonely and somehow broken. It's biggest failing in my view: It's not immersive. It's like looking at a painting within a painting. The best way I can describe it is that I'm not there even when I am there.

China Tracy/Cao Fei is the only virtual artist I can think of that contracts out the work of constructing her visions in Second Life. While many artists do collaborate with others, the implementation of their ideas with SL's building tools and actual prims is a source of pride and critique, as well. This isn't to say that Cao Fei wouldn't know how to do it herself. Consider that she created the original RMB City on her computer with 3ds Max, a modeling program that more advanced creators use to fabricate sculpties in Second Life.

Looking for further insights, I asked Chenin Anabuki who heads up Avatrain, the company that recreated Phase I of RMB City in Second Life for Cao Fei, what he had learned from the experience. "I learned that we have this huge part of ourselves that is very creative. Prior to RMB, I mainly saw us as engineers, but SL almost forces you to be creative, no matter what your function is. Development in SL is not as linear as in RL. So, over time, we got to learn the different ways to implement content for our clients. These projects are difficult. Many people (who are new to SL) are not aware of what is possible in SL," he explained.

Okay, I get it

Something clicked with me back in early September, though, when I read the opening paragraph of a recent press release issued by Vitamin Creative Space, promoting the unveiling of a new video of RMB by Lainy Voom and a party, as well as fashion/photo contests, jointly held with metaverse chronicler Hamlet Au of New World Notes, and presided over by virtual fashion maven Iris Ophelia:

"Many of us are born into shelter, nurtured in the arms of people who guide us before allowing us to encounter our physical realities on our own. But imagine that you are born not into the arms of your mother, but into the arms of a city; and that you are grasped, embraced and cultivated by the towers and vessels, sounds and sights of a fantastical empire. For China Sun, the baby of China Tracy, this is reality from first breath. When China Sun asks “What is life?” it is RMB City who answers."

China Sun is the Second Life name for Cao's real baby son - Cowboy Lim - born in March of this year.

Welcome to the world(s), China Sun and Cowboy Lim!

And that's when I got it.

RMB City isn't intended as a space for us to inhabit. It is a 3D poem that we are witness to. We turn the page by visiting one sim or location at a time. It's a virtual postmodern allegory about all the yearnings and angst of our era.

The shops at RMB City don't actually sell anything

The courtesans - all bots - entice you with exciting promises, but there is no way for them, or you, to touch

chinesebeauty Shim: Darling, how I miss you! Why are you here so late?
chinesebeauty Shim: Let me treat you nice today.
chinesebeauty Shim: Follow me please, darling. http://slurl.com/secondlife/RMB%20City%201/219/19/65 (Please click the link to teleport)
chinesebeauty Shim: Wanna have close contact with me? Please IM: BeautyChina Aries, I will show up as soon as possible.

Games of chance and penalty are offered there, but they aren't interactive or don't work.

Upon arrival at RMB City, you are greeted by SuperConcierge Cristole, a bot, sitting behind an impressive desk:

SuperConcierge Cristole: Hi! Welcome to RMB City! Can I help you?
SuperConcierge Cristole: My name is Superconcierge Cristole, I'm the third mayor of RMB City, and also your concierge.
SuperConcierge Cristole: Please leave a message with your request, Superconcierge Cristole. I will reply as soon as possible.
SuperConcierge Cristole: Thank you. I don't ask for much in return, only that you give me something to love! Say "love", I will give you a gift :).
Bettina Tizzy: love
SuperConcierge Cristole: I have sent you a note card and a gift. Cheers. :)

He provides you with a notecard, but there is no gift.

Beyond that, RMB City is a bridge between immersive virtual worlds and Real Life that anyone can appreciate, whether they have experienced virtual worlds or not. It is unreal and abstract, free of Barbie and Ken avatars, yet chock full of symbols and imagery that anyone can recognize. China Tracy is "guid(ing) us before allowing us to encounter" virtual realities on our own.

Photo of the 3D-printed model of RMB City at the Serpentine Gallery in London by Vint Falken

RMB City's success is not the tail that wags the dog where Cao Fei is concerned. This is just one of many projects she is working on or has completed, including her analyses of the Chinese cosplayer culture.

Soon after logging in to Second Life in late 2006, Cao began to make "hidden camera" machinima. "I was directly recording myself as I moved through Second Life, but as I’m watching myself, I’m also controlling myself. I’m simultaneously director and actor. But I enjoy exploring everything and not knowing what will happen in the next step. A lot of the process is waiting for something to happen, and I didn’t try to make something fake. In the end, I had some 300 GB of saved chat dialogues and “real” captured footage," she explained.

