Sunday, June 28, 2009

Bittersweet memories

The Caerleon Art Collective is hosting a virtual exhibition, Aequitas, to compliment a rl exhibition at OSA Artspace, in Washington Heights, New York. Artists were asked to mine their childhood memories for inspiration. Nebulosus Severine and two other artists created a vignette, or stage set, on which guests can place themselves. Severine built an evocative and typical scene for many children shipped off to summer camp each year, called Summer, 1985; a platform tent in the woods; sleeping bag resting on thin mattress, bag of clothes stuffed damply beneath the rusty springs of the bed, can of repellent rolling across the floor. Visitors are asked to lie on the bed and listen to the radio. Stations quickly change as though someone were spinning the dial looking for a good tune. Snatches of 80s anthems blare - Shout by Tears for Fears, Its Much Too Late for Goodbye by Julian Lennon, Freedom by George Michael (*cringe*). Severine remarks that her camp experiences left her feeling fairly traumatized, being separated for the first time from her family. Each installation acts as a therapeutic setting where those first time moments, of feeling lost, unloved, lonely or scared, can be reenacted. I found myself slipping into the 80s when sitting next to Severine’s bag of camp clothes. I had terrible homesickness at camp. I participated in all of those typical activities; wrapped the boy’s dorms in toilet paper, sang a Squeeze song at the talent show, learned how to sail, did my chores...When my mom picked me up, however, I had bandages wrapped around both knees and hands from a big tumble down a hill, poison ivy all over my limbs, a fever, and conjunctivitis in both eyes. She took one look at me and started laughing. Nevertheless, I was sent back again and again for another tortuous round. Childhood memories are bittersweet...we crave the simplicity of being young, but remember most the times when things were – complicated. Be sure to spend some time also with the installations by Dekka Raymaker - Fear & Hatred in Rookley Close, Untitled by Banrion Constantine and Things Change at Nighttime by Penumbra Carter.

Exhibition up until July 3rd.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

RMB City remembers New Orleans

I went to New Orleans for the first time in August 2005. As soon as I hopped on my first street car I felt I had found my feet. It was all that I imagined and better and I settled in as hard as five days would allow. Five days after I left, the city was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. I felt my heart breaking as I watched events unfold on the news. Ironically, I had been at a conference full of archivists – experts in preservation. After the disaster I remember a woman contemplating the ruins of her house. She held up a wet and torn piece of paper. “It’s my grandmother’s gumbo recipe!” It was her most valued possession.

Years later, the city still struggles to recover. In November 2008, Chinese artist Cao Fei (an artist with seemingly boundless energy) and architects Laurent Gutierrez and Valerie Portefaix (MAP Office) collaborated on a project for Prospect 1, the largest international biennale in America, based in New Orleans. The artists created an environment in SL at RMB City. They illustrated and animated a line drawing depicting an area of the Lower 9th Ward (part of the city hardest hit by the flood). The installation was projected into the Contemporary Arts Gallery in New Orleans, and allowed gallery visitors to wander around the sim using ready-made avatars. A blogger for the Times-Picayune – the local paper – described the installation:

“Translucent waves sloshed over us from time to time. Buildings regularly collapsed... Drifting zombie-like through the sparse, lonely landscape was an endless loop anxiety nightmare -- an accurate depiction of post-flood New Orleans, wouldn't you agree?” (read more here)

I wandered around the colorless setting, admiring the strong black lines of the drawings. It took me a while to find a tiny square prim (on the ground near the trailer) that turned on the animations. Once I clicked on it, the sky immediately darkened above; clouds gathered, rain fell, waves pushed against the illustrations, which suddenly seemed as vulnerable as the gumbo recipe on paper. I sat in a little shed and felt the cold waters creep up around my ankles. A bigger disaster than Katrina would be if we forgot what happened there in August 2005. To read more about recovery activities in New Orleans read here.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Disorientation is good for you

Check out this bit of personal interpretation from Carton Bristol.

I spent some time at the Hotel Dare at Poetik Velvets (I really can’t get enough of that ever-changing sim) and I came across a room that was sort of confusing to me. I didn’t get it. Little presents teetered down and up Willy Wonka styled conveyor belts, the Eraserhead-like sound of machinery burdened my ears, the colors were jarring.

Sometimes going into an SL environment can be disorienting. There aren’t always notecards explaining the who, what and why of an experience. This is good! Where else in any world can a visitor be given such respect for their own interpretation? These days, in the actual world, everything is over-explained with statements, exhibition panels, labels, accompanying videos...we’ve become such a service culture that we don’t allow people to think for themselves. Museums are terrible culprits in this area. Writes Stephen Weil, “the idea that a museum transmits information to visitors is, let’s face it, a bit condescending. The visitor may not share the same agenda as the creator – they may be visiting a [site] for frivolous distraction, consolation, or intellectual curiosity...” What I mean to say is, any disorientation we may feel is our own personal experience, and our individual interpretation of it is more valuable than anything anyone will ever try to s/tell us.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Exhibition Opens!

Photograph by Draco Nacht

I've just opened an exhibition at the HG Wells Memorial Library - From Oxcarts to Gondolas: The travel albums of Isabella Stewart Gardner, running from June 14th, 2009 - January 3, 2010. This is a rotating exhibition describing the travels of a Victorian art collector, and the influence those travels had on the creation of her museum in the Fenway, Boston. The first segment of the show illustrates her journey to Egypt in 1874-1875...other journeys will include India, China, Japan, Italy and the American West.

The opening was a real treat - thank you to those who could make it :) ! And a special thanks to JJ Drinkwater, Caledon Library Director, Gabrielle Riel, for the wonderful selection of music (ancient Egyptian hymns to start!) and to my cousin Rudolfo Woodget, who carried the party over to his pub the Bashful Peacock across the street. There's no difference between setting up an exhibition in sl over one in the actual world - attention to detail is essential and I'm on edge until all is up and running smoothly. Now, for a glass of champers and a bit of relaxing - until the next exhibition in July.... ;)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Dispatch from the field

Below the thunders of the upper deep;
Far far beneath in the abysmal sea,
His ancient, dreamless, uninvaded sleep
The Kraken sleepeth...(Tennyson)

The creature that haunts all steampunks - and Icelanders - is the legendary kraken - the multi-limbed creature who inhabits the cold dark sea - wrecking ships and harassing sailors. It seems the creature has adapted to its environment in Second Life and taken to the skies. That's right - Air Kraken have been spotted! That mythical creature, that legendary monster, is prowling the skies above Lovelace Liberty. I spent the evening in the field, documenting the battle, and have the scars to prove it...see the evidence here. Thank you to Not Possible in Real Life for breaking the news...

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

An exhibition fit for a king

Life was a preparation for death, and when you reached your stopping point you were surrounded by spells, incantations, your servants and family. You would be buried under rushes and dehydrated for 70 days, your organs carefully transplanted into alabaster jars, your brain, which had no value, was pulled out your nose. After your body was embalmed and wrapped in linen, your spirit and body would meet Osiris and 40 other deities in a ceremony called the “Negative Confession”. You’d deny any wrong doings in your life and have your heart weighed by the scales of justice, a baboon regarding you through squinted eyes. Once you were considered “true of voice”, all would be confirmed in writing by Thoth, the royal scribe and you’d make your way to your blissful eternal home in the Netherworld. Read more here: Egyptian Book of the Dead.

I’m working on a slexhibition about a real life Victorian who recorded her travels to Egypt in 1875. I’ve never been there, never smelled the dry air or seen scattered mummy parts in the sand...Instead I visited King Tut Virtual, organized by Rezzable. Wow!

This exhibition is clearly put together by experts in design and museology. It’s one of the most layered, content rich exhibitions I’ve been to; informative without being overwhelming, chock full of detail but no lag. In front of the orientation station/teleport hub lies the Valley of the Kings...the Eye of Horus symbol transports you to archaeologist Howard Carter’s camp and finally down into the dark recesses of the tomb of Tutankhamen . Audio clips describe everything around you in wonderful detail, including a radio clip of Carter describing his discovery. My favorite technological trick was being able to enlarge artifacts from their original size. After learning so much, I skipped through the sand in my sandals, boarded an ancient barque (boat), threw water on the local hippos and, like all museum visits, there are shops to buy trinkets. This is truly a must-see exhibition. King Tut Virtual, Kings Rezzable (17, 85, 2336).

Saturday, June 6, 2009


Clocks slay time... time is dead as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels; only when the clock stops does time come to life. ~William Faulkner

In Sploland this morning, I stood in the middle of Moucault’s Pendulum, threw out the idea of all being ephemeral and thought about slowing things down. I remembered one of the first exhibitions I attended in SL in 2007 – Brian Eno’s 77 Million Paintings (which also took place in the actual world at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts). The work is made up of three hundred hand-drawn images which are cut up using self-generating software to form an infinite number of variations that will take years to witness. The exhibition was sponsored by the Long Now Foundation (Eno is a founding member), which is best known for its invention of a 10,000 year working clock which will stand as a monument and “provide a counterpoint to today's ‘faster/cheaper’ mind set and promote ‘slower/better’ thinking." I’d love to see a model of this clock in SL.

The visual artists aren’t the only ones slowing things down. John Cage adapted his work ASLSP (“as slow as possible”) for solo piano into Organ²/ASLSP. Some have taken the composer's edict quite plainly. A performance of the work, in Halberstadt, Germany, which began in 2001, is scheduled to end in the year 2640. One sound, or pause, will stretch two or three years - the first chord was struck in 2003 and ended in 2005.

I ended my morning musing floating...slooooowly.....around an ancient ruined clock tower that had been smashed to bits by a steely robotic arm.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Reaching for the Ephemeral

Beech leaf, covered in black mud, Bentham, Yorkshire, June 1979. By A. Gormley

I lost my flickr account the other day. About a year’s worth of comments, correspondence, contacts, favorite images - memories erased within minutes. I clenched my fists and shouted; stamped my feet like a little kid. And then I remembered. Most of what we create here, in this digital life, is ephemeral, and I’d better pony up and accept it.

One doesn’t think much of nature at all, when working in the digital, but I thought of the environmental artist Anthony Gormley who writes “Process and decay are implicit. Transience in my work reflects what I find in nature.” So where we work, in this digital realm, is also transient. We must learn to be present, appreciate the moment, and let go.