Sunday, May 31, 2009

Chouchou leaps from digital platform to digital platform: Releases first album + iTunes

Posted by Bettina Tizzy

Until now, the only way you could hear Chouchou, the Japanese musical group with a panoramic, shimmering sound that existed only in Second Life®, was in-world via live concerts, on the lovely beach that is their Chouchou sim (teleport directly from here), or on your own land parcel with the help of their “Little Tiara,” which enabled you to stream their weekly radio program, as well as all of the songs in their repertory. The radio box had ceased to operate some months ago, so I’ve been ending each day at the Chouchou sim lately because I’ve missed hearing their music, and yes, I’m a card carrying member of the Chouchouaholic group.

Finally and effective immediately, I can have Chouchou music any way I want. Juliet Heberle and Arabesque Choche have remastered and remixed every single gorgeous track and released one album with still another on the way on the Earth Records label.

NARCOLEPSY features ten tracks, including Coma. “It is sung in a language from nowhere. I created the lyrics, imagining words from somewhere very, very far. Yes, people really like the song, even if they don't know the meaning of the words,” explained Juliet.

The icing on the cake is that we can now buy and vote for their songs on iTunes, the most popular source of music in the United States, and it is once again possible to stream it on our land parcels in-world, this time via a direct web link.

Never heard Chouchou? This was their first music video.

"coma" Music Video - Chouchou

There's also a brand new fan group for Chouchou on Facebook.

See also:
Enjoy Chouchou while you can.

Many thanks to Masami Kuramoto who whispered the news in my ear last night!

Multiplicity at The Good Life - A story in pictures

Posted by Bettina Tizzy

Via Toady Nakamura, we discover...

Click to see large

Click to see large

Friday, May 29, 2009

Domenico Quaranta on Gazira's "Hammering the Void"

Photograph courtesy of [DAM]Berlin - All rights reserved

Today marks the opening of Gazira Babeli's newest mixed realities show, which will run through July 31st at the [DAM]Berlin gallery in Berlin and concurrently in Second Life®. A new film will be screened.

May 29, 2009:
* 10pm - 12am at Locusolus - [DAM]SecondLife, teleport directly from here
* 7-9 PM in the gallery [DAM]Berlin

by Domenico Quaranta

“The world we actually have does not meet my standards.” - Philip K. Dick

In 1920, at the opening of a Dada exhibition in Köln, Max Ernst made an axe available for the audience. As far as I know, this gesture was never reenacted. That's a shame. An artwork should always come with an axe in attach. This would remind us that art must be loved, or hated. That it deserves more than an idiot gaze. Duchamp took years to make us accept his urinal, yet he's still unable to persuade us to use it in the more logical way: pissing into it. I bet he would be happy with this kind of interaction: turning an artwork into an urinal.

Gazira Babeli never reenacts – she acts. She's worshipped as a marabout, but she hates spells and she does her best to break them. Tell her “aura” and she'll throw an hail of meteoroids onto you. Tell her “virtual” and she'll shoot you into the air at 900 km/h. When, in 2006, she made Come To Heaven, she released the code of the performance through her website: she discovered the painful delights of being beaten up by a computer graphics card, and she wanted to share this feeling with everybody.

Yet, even on a computer screen, people keep on loving the moonlight instead of killing it, and being charmed by everything is introduced to them as “art”. Thus Gazira created the fourteen sisters. They are called Anger Erin, Envy Sixpence, Gluttony Aboma, Greed Petrovic, Lust Placebo, Pride Placebo, Sloth Swansong, Courage Sparta, Faith Radikal, Hope Varnish, Justice Kimono, Love Brandi, Prudence Miami, Temperance Navarita. They are Gazira Babeli, fourteen times. Carrying a wooden sledge-hammer, they move all together, and hit violently. When you, beloved art lover, meet them, feel free to think at the following references, at your pleasure: La Liberté guidant le peuple, The Night Watch, Il quarto stato, an army of models performing Vanessa Beecroft. At your first blow on the head, art will be replaced, in your mind, by Castor oil and gas chambers.

This platoon in Wellington boots and suspender belt comes without any notice, and intervenes in social events – mostly exhibition openings – making a hell of a mess. Is this the usual, boring self-referential crap we are used to finding in art? What Gazira likes is to intervene in the rituality of the real, and break up its continuity. The world she actually has does not meet her standards, and she hammers it. She works in this direction from the very beginning: just think to her earthquakes, her showers of pop bananas, her Campbell's Soup cans, her pizzas fouling up the gallery with tomato soup. Isn't she an arse-hole? If you need, Gazira's hammers are there for you. Use them, against her too. That's what she wants.

When they are not swooping down on some crowd trying to smash an artist's head, Gazira's Furies are imprisoned in a claustrophobic office with a view on Windows' standard desktop, jumping around all the time. The office is encaged in a computer. The computer is encaged in a gallery. Gaz' en valise, finally. It looks like a storm in a glass snowball, until you don't open it. And it comes with an hammer, of course.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

She[s] got a hammer: Hammering the Void

Photographs courtesy of [DAM]Berlin - All rights reserved

Posted by Bettina Tizzy

In Hammering the Void, there isn't just one Gazira Babeli, there are 14 and they all fight against an inner void. 14 clones of an artificial person, they are each named after Virtues and Sins: Greed Petrovic, Sloth Swansong, Temperance Navarita, Courage Sparta, Envy Sixpence, and more. Equipped with a hammer in their hands, they descend from the pedestal in the gallery, they swarm to openings of exhibitions and public events. They strike other unsuspecting avatars with blows from their hammer as if to say: "Wake up! Defend yourself! Act!" They force others to react. You love them or you hate them, but you cannot remain indifferent against this aggression, which can be understood as an attempt to awaken the intellect or simply as a malice.