This 3-part video, iMirror, is currently being screened in Second Life at the National Portrait Gallery of Australia's doppelgänger show, curated by Gillian Raymond, that explores contemporary notions of portraiture in the online realm (teleport directly from here). This is part 2:

Thinking back to RMB City, I have finally learned to love this virtual work and all that it has accomplished. Cao Fei has introduced millions to the idea of using a virtual world as a canvas for their creativity, and this is no mean feat. RMB City does, finally, speak to me and, for the first time I can hear it.

Part II of this series: "An interview in Chinese and English with virtual superstar Cao Fei - Will you be the next artist showing at RMB City?" is available here.

Teleport to RMB City directly from here or, if you are new to Second Life, begin here.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The distance between virtual worlds and augmented reality is... evaporating

The four-day International Symposium on Mixed and Augmented Reality is about to kick off in a few hours in Orlando, Florida.

For openers, the Visual Media Lab at Israel's Ben Gurion University, together with the Human Interface Technology lab out of New Zealand, have made it possible for a user to sketch things, free-hand, and see them simulated in realtime 3D.

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.

144/Dimensional Drift Machine: Dekka Raymaker/Penumbra Carter at Burning Life 2009

Posted by Alpha Auer

Collage: In Profils Perdus Soupault says: "... In the course of our inquiry we had discovered that the mind released from all critical pressures offered images and not logical propositions..." The imagery of collage, its image-work is not amenable to rational control or explanation. André Breton recalls how he used Freud’s methods of investigation, as he experimented in written monologue by throwing out ideas on paper, followed by a critical examination. Breton noted that the writings were ‘strange’, invested with a ‘very high degree of immediate absurdity’. It was out of this experiment with Freud’s method that Breton founded surrealism defining it as ‘pure psychic automatism’, which through the spoken or written word, or some other means of expression, would reveal ‘the real process of thought’.

Collage consists in reassembling preexisting images in such a way as to form a new image answering a poetic need. Max Ernst defined it as "the chance encounter of two distant realities on an unsuitable level", a formula which is an alternate codification of Lautréamont's proposition: "Beautiful as the encounter of a sewing machine and an umbrella on a dissecting table, it gives us a remarkable method of triangulation that does not provide measures, but brings to the surface unrevealed mental images". Aragon states that collage "is more reminiscent of the operations of magic than of those of painting”. Everything hinges on the artist's success in persuading us to recognize as accurate the relationship now established between normally distant realities as well as in making us recognize their connection on the plane of poetry. Asked, whether he thought that his collages were visible poetry Jean Arp replied "Yes, this is poetry made with plastic means".

A conglomeration of protagonists: a bird, a skeleton in a wheelchair, empty chairs arranged in a circle waiting for their occupants, a fiery bathtub, a windmill have been placed in a landscape perfectly gridded by rows of stakes, over which loom a number of ever so graceful Picabiaesque towers. A collage of three dimensions. I do not know what this is. I do not understand it - on a conscious level - any more than I "understand" Max Ernst's collages or Eluard's poetry. However, just as its Dadaist and surrealist predecessors the impact of that what I am looking at (as well as hearing!) is utterly remarkable...

Dekka Raymaker and Penumbra Carter's installation at Burning Life 2009 is one of the most compelling works of art that I have been immersed in in quite some time. Teleport directly from here!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Flexis divine: Proud Flesh

Sinuous, pink (my fave color), ALIVE, and hilarious, Adam Ramona's Proud Flesh installation at Burning Life 2009 is a triumph.

Kindly click the lower right hand corner to view this "Large"

Adam Ramona is the artist Adam Nash in Real Life, living in Melbourne, Australia. We've blogged about his work many times. His notecard at the installation reads:

This work is an attempt at a little evolving audiovisual environment. Each wind-responsive square tube fleshy flower will spawn a single seed when walked through by an avatar. The seed rises. If it collides with one of the geometric "clouds" randomly moving above, the cloud spawns a single shard. The shard releases a single raindrop. The raindrop falls. If it hits one of the square tube fleshy flowers, the square tube fleshy flower will spawn more seeds and so on. This symbiotic loop creates an ever-changing audiovisual environment. It's not really evolving, since evolution implies adaptation. In that sense, the failure of this work is perhaps a testament to the limited nature of the environment within which it exists, which itself is perhaps a testament to the failure of us all to comprehend evolution or its consequences.

