13 October 2014

Waterscapes & Flying Things

"I think the oldest butterfly I shot was from the late 1800s," DecemberGrey said as she began explaining her images, now on display in an exhibition entitled Waterscapes & Flying Things at Ode's Arts & Culture Community (OACC). When I first arrived to see her work, the images struck me as beautiful, but so detailed that I imagined them lifted off the pages of a nineteenth-century encyclopedia. Instead, as I quickly learned, she painstakingly creates the "flying things" images (cicadas, butterflies, moths, beetles and the like, all identified by their scientific names) by working with real insects and a macro lens, stitching together multiple images.

"The main problem is that most of the insects are from really old collections in either museums or universities, and are invariably missing body parts, or look as if they're disintegrating in areas...So it's a matter of replicating what I can, removing the pins that are embedded in them, 'dusting' them to be clean, and so on," she explains. "I used a microscope to pre-clean a lot of the beetles, and would become lost in the marvel of structural engineering that they all displayed...It's so easy to see where much of the fabric design in the world comes from, not to mention the slew of aliens in sci-fi movies, some of which have been created directly from invertebrates."

As for the waterscapes, you'll need to climb the stairs of the cozy little gallery-house all the way to the attic, where beautiful scenes await: images of Roche, Frisland, Imagin@rium, Kalepa, Grey Havens, Black Kite, H22O, Dysphoria, Hazardous, Tortola, Immersiva, Black Basalt Beach and The Colder Water. They are, indeed, some of the best composed Second Life land/waterscapes I have ever seen, so they alone are worth the visit. (And, if you've never been to Waderstill, where OACC is located, you're in for more of a treat.)

12 October 2014

Ovis Aries

The materials are spare: three sheep that babble artspeak, four invisible columns that generate the sound of applause, four pieces of artwork floating in the water, and a tall tower, on which sits a pile of shit illuminated by a shaft of light. Such is the scene at LEA22, where Sowa Mai has installed Ovis aries (or at least that's the name of the sim), with a note to the LEA blog: "Sowa Mai has once again sidestepped his original idea and brought us a complete bastardization of the whole Second Life art ouvre. With this pile of shit he has left on our doorstep it is safe to say this will be the last time he is invited to participate. Don’t miss it." (If you really want to hear the sheep chat, you should bring a friend, as they suggest — witness their chatter with me and Seductive Paramour: "[20:03] sheep04: Seductive Paramour: With regard to the issue of content, the iconicity of the negative space notates a participation in the critical dialogue of the 90s. I've seen this from Ziki Questi only a hundred times bigger. [20:03] sheep04: Ziki Questi: It's difficult to enter into this work because of how the aura of the negative space completely eradicates any notion of the larger carcass. I've seen this from Seductive Paramour at Uqbar." And so on.)

If all this might have you scratching your head, the accompany notecard might help, and begins, "When I was a wee boy I was praised for using the big toilet. Since then I have been making shit and looking for praise. I make paintings, sculptures, songs, dinners and I make a me that hopefully you will like. I proudly hold up my makings and eagerly await your judgement...I will always worry what you think of me even though what you think is none of my business. It is the way I am built. What can change and what is changing is the weight I give to those thoughts and emotions." So, shit and judgment. And paintings by Sowa's real life human Stephen Beveridge apparently discarded and drifting in the water. Does the context provided by the notecard help give meaning the work? Yes. Is it worth your while to visit? That's harder to say. (Also, try to stay upwind from the shit.)

05 October 2014

Cultural Hysteria

Now open at LEA16 is an installation by Mario Zecca entitled Cultural Hysteria. For now, artwork exists only on the ground level, but the artist plans to add one sky platform per month as the work evolves, and to hold music, dance and poetry events. The exhibition consists of large and colorfully textured prims, some textured with abstract patterns and other with representational sketches derived from the process of automatic drawing. "These are images that I have 'drawn' from my imagination, the feedback from a lifetime of studying while I enjoyed cartoons, comic books, illustration and academic drawing," says Mario — more background information is here. "The name Cultural Hysteria will become evident in the platform sims to come," he adds, and one can only hope that they contain artwork more compelling than that which greets us now.