Friday, May 29th marks the opening of Gazira Babeli's newest mixed realities show, which will run through July 31st at the [DAM]Berlin gallery in Berlin and concurrently in Second Life®. A new film will be screened.

May 29, 2009:
10pm - 12am at Locusolus - [DAM]SecondLife, teleport directly from here
7-9 PM in the gallery [DAM]Berlin

Man Machinaga (aka Patrick Lichty) is a technologically-based conceptual artist, writer, independent curator, animator for the activist group, The Yes Men, a founding member - along with Gazira - of the virtual performance art group Second Front, and executive editor of Intelligent Agent Magazine. He is a member of the faculty of the Interactive Art & Media Department of Columbia College, Chicago. He writes...

By Patrick Lichty

As I write this, Gazira and I are talking about my reflections on Hammering the Void, and in dealing with the moral tropes of Sin, Virtue, and most romantically, Truth, it seems that my text less resembles an essay and is more like a sermon. As this is no more surreal than reflecting on the moral implications of a horde of fourteen proxies wielding cartoon mallets, I'd like to frame this under just such a conceit of a sermon on virtual existence. Let us consider then, my Brothers and Sisters in Virtuality and Hypereality, the implications of unleashing Pandora's Box, of unfurling the Sins and Virtues forth into the Nets, armed with nothing less than Vulcan's Hammer itself; let us consider the effects thereof. I want to say that in setting this forth, the traditional Sins and Virtues give rise to four Principles of experience that remain in virtuality, and those are: Affect, Agency, Volition, and Complicity. It is through these that while after shedding the physical coil, humanity follows us into the Void. Let us meditate upon these in that we may understand the Void.

In the beginning of the Hammering the Void introductory video, Gazira and I (or my Man Michinaga proxy) sit before a screen in Second Life, marveling at an opening of 90's net artists, Vuk Cosic and Alexei Shulgin. We gesticulate excitedly like old heavy metal fans about the “Monsters of" We agree that she must set the cloud of Gaziric Sins and Virtues upon the world, equipped with large mallets, perhaps as inquisition, perhaps as divine intervention. For the rest of the video, the Gazirae invade virtual social events akin to a host of viral Agents (as per the “Smiths” from Matrix Reloaded) creating avatar mosh pits and hammering the hapless onlookers. All of this would appear as simple farce; but I know Gazira, and we know one thing...

The Truth is out there, we are all complicit in its creation, and Gazira is hammering you over the head with it.

One point that is essential to consider when looking at the gaggle of Gazirae and their accouterments, is that she has provided the hammer in the gallery for you.

Nice to Meet You Mallets

They aren't inflatable hammers, either. They're probably oak or maple, engraved with the Deadly Sins and Noble Virtues, inviting you to pick them up and play. As a side note, I had considered being more explicit in regards to “play," but doing so would have been too heavy-handed, which is unnecessary when one is wielding an oak mallet.

As Gazira and I have continued to make works in virtual worlds for years, the question returns to the “why," which may return us to the Cartesian cogito. However, I would like to remap the Cartesian assertion into a consideration of the increasing retreat into virtual worlds in asking about some of the things that remain in our Pandora's Box of simulation when we remove materiality and embodiment. This leads us back to the fulcrum of our sermon; the median icon of our discussion.

The sign at the center of this discussion is the hammer, the archetypal sign of Vulcan/Hephaestus, the God of Technology and Artisans. In Hammering the Void, perhaps the null-stuff of virtuality is the metal of disembodied existence that the Gazira-Hephaestae forge into an ironic tool for dragging our own mortal encumbrance into cyberspace. Her traditional Sins and Virtues infest the online worlds, placing all they encounter upon the existential anvil or litmus test of action and reaction. There is little time for reflection, for what is under the hammer nothing less than our human nature. What do you do? From this vantage point, the result is the transmutation of the traditional Sin/Virtue binaries into monads of four human elements of virtual existence. These Monads, as we have transmuted beyond Sin or Virtue, are the principles of Affect, Agency, Volition, and Complicity. which are all complex significations embedded into Gazira's Hammer.

Affect: Identification with the act. One of the most striking images of the Gazirae is that of the fourteen Sins/Virtues rampaging before their puppeteer in a bold thrust, akin to an ideologue ordering their army into action. This encapsulates this writer''s fascination with the evident identification of increasing numbers with virtual worlds, and as of this writing, there were 65,000 people logged into the single online world of Second Life alone, showing the “reality” of virtual reality. This evidence is also embedded within the results of each intervention of the Gazirae, from the amusement of the appearance in the Uqbar region, varying to confusion and even anger in other instances. The paradoxical question of the visceral reaction to virtual events shows that affect is not just for identification for another body, but for an identification with their proxies/avatars as well. Although the avatar version of Burden's Shoot (Kildall or Mattes) is different from the first, both create a “gut reaction”. There is reality in the virtual.

Agency: The act of intervention. If the avatar did not have some sense of real agency, some ability to intervene in affairs, this essay would not exist, as Gazira would have had no effect. Perhaps this is a realization of Baudrillard's primacy of the hyperreal – the object/image that has greater effect than its subject. But this is in agreement with the principle of Agency, as Gazira, and her doppelganger Gazirae, the replicants controlled by a simulacrum, create reaction to her actions. Although this may sound like the erection of a wilderness of mirrors, there are vectors of effect as well as affect when the hammer swings. The effects of the impact (to paraphrase Sanborn) of the virtual mallet are evident in that they set off chains of causality in the physical, even if they are as simple as the fact that she occupies a space in which the hammer is realized in a gallery, asking you to pick it up and swing it yourself. And more specifically, the way she does.