What does it mean to be in the world? We are flesh, and we are proud. We name that which we do not understand. We are evolving, but judging by our current state, we have a very long way to go. As Alain Badiou puts it: "The contemporary world is thus doubly hostile to truth procedures. This hostility betrays itself through nominal occlusions: where the name of a truth procedure should obtain, another, which represses it, holds sway. The name 'culture' comes to obliterate that of 'art'. The word 'technology' obliterates the word 'science'. The word 'management' obliterates the word politics. The word 'sexuality' obliterates love. The 'culutre-technology-management-sexuality' system, which has the immense merit of being homogenous to the market, all of whose terms designate a category of commercial presentation, constitutes the modern nominal occlusion of the 'art-scinece-politics-love' system, which identifies truth procedures typologically."

Adam Nash (Adam Ramona), Melbourne, Australia, 2009.


Reference: Alain Badiou, St Paul: The Foundation of Universalism, Stanford University Press, 2003. P.12.

Teleport directly from here.

The Tower and the Quest

Forgive me, dear readers, if I congratulate myself again and again for luring Alpha Auer (aka Elif Ayiter) into becoming my co-blogger here. Sometimes she writes and I don't. Sometimes I write alone for weeks. Somehow, this blog doesn't get overly lonely. And oh, the things she creates! She amuses me; she fills me with awe.

On this occasion, and for Burning Life 2009, the Tower and the Quest was built by Alpha Auer, the story and animations were created by Frigg Ragu, and these sumptuous avatars by Grapho Fullstop. And guess who Grapho is?

Me, as the Fool

The five sets of avatars are based on the Tarot of Marseilles. They are free and available in both female and male versions. They come with their own animation overriders by Frigg! Wear them and pose, using the delightful poses sprinkled throughout the Tower. Visitors are encouraged to interact with the build and each other, creating their own interpretations and mythologies.

The rest of these images were taken by Alpha herself.

The Hermit


The Chariot

The notecard at the installation reads:

Upon arriving you will receive a full avatar for each of the following characters which you can obtain from 5 spheres placed around a circle at the entry location: These are "The Fool", "The Hermit", "The Chariot", "Temperance" and "The Moon" with skin, clothes and attached poses/animations. These characters are based on the “Tarot of Marseilles”. Each character has their own stage/sphere which progress vertically as the platforms of the tower – but you are free to use the entire installation as you want, of course. In addition to the poses and animations attached to the avatars, you will find poses and animation placed around and inside the installation. Walk/fly around, try the poses and animations to create your own photostory. Use all of your senses, because there are details in the spheres and sounds to enrich your imagination.

A story usually contains the following elements: A character (protagonist), a place (which you now have), a problem and an antagonist. The spheres are detailed, the poses and animations have titles – all this is provided to inspire you to create a story.

Tarot are packs of cards found all the way back to the fifteenth century. Historically Tarot has been played for divination purposes. The “Tarot of Marseilles” is one standard pattern design of the card. Within our context it is not so much the divination usage that is interesting, but rather the design and folkloristic associations the cards give. The 5 specific characters chosen for this project form a narration. The fool is regarded as the storyteller/the creator, while the hermit is the protagonist, whose actions are represented by the Chariot, while Temperance is needed in “getting the story into balance after the action” and the Moon is the end of the story.

Take photographs of your stories and creations and show us the results! If you post your pictures at FLICKR, we would appreciate it if you tag the pictures with: “The tower and the quest”, “alpha.tribe” and “Poses for prose and poetry” - in this way we will be able to find your pictures and admire and be inspired by your creations, and thus get ideas for new narrative installations.


Alpha Auer, aka. Elif Ayiter is a totally irreverent, mischievous, politically incorrect, frivolous, fashion victim avatar in Second Life@. She is the CEO of the virtual fashion enterprise alpha.tribe as well as the builder and owner of Syncretia and Syncretia Annex. During less frivolous moments she has also been known to blog for the NPIRL blog of Second Life@.