04 October 2014

Piedra Lubitsch at Lollygagger Art Center

Opening today, Saturday, October 4, at 2 pm slt, is an intimate exhibition of recent photographs by Piedra Lubitsch at Lollygagger Art Center. I have always enjoyed her quiet, introspective images, and it's delightful to see about a dozen on display in this installation.

Art in a Box & Wild Things Tea Party

Opening today, Saturday, October 4, at 2 pm slt, is Art in a Box, an installation of two new artworks by WayneNZ at Holtwaye ArtSpace. Two oversized boxes — Boxed Clouds (above) and Playful Dweller (below) house the artworks, and give the viewer an opportunity to walk into the whimsical creations. An interactive pose exists in each — you might be barely able to make out my avatar, floating in the air in the image above and in a bubble in the image below. (Click on the images to zoom in.)

Special opening festivities are planned — there's a woodland theme to the launch, entitled Wild Things Tea Party, with a decorative set, shown below. "This event illustrates Wayne’s earthy and fantasy style, with references to woodland fantasy creatures, angels, faeries, hillside dwellings, the great outdoors, and of course, tea & cupcakes!" say Wayne and gallery co-owner Holter. "Calling your inner playful and wild-things side! Come in your woodsy outfits, your wild hair, your capes, your loincloths, your creative tea party outfits, or even just your pointy ears — and join our 'wild things tea party'."

03 October 2014

Travel Narratives into Trees

Opening tomorrow, Saturday, October 4, at at 12:00 pm slt, is Travel Narratives into Trees, an installation on LEA14 by Uan Ceriaptrix. In describing the work, Uan states:
   I am pleased to share some sensations that give me satisfaction,
   the simple perception and contemplation of nature around us,
   with its main actors: living beings, colors, flavors, textures, movements, sounds and more;
   with the range of elements and factors that we reveal a reality,
   also, feelings of uncertainty that often surprise and motivate us to explore and experiment.
   The only explanation I can give of my performance, it is my love of nature,
   and life as a whole, that is my reason for living of course!

On the ground level, scraggly trees stand on a island (which strikes me as being shaped to imply it might be alive, like part of some creature emerging from the waters) with other brush suggestive of a tropical environment. Several crocodiles guard a small island where a pose awaits (middle image) and bones litter the ground. And nearby is a hidden teleport up to the second part of the build, a massive hollow tree trunk that contains what appears to be something of a rudimentary home laboratory. Perhaps I'm missing something, but that appears to be all, and, frankly, it's not much to look at.

02 October 2014

Bryn Oh: A Retrospective 2007 – 2014

Bryn Oh is arguably the most significant visual artist presently working in Second Life. With an oeuvre spanning eight years, she has created numerous sim-wide immersive environments, is a prodigious producer of machinima, and has curated group installations with other artists. Now, prompted by an invitation from the Art & Algorithms Festival, which runs October 3 – 12 in Titusville, Florida, Bryn has staged retrospective of her work at LEA 9, simply entitled A Retrospective 2007 – 2014. (Real life visitors to the festival will be able to use avatars to visit the current build at Immersiva, The Singularity of Kumiko — see here for the schedule — and additional exhibits by other artists await at LEA 8, about which I will write soon.)

The flow of the exhibition is chronological, beginning in 2007 with Bryn's earliest works, a series of robotic insects that hint at the artist's future use of elements — gears, wheels, spidery limbs and long filaments, and a suggestion of something emotionally disturbing, but which lack her forthcoming embrace of narrative, which was manifest in full swing by mid-2008 with the advent of two characters, the Rabbicorn and the Daughter of Gears. What quickly began to follow as her work progressed were large-scale immersive environments that were hosted by invitation on a variety of sims, and that eventually were displayed most often on Bryn's own sim, appropriately named Immersiva. In most cases these were narrative works (even if the narrative might be only partially revealed), and many of the narratives are connected into a large meta-story.

The retrospective itself is staggering in scope, and demands repeated visits to fully explore — and the installation design itself is remarkable. Visitors will appreciate not only the plethora of works, but also the many accompanying texts that shed light on Bryn's artistic process and the general history of her aesthetic development. Bryn has managed to recreate sections of many of the larger installations, including The Rabbicorn Story, Anna's Many Murders, Standby, Virginia Alone, and especially Imogen and the Pigeons. We are also treated to her contributions to group projects such as The Path and The Cube Project (the latter still among my all-time favorite art projects).

Bryn revels in hidden things — hidden spaces, objects hidden within others, hidden interactive elements, and hidden meanings. She enjoys developing what she refers to as "cam builds," in which the only way to see the artwork is to move ones camera inside a restricted space — and you'll find, if you're patient, many opportunities to do so here. You will also find links to many of her machinimas, which serve both as documentation of the builds and as stand-alone works of art. The one major piece not included in the Retrospective is that which currently stands at Immersiva: The Singularity of Kumiko. For that, your trip continues, with the Retrospective serving as an outstanding introduction to Bryn Oh's work.

28 September 2014

LTD Gallery Shop

Opening today, Sunday, September 28, at 2:00 pm slt, is a new exhibition curated by Quan Lavender at the LTD Gallery Shop in Aakriti, featuring works by Bryn Oh, Fushia Nightfire, Oh (Ohsoleomio), Milly Sharple, FirleFanz Roxley, Louly Loon, Mistero Hifeng, Kubbrick, Sabine Mortenwold, Janine Portal, Sylvia Fitzpatrick and Trill Zapatero. The items are a variety of two- and three-dimensional works, some kinetic, and all connected to the most recent issue of LTD Magazine.

The Gods Dwindle

Opening today, Sunday, September 28, at 2:00 pm slt, is The Gods Dwindle, an installation by Haveit Neox at Plusia Ars Island, presented by Marea2007 Praga. "Humanity has devastated the planet," Haveit begins as he describes the work. "Only three Gods remain: Gaia, the Earth Goddess, bleeds internally, her lava burning landmasses, boiling lakes and rivers. Neptune, God of the Sea, suffocates in the hot oxygen deprived oceans of dead fish. Horus, the Sky God, gives up the heavens and all his days, freezing time into a mirror." The build extends through three of the palazzi on the southern end of the island, so be sure to venture out and visit all the locations — Neptune's undulating waves are particularly striking. While you're at Plusia Arts, be sure to enjoy some of the other works that abound throughout the sim, including JadeYu Fhang's large works that overlook the scene.

21 September 2014

Bread and Roses

"Conditions at the mills were brutal," we learn. "The mortality rate for children was 50% by age six; 36 out of every 100 men and women who worked in the mill died by the time they reached 25." Such it was in Lawrence, Massachusetts, in 1912, at the advent of the textile strike that became known as the Bread and Roses strike (the title being taken from a speech by activist Rose Schneiderman). The workers, immigrants from 51 different countries who were challenged to communicate, struck for three months in the dead of winter in response to shortened hours that reduced their pay from already low levels. The strike, which was led by the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW, or the Wobblies), led to Congressional hearings that revealed the plight of the workers, and helped improve the workers' situation, at least for a while.

All this and much more awaits you at Bread and Roses, an installation at LEA 13 by Ellie Brewster, who developed the sim for educational purposes. I was surprised to see the build in an arts sim, it having more of a humanities or social sciences orientation, but I've enjoyed reacquainting myself with the Wobblies and other aspects of the strike. Indeed, you'll meet some of the workers and families face to face as you visit, because Ellie has used archival images to populate the sim and to create trompe l'oeil effects, such as the laundry in the image above that moves from the archival image into the sim itself. Some of the buildings and homes are intentionally empty, as Ellie hopes her students will work on projects to fill them. Inside the main mill building, which dominates the scene, you'll find images that tell the story of the strike as you click on them (next image), and you're even given an opportunity to reenact the typical day of a mill worker.

"The point of the exhibit, I think, is that when we do history, it's important to understand that there is not 'one story' to be told," Ellie explained to me. "I'm trying to include as many alternate views as possible. There will be a lot more content added to the site as the grant period progresses, and I hope people will criticize it and suggest other voices to be included. I'd like it to be an organic site that reacts to the people who visit it." She remarked that she's not much of a builder, but in this instance I think it hardly matters. Be sure to have media set to auto-play while you visit, and be sure to check back over the forthcoming months as the exhibit continues to expand.