Volition: The will to action. The fact that Gazira sets her plan in motion is a testament to the principle that one has the ability to act through the virtual. The Aktion zur Macht breaks the stasis of virtuality, setting forth the path of agency to the creation of affect. Through the creation of the Sins and Virtues, Gazira has set them upon others, setting up causal chains, however slight, but this prime mover, probably the simplest, is a fundamental factor of intervening.

Complicity: The inseparability from the act, or the impossibility of total abstraction. The double sign of the hammer in the virtual and the physical and their similar functions illustrates our complicity with actions in either world. Through the hammer, argument of separation of subject and object through mere virtuality implodes, as the difference is far more complex. It is no longer the question of the effects of hitting someone with the hammer in the gallery or in the virtual, as both actions hold us complicit with the real issue of violence itself actual or implied, leaving the hammer itself transparent. Violence through cartoon or oak mallet differ little in terms of their being consistent with the same practice, and that is the gesture of the swing, and the effect of the impact. Gazira and her vices/virtues ask you to pick up the hammer and hit your friend over the head with it, but then say, “Funny, that doesn't happen here... Ahahahah....” through this doubling and the resultant difference of effects, Gazira holds us responsible for the violence of signs, the affect of the impact, the effect of the hammer's extancy, the volition of the swing, and the complicity to the hammer and its function.

Before ending my sermon, I would like to talk about the narcissism of the Global Village; of cyberspace. As McLuhan said,

"The global village is a world in which you don't necessarily have harmony. You have extreme concern with everybody else's business and much involvement in everybody else's life. It's a sort of Ann Landers column writ large... huge involvement in everybody else's affairs. So the Global Village is as big as a planet and as small as the village post office."

In many ways, this intense concern is emblematic of the collective dream of pop technoculture less from from Star Trek and more to World of Warcraft. The shift of focus away from the outward vision of Buckminster Fuller 's “Spaceship Earth” to the inwardly looking complicit panopticism of McLuhan's “Global Village” seems to be the object of the swing. Perhaps this inward look is the gaze into the abyss that Gazira is hammering at. Rather than “leaping into the void” a la Klein, is Gazira hammering away at the null-sets of illusion in the void of cyberspace to get at the truths that remain in virtual existence? Is there anything there?

Or is she merely asking you to hit your friend in the face with an oak mallet because that is the most fundamental form of human communication remaining?

In the end, what remains is a communion of reflection; something that is considered an endangered species in the age of constant partial attention deficit. As the Gazirae descend upon us, there is a moment in which we are forced to meditate upon the four elements of human existence in the virtual, and then the offering is put forth.

The Hammer of Gazira. Given for you. May it dispel your illusions.


Patrick Lichty

Is Second Life the theatre of the absurd? Ask the Kool-Aid Man in SL

Posted by Bettina Tizzy

Net Art/New Media artist Jon Rafman has been getting rave reviews and first-rate press coverage with the likes of Rhizome and other coveted art outlets as the Kool-Aid Man in Second Life®, offering free guided tours in-world. His dedicated website features a promo video that I guarantee will produce an emotion in Second Life residents, and invites folks to sign up. I first got wind of this video when Paddy Johnson of the art blog Art Fag City twittered “Best Link Ever! Kool Aid Man gives a guided tour of Second Life and it doesn't suck (like most SL art)!”

Unlike every other machinima I have seen that strives so hard to get past the technical challenges to convey the beauty, the love, the horror, the possibilities within, because of, and thanks to our virtual lives, Jon’s is a breezy, often hilarious tour that celebrates the absurdity of our immersiveness. Second Life users will recognize many favorite builds and installations.

WARNING: This video contains a lot of X-rated content.

Kool-Aid Man in Second Life (.com) - Tour Promo from on Vimeo.

Jon rezzed in Second Life on 12/10/2006 but used it sporadically until recently. I’ve spent a couple of evenings this week in-world with him and I can tell you that he’s a pleasant, intensely curious, and intelligent fellow. He received his Master of Fine Arts degree from the Art Institute of Chicago, and double majored in philosophy and English. I’d call him spontaneous, easily bored, and a fascinated yet detached explorer. I expect you’ll be as curious as I was to hear what he had to say about this. I sent him some rather open-ended questions via email to see what I’d get back.

Why did you elect to omit music to that video?

Jon Rafman: There is a tendency to use music as a crutch and let the soundtrack manipulate the tone of the work. I want the visual aspects of the video to speak for themselves. The formal qualities of the landscapes should dictate the mood of the piece rather than the soundtrack. Moreover, I always felt like the generic in-world sound effects, like the ominous low-pitched wind that blows across SL, creates a subtler emotional resonance than music.

Kool-Aid Man is on a quest for sublime kitsch in Second Life. Music used inappropriately corrupts the underlying mundanity of my avatar's search.

At certain points in the video there is music; however it's always what was streaming in that sim during the time of capture.

I don't want to assume anything so I have to ask: Are you really going to give guided tours?

Jon Rafman: I like this question. It forces me to ask myself: Where's the "Art" happening in this project? How important is the actual tour-giving process to the Kool-Aid Man in SL? Is the core of the artwork the video and photo collections? Or is it the process of the tour itself and the interaction with people in a virtual world that is the core of my project?

Yes, I'm giving tours. It is not a hoax!


Even if the tours were a hoax and the project existed only conceptually, I'd be cool with that, too. I'm a big fan of work that walks the line between fake and real, ironic and tragic, fiction and documentary.

Do you intend to continue your work in Second Life?

Jon Rafman: I'm currently integrating some videos I've captured in SL into a larger documentary film about professional video gamers. I'm searching for ways to transcend the kitschiness inherent in the SL aesthetic and haven't decided yet on how significant of a role SL will have in the film yet.

I'm also toying with some story ideas for a few Kool-Aid Man in Second Life short video series. There's so much potential with Second Life machinima, but I have yet to see a work of machinima that's truly inspired me. Maybe I haven't looked hard enough though.

What do you want Second Life'rs to know about you most of all?

Jon Rafman: I found an analogy for surfing the web in the act of exploring Second Life as Kool-Aid Man. User-generated realms of Second Life can be viewed as a 3D virtual expression of the Internet’s anarchic psyche. Kool-Aid Man is my alter-ego, a secular icon that resonates with decades come and gone.

I see Kool-Aid Man as a self-conscious professional web surfer “breaking through walls” into various Second Life communities and subcultures. He never fully fits in, but he empathizes with whatever he passes. Like Baudelaire’s Flaneur, wandering the arcades of Fin-du-Siecle Paris, Kool-Aid Man keeps a cool and curious eye, strolling through the virtual world in search for the banal sublime. Kool-Aid Man's motto is best summed up by a line at the beginning of Chris Marker’s Sans Soleil: "I've been round the world several times and now only banality still interests me. On this trip, I've tracked it with the relentlessness of a bounty hunter."

I wondered as I read Jon's response if he was aware that French author, photographer and film director Chris Marker is very active in Second Life. Perhaps there are two bounty hunters then? It is unlikely we'll ever know, given that Marker famously does not take interviews.

Jon Rafman: The Kool-Aid Man in Second Life project is partly an attempt to investigate certain 'outdated' concepts from bygone eras and to reframe them or test them out in distinctly contemporary pop-cultural contexts. I am interested in the disjuncture between earlier uses and my own use and what this reveals about how consciousness has changed over the past decades. Whether a fundamental change has occurred is an open question as the forms of alienation that existed one hundred years ago are present today in mutated forms. But these subtle changes are revealing of what it means to be alive today. What are these subtle changes I mention?

The fragmentation that started with the emergence of mass culture has only intensified. Decentralized global society is epitomized in the World Wide Web. This is not to say that the power of centralized authority has declined or that a new genuine techno-democracy has been achieved. This is far from the case; I’m interested in the ways that self-regulating authority manifests itself from the ground up.

I do think that the task of grasping the present clearly has become more difficult because so much now obscures us from seeing it. I frame my quest for the banal sublime as doomed from the beginning because I am trying to highlight the loss of a certain type of consciousness.

Am I nostalgic for Fin-du-Siècle Paris?:

Yes, my project is a somewhat melancholic attempt at pointing towards the importance of understanding the historical context in the digital age. I can’t deny my nostalgia for earlier modern periods; however I am also aware that the image of the past that I yearn for reveals less about the past and more about an acute lack that exists in the present. And it is this “lack” that I want to point towards.

Jon moved to Montreal from Brooklyn, NY recently. He prefers that I not reveal his in-world name. So what do you think, Second Life residents?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The quirky avatars of Lime Breen

Posted by Bettina Tizzy

When I think of animation, three things immediately come to mind: Disney characters, Japanese anime, and the Simpsons. Japan, by the way, just announced that it is investing 11.7 billion yen on the creation of a new "shrine" to anime in Tokyo.

I can't think of a species of avatar that I haven't seen in Second Life®, but on the whole, animation-style avatars seem to be in short supply. That's just one reason why I love to stare at Lime Breen whenever our paths cross.

Lime Breen, as photographed by Lime Breen

Lime hails from New Jersey and works as a web/flash designer, but in Second Life, Lime makes avatars. Idiosyncratic, quirky, cartoony and wildly exaggerated, these avatars are... cute.


Lime's "Noodle" was a special commission to do a Gorillaz band member

No shop yet, but Lime does take individual commissions for avatar creations. Plans include the addition of optional facial expressions.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Cubist Scarborough and The Manual: Second Life edition

Posted by Bettina Tizzy

I hope you have a little spare time, dear readers, because I am about to lead you down a rabbit hole, a veritable treasure-trove of ideas so rich and varied that I have not yet been able to unearth them all myself.

As personal blogs go, Ian Truelove’s (Cubist Scarborough in Second Life®) is almost buoyant with optimism and analysis of all the inherent possibilities and joys of virtual worlds, and that’s very good news, because he’s an educator and he’s teaching 100+ students at a time, often introducing them to Second Life for the first time. He is Principal Lecturer (Technology Enhanced Learning) at the Leeds School of Contemporary Art and Graphic Design, in the Faculty of Arts & Society.

Cubist makes three-dimensional holograms of people's Real Life faces. Here is one of himself

Ian (Cubist in Second Life) is watching you everywhere on the Leeds Met sim

His blog reads like a private journal at times and is chock full of insights and deliberations he has with himself and has siphoned off onto the web in a way that we might all consider and possibly benefit from… simply one of the best uses of a blog I’ve run into in a very long time. Ian expounds on the dichotomy of dealing with people in public and private spaces, both in Real Life and in Second Life. He defines and deconstructs the virtual studio. It’s a fascinating stockpile of thoughtful documents pertaining to education, Second Life, OpenSim and a project between Oxford, Leeds Metropolitan and Kings College London called Open Habitat that took place earlier this year and set out to explore how Multi User Virtual Environments (MUVEs) can be used in Higher Education.

Ian's sculptures make it possible for you to get inside his head

Ian also designed the accompanying Open Habitat magazine that serves as a repository for vast quantities of data that the universities collected working with art and design and philosophy students, including surveys, blogposts and chatlogs.

But what I simply cannot wait to share with you is a document called The Manual: Second Life edition, a collection of micro-projects created by lecturers from the School of Contemporary Art & Graphic Design at Leeds Metropolitan University that Ian adapted for Second Life as part of the Open Habitat project. You’ll find different versions, including a cut-out one with instructions for folding it, a text version, and even an iPhone version here.

The Manual: Second Life edition, in Second Life

While Ian asks that we keep all 81 tasks together with the CC license text, he did allow me to share a few of them with you, just this once, to give you a taste:

# 5 Find some gesture animations and practice using them somewhere on your own. Work out a physical comedy routine and perform it to your friends.

# 6 Find a freebie stall on the mainland. Grab 12 small objects that have something in common. Arrange all of your objects into a sequence.

# 7 Build one or more of the following:
The beginning of the world
The end of the world
A self-portrait that includes your full body
Something that happened at breakfast
An image from a recent dream
Something that has yet to happen to you

# 8 Start a cult. Establish rituals. Create a meeting place. Meet.

If this isn’t a formula for discovery and enjoyment of one’s virtual life, I don’t know what is. I believe every single newbie in Second Life should be handed a copy.

You can visit the in-world version of this document and take the notecard form of it by teleporting directly from here.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Object Hair: lat Oh and ALpha Hair

Posted by Alpha Auer

Many thanks go to MillaMilla Noel who alerted me to the existence of lat Oh and ALpha Hair at the Cyberbunker.

I have been developing a craving for what I have begun to call "object hair". So, I am indeed beginning to sport quite a little collection of it and now 3 of lat Oh's hair styles have landed in the so named little folder under the "body parts" of my inventory. And no demo hair either I might add - I am so going to be wearing these sweet babies!

(Please note that I even tucked my ears away from sight in full honor of the occasion!)

lat Oh's collection is small but each and every style is utterly exquisite. So check it out right here my friends and a merry day's shopping to you all!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

A sculptural installation that has attained A State of Grace

Posted by Bettina Tizzy

Glyph Graves' latest, largest and certainly most stirring installation had many births. Originally conceived in early spring of 2008, it didn't reach fruition due to his busy schedule and limited prim availability. Since that time, however, he has made a name for himself as a notable sculptor in Second Life®, and today marks the public opening of his Strangers Also Dance, the inaugural show at IBM's brand new art and architecture exhibition space, curated by Tezcatlipoca Bisiani (aka Andrew Sempere, Research Designer at IBM's Center for Social Software).

Glyph is an Australian biologist who's virtual self is best known for kinetic, mostly abstract alpha sculptures that emit musical notes and eerie-to-sweet sounds when triggered by an avatar's proximity, though he is increasingly working with partially inverted solid-textured sculpts.

I've been a fan of Glyph's work for some time now and
frequently feature his work on my own sim. This winter I happened upon this video by Todd Vanderlin and shared it with him as it reminded me of the behavior of several of his undulating sculptures and their responsiveness to avatars.

Scary Vines from vanderlin on Vimeo.

Glyph has since incorporated this thinking and included it in his reactive reeds. I mention this because he is an artist that is unusually receptive to new ideas and, like his sculptural work, acknowledges and rapidly evolves with his environment. This isn't to say that he is malleable or excessively adaptive. Rather, he is acutely aware and sensitive to exploration.

Strangers Also Dance is a remarkably immersive installation based on a poignant story that conjoins our Second Life universe with an alternate reality sweetly suffered by jellyfish that ventured too far from their warm gas giant home, becoming displaced in an environment that they find difficult but make the best of.

Importantly, Glyph approached the design of this build and its narrative beginning with its climatic circumstances. The Second Life ground upon which the adventure begins is suitable for humans (aka avatars) but too cold for these extra-SLterrestials and plants. Even so, the landscape is other-wordly. Obeying the laws of natural selection, a delicate pink creature was unable to keep up with its peers and has crystallized, laying dormant until it is visited, and touched, and therefore warmed by the avatar's body.

The avatar is enveloped by the creature, which begins to whisper to its guest:

Freed Alien Jelly: Nothing that will hurt you little one. Your warmth has freed me from the cold down here. Let me show you something few have ever seen... rest now. In your sleep, strange fragments of dreams of swimming in strange clouds come unbidden. Suddenly you feel disturbed as the hard crystalline surface you rested on melts away, then comforted by a sense of gentle enfolding and warm gratitude.

Delicately, a luminous jellyfish breaks free from the crystal, enclosing the avatar and floating upwards, all the while reassuring its capture that it will be gentle until...

... finally, almost tenderly, it deposits its human prize somewhere new, somewhere quite different, on a strange and wonderfully tropical terrain.

Sit on one of the immense tubes and you are one with this new matrix, downloading information as quickly as the creatures can share it.

The time was a memory past
through banded clouds
over hot seas
we swam

then later,

of cold stars and eternal night
we arrived,
we stayed too long
we could not go back

Released, you begin to explore, learning as you go about their sorrowful plight which they seem to accept with enormous grace. As I listened and absorbed their story, I couldn't help but admire their forbearance. My empathy grew.

"Do you want to know how we felt?" asks Biocrystal darkness. "When we first left the cradle of our world? Remember, our home, always bathed in warm clouds, always immersed in soft light. (Silence) Then dark. (Silence) What light there was, sharp like thorns and cold. (Silence) Enter. And feel."

Technically, there are a number of hallmarks: All sounds throughout the installation are played note by note. The speakers (the green plants) are designed to produce a spatial sense by cascading the notes down prim by prim as well as having them arranged around the sphere. A stereo effect is created by splitting the stereo track into mono components and playing them in opposite prims, which is also swirled by playing the pairs in consecutive prims.

Glyph's cellular automata react to both the avatar touching them and to the state of each of their local neighbors. After they've been touched, the music begins to self-propagate in a repeating pattern, which is different each time.

Since 2006, IBM has played an active role in empowering Second Life content creators with the IBM 6 sandbox which recently doubled in size and is open to all residents on the grid, whether they work for IBM or not. PatriciaAnne Daviau, its manager, has done an admirable job of maintaining a lively and active community there, though I can't help wishing that they didn't force teleports to one central location. It makes it very difficult to share works-in-progress with others who must then go by the coordinates to find their way.

Thanks to Jessica Qin's (aka Craig Becker, CIO Office of Strategic Initiatives) initiative and drive, IBM has moved to advance its presence with the content creation community, and particularly fans of art and architecture, with the launch of the new two-sim IBM Exhibition Space.

Teleport directly from here.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

NPIRL fashion sometimes obeys the laws of geometry and thrift

Posted by Bettina Tizzy

While both the Spring and Summer catwalks for 2009 featured fashion with a geometric - even architectural – construction, Alpha Auer (aka Elif Ayiter) kicked that up a notch under her label Alpha Tribe. What’s more, whether she is aware of it or not, she’s in tune with the global economic mood. During the great Depression, a popular maxim was "Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without:" To create her latest outfit, Deagu, Alpha Auer recycled a poster she had designed for an invitational exhibition at the Daegu Culture and Arts Center in Daegu, Korea in 2006.

On her blog Strange Pixels, Grady Echegaray seemed to be invoking the Gods when she composed her post about Daegu: "I can feel them. They are coming again. Sweeping in over the shoulder of Orion."

Daegu, as modded, modeled and photographed by Grady Echegaray

The Deagu headdress, as modded, modeled and photographed by Grady Echegaray

To obtain your own Daegu outfit teleport directly from here.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Ever wish you could search for objects in your inventory by the creator's name?

Wizard Gynoid has created a new JIRA issue that I can really get behind: #MISC-2717 suggests that the "Creator" field be added to the SQL query in the Inventory "Search" field.

How many times have I wished for this? If you feel the same way, please vote!

Don't know how to vote? Easy peasy!
1) Go to this link.
2) Sign in with your first and last name (so I would sign in: Bettina Tizzy)
3) Your password is the same as your avatar's password.
4) Look in the lower right hand margin for the word "Voting" and click on the link to Vote.


Monday, May 18, 2009

Don't let your virtual creations die with you - Will your Work Day

December 29, 2009 Update:

I've decided to expand this concept to ALL digital creations. I'm going to need your help to get the word out. Bloggers, website creators, media, tech geeks and geekas... Will you help me? Please contact me at bettinatizzy (at) gmail dot com and we'll mobilize together!


German, Dutch, Spanish, French, Portuguese and Italian translations of this information are available here

Dear fellow Residents of Second Life®:

About three weeks ago, virtual artist Vanfarel Kupfer died. Had he not left copies of most of his work (no trans, no mod) with his virtual girl friend, Native Aeon, his only legacy would be what is currently rezzed today.

Avatars in Second Life devote thousands of hours to creating content, and all that work is LOST when they die. Yes, even if they backed up that work by giving it to an alt. Even if they gave their account password to someone. When you die and unless you have taken appropriate measures, no one, not even Linden Lab, can legally access your work. It is simply lost forever.

According to Linden Lab, the correct and only procedure for "willing" one's creations - or for that matter, any Second Life assets - is indicated here.

I propose that we mark this day, May 18th, as Will your Work Day, to encourage content creators to consider their situation and act on it annually.

The goal would be to celebrate Van's art and remind people to either give copies of their work to one or more avatars (not their alts) whom they trust, or add them to their Real Life will.

Also beginning today and for one week - and working with his beloved Native Aeon - Vanfarel Kupfer's work will be exhibited at four locations: his former home sim, EnLuminaria, the Crescent Moon Museum, the Blackwater Gallery, and Chakryn Forest. Understandably, Native is still very much in mourning over her loss, and when I asked her how I could help, she stated that her greatest wish is that Vanfarel's work become known throughout the grid. So be it. Native: Sachez que nous sommes de tout coeur à vos côtés.

Please share this message with your fellow residents and help to get the word out. You will find numerous translations of this letter here, prepared by the following individuals who generously volunteered their time: Lano Ling, Osiris LeShelle, elros Tuominen, Tonjampae Amat and Gore Suntzu. Tell your community in your own way, in your own words.

I leave you with the colorful, dreamy work of Vanfarel Kupfer in a video by Jurin Juran. May he rest in peace.

Here's to enduring great virtual content!

The art of Vanfarel Kupfer, as part of Will your Work Day
Machinima by Jurin Juran

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Art Box - A new way to become the art in Second Life®

Now you, too, can be a part of Banksy's "Pulp Fiction," complete with a banana gun

Posted by Bettina Tizzy

This is the second piece in a new ongoing series on how and where to regain our "fun," in Second Life®, when so many of us are hard at work and living two full lives.

A summer rite of passage for many Southern California residents is to attend the Pageant of the Masters at the Festival of the Arts in Laguna Beach. The show is the presentation of a series of recreations of works of art brought to life as living pictures or "tableaux vivants" using heavily made-up and costumed people to portray anything from human figures to a piece of Wedgewood china.

Tickets cost anywhere between $20 to $50 and then you must drive there (traffic is a nightmare), park (another nightmare) and devote at least 45 minutes to walking to the venue and finding seating. I'd recommend doing this once in your lifetime, but even though it's impeccably realized, I must admit that it actually gets a tad boring after 20 minutes, let alone an hour. Once I got over the shock of how perfectly they had recreated an image, my mind began to stray towards thoughts of dinner and the guaranteed traffic jam home.

Much more fun is to be had simply by logging in to Second Life and spending an hour or two with friends hopping from one virtual destination to another, turning our avatars into art.

This notion of becoming part of the art piece is not new in Second Life, as we have seen with AM Radio's Death of Marat, and Robbie Dingo's staggeringly beautiful Starry Night video (do NOT miss this if you haven't seen it already). Then there was yet another virtual Starry Night created by Tr3ssis, and of course, the delightful and surreal freebies that four Yip was giving away when we first discovered her.

Thanks to a fellow by the name of Frankie Rockett and his Art Box, there is a new way to become a living part of classic or contemporary paintings. Art Box employs Holodeck technology to rez a series of famous illustrated, painted or photographed backdrops on demand, and then makes a number of props available to you, including clothes, a sandwich, a banana gun and what not, to complete your "picture."

"Son of SL Man" by Frankie Rockett

You may have seen this machinima of Frankie's that takes place in his 3D recreation of Edward Hopper's "Nighthawks"...

That Nighthawks set is now available to you and your friends, free of charge and with lots of cool props, as well as backdrops from Andrew Wyeth's Christina's World...

As well as the amazing photograph of workers taking lunch a top a skyscraper construction site by Charles C. Ebbets...

Or become part of the ad "blown away..."

Or scream...

Edvard Munch's The Scream

There are over a dozen choices of sets to rez and Frankie tells me that more are on the way. Fun! You can visit Art Box by teleporting directly from here.

Floating buildings - In Real Life

Posted by Bettina Tizzy

My colleague Alpha Auer and I have this ongoing discussion regarding what, in virtual worlds, is actually Not Possible in Real Life (NPIRL). One concession she makes is the concept of floating islands and buildings in metaversal skies.

soror Nishi's newest landscaping shop,"lifstean," as photographed by Lem Skall. Teleport directly from here

Still, I was surprised yesterday when Alpha mentioned that folks are already making "floating" buildings. It seems that a company in the Netherlands, Dutch Docklands, designs water-based solutions that make “land from water” by providing large scale "floating" constructions.

As far as I can tell, plans for the construction of a string of floating islands containing hotels, restaurants and a heliport off the shores of Dubai have been shelved due to the economic crisis. It seems that each island was to have been in the shape of a letter, with all of them spelling out a verse that reads in part, "Not everyone who rides a horse is a jockey."

National Public Radio (NPR) did a great piece on the project in April, 2008, and here's another from DE51GN.

It could be argued that space stations, already in use, are in fact, floating buildings.

Boeing's International Space Station (ISS), slated for completion in 2010, will be about the size of an American football field

All the same, I'll wager that the only floating buildings most of us will ever experience in our lifetimes will be pixelated and very virtual.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Attaining Presence: 4Jetpacks4 and Bryn Oh

Posted by Alpha Auer

4Jetpacks4 was an immersive installation created by Bryn Oh, with the participation of Glyph Graves and Nonnatus Korhonen earlier this year. I was privileged to be one of the group of avatars that were given the tour of the research centre back on March the 6th. I will not talk here about what 4jetpacks was all about. The extraordinary video by Evo Szuyuan above does that far better than I ever could. What I will attempt to do instead is to talk about "immersion" and "presence" as integral parts of virtual world creativity. I know from personal conversations we have had that this is a subject as dear to Bryn Oh's heart as it is to mine, the thing which she puts at the center of her (virtual) creative activity.

I will quote a bit from scientific sources while I try to set up a basic definition of "presence", as a sense of “being there” in a mediated environment (IJsselsteijn, deRidder, Freeman and Avons, 2000). Lombard and Ditton (1997) define it as an illusion of non-mediation in which a user no longer perceives the display medium as a separate entity. A high level of presence will help users remember a virtual environment as more of “a place visited”, rather than “a place seen” (Slater et al., 1999). A success indicator of the attainment of presence is also considered to be the realization of similar behavior patterns in virtual environments to those in the physical realm (Slater and Wilbur, 1997), and even the manifestation of similar physiological responses towards a given event to its approximation in the physical realm (Meehan, 2000).

Various definitions of the term “presence” and their relevance to the immersive virtual experience are discussed by Mantovani and Riva who challenge the notion that experiencing a simulated environment deals with the mere perception of its objective features; instead proclaiming that presence in an environment (real or simulated) means that individuals can perceive themselves, objects, as well as others not only as situated in an external space but as immersed in a socio-cultural web connected through interactions between objects and people, leading us to the paramount importance of the interacting agent within a virtual culture, i.e., the avatar.

And this to me, lies at the very heart of the problem where artistic activity in a virtual world such as Second Life® is involved. Is the goal to be sought the "perception of objects" only? Or could it be that what would set artistic activity in a virtual world as a genre apart, would involve conditions wherein "individuals perceive themselves, objects, as well as others not only as situated in an external space but as immersed in a socio-cultural web connected through interactions between objects and people"? For me, without the shadow of any doubt, it is the latter. And it seems to me that this definition is what 4jetpacks is/was all about as well: That the creation of an immersive experience was the primary intention became obvious to me during Bryn Oh's opening statement where she addressed the importance of "presence" in virtual art. In her terminology the word "presence" is interchanged with "immersion", which does of course add up to very much the same thing. "Viewing" art, i.e., "the mere perception of its objective features" does not seem to overly interest Bryn Oh, and I am so very heartened to observe this in a fellow content creator, and one for whom I have a great deal of respect at that.

Bryn Oh is an exquisite builder. Every texture, every prim, every shape and object placed in perfect proximity, culminating in visual systems that I am awed by over and over again. And a very good thing that this is so: The immersive experience needs that level of concern for perfection to be pulled off with credibility. Creating an immersive experience does not imply that one can get away with shoddy visuality. If anything, it would imply the exact opposite: For us to become fully "present" within the "artwork" involves a level of visual expertise on behalf of the artist whereby perfect cohesion and gestalt are achieved to the extent at which not even a tiny component of the installation appears out of sync, thus distracting us from the immersive experience through its ineptitude or its misplacement within the overall system. Whether the visual gestalt that is meant to bring about "presence" involves high levels of abstraction or realism, opulence or stark minimalism would not be the issue at all by the way: I would seriously doubt whether one would need minutely detailed craftsmanship emulating realism to attain a state of presence. But, I would dare to say that what one would need would be a continuity of visual language - which as any artist worth his or her salt knows is a devil of a thing to pull off.

However, presence needs more than visuality. It also needs narrative. It needs a story or a situation endowed with sufficient power and imagination to pull us in. "Presence in art" needs substantial planning. An observance of fine detail whilst maintaining a firm grip on the whole. In other words, not a thing to be pulled off in one afternoon. Amongst much else, it is visuality, performance, role play, cyberpsychology combined. Bryn Oh has whatever it takes...

In the end, for me, the attainment of "presence" is more than likely to be the thing which will eventually create a "genre" out of the currently rather haphazard conglomeration that is the state of art in virtual worlds today. It really does seem to me that art generated in virtual worlds needs to be contextualized within the broader framework of contemporary art, given a raison d'etre, a property unique onto itself - and the attainment of "presence in art" would be a not too easily imitated attribute of virtual world based artistic activity. 4jetpacks gave me huge hopes in this direction and I am very grateful to Bryn Oh for having given me just that - hope!


A video created by Bryn Oh on 4jetpacks ends this post:

Also please read the post by Hamlet Au on NWN talking to Evo Szuyuan about her utterly remarkable SL-video skills and all that is involved in the attainment of the perfect SL-video here.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Somebody... Give this woman a sim-wide show

Desert Rose: Spiral Threads #12, 1,000 prims

Posted by Bettina Tizzy
All photography and machinima by Suzanne Graves

I have an uncle who handily wins the prize for geekiest person in my personal sphere. The man has two interests in life and one of them is math. One Christmas years ago, as we all gathered round the tree for our gift exchange, my uncle showed up with a manila folder. When his turn came around, he explained that he'd spent the past several months creating art using math equations in his spare time and we could each choose one of his art pieces as our gift. This was my first exposure to the concept of fractals, and I've been indebted to him ever since. Oh, I know... it was such a dorky thing to do (and he is a dork!), but the fact remains, I love geek art.

I figure it has been two years now since I first became aware of an ardent explorer and photographer in Second Life by the name of Suzanne Graves. It must be about a year now since she hung up her traveling hat and began playing with scripts and prims. Random rotations, random locations, generative builds, animated textures, and more. Math-inspired art.

I'm here to tell you that this woman hasn't wasted a moment. Since her Slinky piece and Wireflower back in July, 2008 to date, Suzanne has discovered many more new tricks for making prims behave in arrestingly beautiful ways.

And now she is capturing these kinetic forms in her own machinima...

Viewable temporarily - along with two other sculptures by Suzanne - at Ars Simulacra. Teleport directly from here.
Music (c) Bertycox, Album: Synesthetism on

Suzanne calls this sculpture Sphere Balls as a play on words. "The spheres seem to be dancing at the ball," she explained. The piece, which she created quite by accident, consists of three similar sets of black and red spheres containing 200 spheres each that rotate in different directions simultaneously. Each of the three sets are positioned on an invisible/virtual bigger sphere, following a 3D curve on that big sphere.

"The size of each small sphere depends on the curvature of the 3D curve at its location. You may notice that the spheres on the top are smaller. Each "big" set is completed by (and linked to) an invisible prim, which is positioned at the center of the big virtual sphere, and this invisible prim responds to start and stop commands. I could add more commands such as changing the rotation direction, for instance," she added.

"The three sets of 200 spheres are concentric (their invisible prims have the same location), and the set in the middle rotates in an opposite direction relative to the outer and inner sets."

Because Suzanne's work is prim-heavy and script intense, it isn't easily displayed. In fact, I'm often frustrated because I don't know which sim or sandbox she is working in so that I can go and peek. I think it is time someone hosted a sim-wide show of her work. Don't you? Take a look...

Gold Box Sets

Spiral Threads #01

Spiral Threads #06

You can see more of Suzanne's work on her Flickr stream.