Elif Ayiter, aka. Alpha Auer is a designer and researcher specializing in the development and implementation of hybrid educational methodologies between art&design and computer science teaching full time at Sabanci University, Istanbul, Turkey. Her research interests include data visualization and the development of Kinesthetic/Somatic/Biological interfaces for the metaverse; both in collaboration with teams of computer scientists. She has presented creative as well as research output at conferences including Siggraph, Consciousness Reframed, Creativity and Cognition, ISEA, ICALT, Computational Aesthetics (Eurographics) and Cyberworlds. Elif is also the chief editor of the forthcoming journal Metaverse Creativity with Intellect Journals, UK and is currently studying for a doctoral degree at the Planetary Collegium, CAiiA hub, at the University of Plymouth with Roy Ascott.


Frigg Ragu aka. Heidi Dahlsveen (Norway) is a storyteller, author and assistant professor at the University College of Oslo. Her main field and interest is to perform stories for all kind of people and she has lived as a storyteller since 1996. She has been performing, telling and teaching internationally in countries like Bulgary, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Greece, Italy, Sweden, USA and Wales. At the University College of Oslo she is responsible for three kinds of storytelling studies. In Second life her main interest has been how to create poses as a narrative element. She has received support from Norwegian Arts Council to research performing arts and create performance in Second life.


Miskat Qinan: Many special thanks for all the input during the early phases of concept development!

Marcthur Goosson: Drapes (The Hermit and Temperance avatars)
Nomasha Syaka: Sculpty horse (The Chariot avatar)
Tetrahedron Fayray: Greek amphora (Temperance avatar)
Philips Replacement: Blonde Beauty female hair (Temperance avatar)
Flame Trudeau: Male hair (Temperance avatar)
Kithylin Perth: Wolf heads (The Moon avatar)
Cognitive Gears: Facelight (The Moon avatar)

Teleport directly from here.

Spotted - Superlative virtual avatar and Burner

Marko Seurat at Burning Life 2009

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Vote for scalable megaprims on Estate land in Second Life

Many thanks to Qarl Linden who - in comments to my previous post regarding the 2nd anniversary of the Big Prim Problem - suggested that Linden Lab might compromise and consider making scalable megaprims available on Estate land. To that end, I asked my JIRA-savvy friend Dirk Talamasca to create such a proposal for us, thereby enabling everyone to have their say on this potential new feature... and HERE it is. Please go vote!

To vote on a JIRA issue, log in with your first and last Second Life names, enter your Second Life password - don't worry, the JIRA belongs to Second Life - and then look in the left hand column for voting options.

See also:

Monday, October 12, 2009

Giant Prims - 2nd anniversary of "The Big Prim Problem"

Two years ago today, the Not Possible IRL group read Michael Linden's post, The Big Prim Problem, in dismay. Be sure to read that post if you have no idea what I am talking about.

A great deal has happened in two years, including a tiny window during which a number of creators were able to take advantage of a wee exploit and make many huge prims in different sizes, but none of them scalable.

While we would still like to have scalable megas with which to create, our priorities have moved to other areas, with the top one being better IP protection of virtual creations.

In any event, since that fateful day, October 12, 2007, this blog has kept a vigil of sorts. We published many posts about great content that would not exist were it not for megas, and we still care. And we still want scalable megas. In fact, I cannot imagine most of my favorite content in Second Life without them. What creations never existed because we don't have scalable prims? I suppose we will never know.

In the meantime, scalable huge prims are not a problem on OpenSims, and hardly an issue on Blue Mars were prims don't even exist. Why hasn't Linden Lab allowed them? Why?

I thought you might enjoy reading an old post that Douglas Story prepared for you, many many moons ago, and below you'll find links to just some of our old posts. This blogpost was published long before we'd figured out how to resize pics on Blogger. Sadly, ignore the slurls for the Man Angel at Black Swan and DanCoyote Antonelli's Hyperformalism, as this content is no longer on the grid.

Also, Juria Yoshikawa's Liquid Light is currently located at the "new" Chakryn Forest, the old Chakryn Forest is still there, Sabine Stonebender's Zero Point was returned to her one day by mistake and she has since had to rebuild or recreate it, prim by prim, and the FlowerBall has been relocated to Cetus Island. I'll post slurls to these things shortly.

How time flies!


Without Megaprims...

Originally published October 20, 2007

this post by Douglas Story

Without megaprims...Light Waves' Man Angel would have disappeared.
photo by Finny Yates. slurl

Ah, the power of them three little dots! I refer to the ellipse... Useful in this case because we were all ready to write a scorching propaganda piece with the theme, "Without Megaprims... All This Great Shit Will Go Away!" But now with things looking up on that front (latest word is that the all-powerful Lindens are leaning toward keeping megaprims) I only have to change the part after the ellipse to "...All This Great Shit WOULD Have Gone Away! And What A Damned Shame That Would Have Been!!!" Hmmmm...the first title was snappier though, you have to admit.

Without megaprims...DanCoyote Antonelli's Hyperformalism would have disappeared.

Without megaprims...Rezzable's Greenies' Home would have disappeared.

Without megaprims...the irritatingly prolific Juria Yoshikawa's Liquid Light would have disappeared.

I make something new about every seven months. With Juria, it's about every two minutes. I find this annoying. slurl

Without megaprims... Sabine Stonebender's Zero Point would have disappeared. slurl

You'll find a lot of shots here that include Bettina's booty in them. The author wishes to point out that most of the pictures here were taken by Bettina herself. Any booty issues should be taken up with the management.

Without megaprims... The International Spaceflight Museum would have disappeared.

The thing is...the artists and builders who use megaprims tend to be the most creative, charming, and well-dressed avatars who bring us joy in SL. How lucky we are to have them!

Without megaprims... Douglas Story, Aldomanutio Abruzzo & Desdemona Enfield's FlowerBall would have disappeared.

Without megaprims...Artoo Magneto's anyMOTION would have disappeared.

Without megaprims...Gazira Babeli's 'Gaz of the Desert' would not have been possible.

I don't like most of the machinima I've seen. This is 23 minutes of spell-binding, slow-cut magic. See it. slurl

Without megaprims... Cube Inada's Alien Flying Circus would have disappeared.

Without megaprims...Earth Primbee's Inspire Space Park would have disappeared.
Yes, it's true that I took this shot myself. But you'll notice - there's no booty. My pictures are entirely booty-free.

(photo by Wellington Bahram) slurl
Without megaprims we would not have Bettina's forest home - Chakryn - by Andrek Lowell,

nor this,

nor this (spanning three effing sims!)

nor this.

I'm sure we've missed many wonderful items (I'm sure you'll point them out, gentle readers) but I think we made our point here. The loss of megaprims would be a cheapening, deadening blow to the fields of imagination and creativity that Second Life opens up to people. We hope that this wonderful creative tool remains open to us, for both our creative impulses and for those who appreciate same.

Yoo hoo! Linden Labs? Paging Mr. Michael Linden... Please give the waiting (second) world a favorable answer, and soon!

See also:

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Bryn Oh: Vessel's Dream - Sneak peek

She is the mistress of sad art, of robotic art, of mystery and melancholy, all in a virtual space, but when you talk with her, there's a bit of jocularity, of no-nonsense to Bryn Oh that's light and engaging. In conversation yesterday, the Canadian artist got to speaking about Second Life's building blocks. "I kind of like prims. It's fun to just use them. It's like Lego."

Bryn Oh, as captured by Bryn Oh

As the discussion progressed, we got on the topic of weather and how cold it can get up north. Like -30. It didn't occur to me to clarify this at the time, but I hope she was referring to Fahrenheit and not Celsius degrees. Brrr. "Snow was my very first toy, before Legos," she explained. What did she make? "Oh, snow homes, people, and often underground tunnels, which are nice and warm inside."

Years later, Bryn is still making tunnels and secret places that can only be negotiated via camming - that act of zooming and panning one's viewer (camera) down nooks and crevices. What they lead to is often the very heart of the matter, the answer, or partial answer to the question that the installation poses, for there is always a story, a conundrum, and a sequence of events in her art that need to be discovered to comprehend the whole. She is a virtual storyteller.

Vessel's Dream is such a creation. "They will only be able to go through a few rooms before they cannot continue with their avatar," advised Bryn. "At this point they must switch to holding down Ctrl and Alt (at the same time), and using the left mouse button. With all three held down, you can now change the angle and enter the tunnel. They then let go of the left mouse button, move it over a new target and hold it down again. Letting go, they can zoom forward using the scroll wheel. It's a bit like spiderman moving like this. Again they must click on things, as many parts of the build can be activated," she instructed.

Vessel's Dream has not yet been made public, but like all of Bryn's works, it appears to be an advancement over her last. Now her machinima is helping her to tell the stories, always aided by her Machine Poetry, which one discovers here and there, like messages in a bottle, lonely and cast away on old parchment paper: Histories of sentimental, often persecuted and ill-fated angels and robots.

Machinima by Bryn Oh

Here are just some of the blogposts we've done about Bryn and her work in Second Life: