Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Climbing walls, sky dancing (in HD!), and weightless sex/showers - Part IV in our Gravity in Virtual Worlds series

By Bettina Tizzy

In previous blogposts for this series, I promised to share new and interesting products and concepts with you in the ZeroG space, so to the point...

There ain't no place I can't go...

In Real Life, Niklas Galler has developed the biometric based C-Bot (still not commercially available), that can make its way up vertical walls or spherical surfaces and is operated via GPS or a 3D-map.

Now your avatar can do the same in Second Life®. I was contacted last week by scripter and builder Nexii Malthus, who not so long ago was a Resident of SL's Teen grid, about a product he's developing at Rostok, a private region designed for inter-alliance combat. "Something really impossible in Real Life... walking on walls, but having gravity shaped dynamically as you move: any angle, any surface. I always wanted to do that in Real Life."

Nexii, who hails from the UK, sees this as a useful tool for battlemechs and combat "stuff." "It is, in the simplest sense, a vehicle. You rez (it), sit on it, go into mouselook and move around. It's not for sale and commercial applications still seem far off, unless enough people bug me."

"It's still a behind-the-scenes thing as its in development and highly experimental, but I would love it if I could get a publically accessible place and put a version of the system down for the public to try it."

Meanwhile and over at the gorgeously remodeled Grendel's Children (teleport directly from here) , Flea Bussy's technicolor Avaios Shadowcrawler comes in a power package costing a pidly $250L that includes 9 colors, two genders and an impressive AO that offers dozens of animations and sounds, but the breakthrough here is that it crawls up and down and sideways on walls... effortlessly.

The tricky part for me is getting on the walls. You must leap onto them while holding down your shift key, but once there, the rest is easy-peasy

You're such a light-weight

Then... here is something I haven't seen in any film yet (remember the fab hair-drying sequence in Blade Runner?) but I think its time has come. In Real Life, astronauts take sponge baths, but Oni Horan over at his highly imaginative RPG sim Space Colony Necronom has figured out how to keep the water contained and recycled for a practical and sensual bathing experience.

I know, I know, my avatar has all her clothes (by Eshi Otawara, btw) on! Take your own shower in whatever state of dress you prefer by teleporting to Necronom here

Oni has also created a weightless sex module, for couples who prefer to keep it lite (also available at Space Colony Necronom).

Dance me to the moon

Finally, no story about gravity in Virtual Worlds would be complete without including choreographed sky dancing. The visionary and sovereign in this category is, of course, DanCoyote Antonelli (aka DC Spensley), together with his ZeroG SkyDancers.

For the uninitiated, ZeroG SkyDancers is a form of ensemble performance that uses the airspace of Second Life to effect something between a water ballet and aerial acrobatics. Wearing colossal flowing costumes called 'cascades' - that are many times larger than their avatars - the SkyDancers move through space, and become part of the stage themselves. Altering and evolving, their flight triggers audio samples, which provide a unique layer to the original musical score.

The fourth production, Let Love Live, conceived and directed as always by DC Antonelli and hosted by Larry Pixel (aka Larry Johnson) and the New Media Consortium (NMC), has introduced an unprecedented 3000 meter (3km) reactive-interactive stage set that is repeatedly and dramatically transformed over the hour long performance as seating flies through gravity-defying monoliths of breathtaking beauty, created in collaboration with DC Antonelli by artists Glyph Graves, Strawberry Holiday, Selavy Oh and Sabine Stonebender.

This full redesign of the SkyDancer show since the troupe's founding in May of 2006, also features an all-new musical score by ZeroOne Paz, all-new choreography performed by the SkyDancers: Anhinga Chaika, Tatiana Kurri, Angelique Menoptra, Lina Lageos, Buffy Beale, Pielady Smalls, Talula Bancroft and Wytchwhisper Sadofsky, as well as all-new cascade costumes by DC Spensley and Josina Burgess.

The ZeroG SkyDancers are real people who log into Second Life from all over the world to perform for audiences in real time. Hot Tip: In deference to the economic strain some Second Lifers may be feeling, ZeroG SkyDancers has reduced the price of the tickets to their stupendous fourth season to a mere $1,000L. And yet another Hot Tip: Following the performance of Let Love Live, audience members are provided with their own spectacular cascade costumes and invited to play tag with the dancers. Seating is limited, but the show runs twice a week during the first 90 days of 2009. For ticket information, contact Lina Lageos in Second Life or DC Spensley at dc@spensley.com.

The best video to date of any ZeroG SkyDancer performance, in my view, was filmed and edited by Gary Hazlitt. A couple of days ago, I wondered out loud if he might remaster that footage into a HD version, and I am very pleased to share the results with you at this time. Herewith, the ZeroG SkyDancers Spring 2007 Production at Ars Simulacra, NMC Art Showcase in honor of the Second Life Fourth Birthday Celebration and the ZeroG SkyDancers 1st year anniversary... in High Definition.

See Gary Hazlitt's remastered HD - Widescreen version for YouTube here.

For this performance, the SkyDancers were:
Assistant Director Anhinga Chaika
Assistant Producer Callypian Christianson Deborah Stranglove
Prima - Tatiana Kurri, Angelique Menoptra, Lina Lageos, Kensai Uriza
House Manager Onyx Bijoux
Technical Director ZenMondo Wormser
Costume Designer Sabine Stonebender

See also:
+ Overcoming gravity (and reality) - Part I in our Gravity series
+ I can fly, but meh - Part II in our Graivty in Virtual Worlds series
+ Oh, those intrepid gravity challengers - Part III in our Gravity in Virtual Worlds series

+ Flea Bussy's Empire: Grendel's Children... one wacky avatar at a time

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Oh, those intrepid gravity challengers! - Part III in our Gravity in Virtual Worlds series

by Bettina Tizzy

In my next blogpost and below, I will share some of the latest innovations on the grid (there's something for everyone in this mix) that are certain crowd pleasers, but first, some death-defying feats from the other side of the mirror!

For one year now and from time to time, this blog looks to Real Life for inspiration, even going so far as to extend an invitation to people we admire to join us in our Virtual quest. Recently I came across some startling photographs and promptly contacted the unique personality behind them to learn more.

Apparently some of us are more preoccupied with weightlessness than others. Chinese artist Li Wei risks life and limb to create his performance art in high places. Mr. Wei, who uses the human body as his canvas and has often been referred to as the Chinese Evel Knievel, combines acrobatics and boundless energy to produce images such as this one that depict him balancing impossibly on another's head...

Meanwhile, in Second Life®, people in the Hobo group have been known to amuse themselves by stacking their avatars in a virtual and rather tall totem pole...

Hobo Pile-up (I'm sort of in the middle, lulz) - Photo by Candy Cornwall, provided by Derek Sienkiewicz

Using mirrors, scaffolding and steel wires (and nerves!) to effect these images, Mr. Wei can be seen flying in and out of windows...

Tossed around by petite women...

... and skylarking with crowds.

Many thanks to Li Wei for graciously allowing us to publish his stunning photography here

"I am fascinated by the unstable and dangerous sides of art and I hope my works reflect these aspects," said Mr. Lei. If he can do all these things in Real Life, what might he accomplish in Virtual Worlds? What daring aerial and acrobatic ideas of his have remained in the vault that could be fully realized in our pixelated space?

In fact, what looks to be formidable in Real Life often comes across as quite tame and even useful in Virtual Worlds. Nearly two years ago, JenzZa Misfit and her partners launched what would become a blockbuster product in Second Life called the Rendezvous. While the tool can only be operated on some lands (rez-enabled) and only one avatar can control it at a time, the Rendezvous broke ground in that avatars were able to interact with each other in a new and important way: for the first time, couples could fly and walk together holding hands, swim side-by-side, and more (it's decidedly PG, by the way).

JenzZa Misfit: "Flying together allows two people to experience a Peter Pan and Wendy' experience that is hard to describe. Moreover, it allows them to see and hear things together."

A significant benefit to using the Rendezvous (now in version 3.0) is that couples can fly low and slow, thus making it possible for them to share things on the ground at a realistic pace

A new version of the Rendezvous will appeal to groups of friends and business people: five people can fly together - Rather cosmopolitan, don't you think? -Photo by Dirk Talamasca

I still have a number of novel products (in Beta or just on the market) to share with you and for those wishing to enhance or celebrate ZeroG behaviors in Second Life. Stay tuned for the next installment in this series.

See also:
+ Overcoming gravity (and reality) - Part I in our Gravity series
+ I can fly, but meh - Part II in our Graivty in Virtual Worlds series

+ Here's a nifty source for photographs focusing on weightlessness: the Flickr group Floating People .
+ Climbing walls, sky dancing (in HD!), and weightless sex/showers - Part IV in our Gravity in Virtual Worlds series

I can fly, but meh - Part II in our Gravity in Virtual Worlds series

Chasing a dream - Photo of Nessy Shepherd by Sennaspirit Coronet

Posted by Bettina Tizzy

Dreams of superheroes and their feats often populated my thoughts and aspirations as a child. My grandmother would tie the arms of my father's old business shirt around my neck in a makeshift cape, drawing a big "S" on the back, and I would become SuperWoman, tearing around the park in pursuit of villains, real and imagined, but still wishing I could lift off and become airborne.

Here is the first of seventeen Superman animated cartoons, all classics and marvelous to this day, which were released by Paramount Pictures in the early 1940s. Soon after, scores of children - clearly early candidates for Darwin Awards - believed they could fly and broke arms, legs or worse by "jumping off roofs with towels wrapped around their necks."

This cartoon - a work of art in its own right - is in the public domain

We wanted - ever so much - to fly as kids... so why aren't those of us in Virtual Worlds spending more time aloft and celebrating that fact? Flickr, which boasts more Second Life groups than you can shake a stick at, has one puny little group called Fly Away with a scant 388 snapshots, many featuring avatars not in unaided flight, but on brooms, flying contraptions and pegasi.

Wings are rightfully popular in virtual worlds. Red Caste Guardian by Ganymedes Costagravas

While I have no hard statistics to offer, I'd wager that collectively we spend hundreds of hours more adorning our avatars with wings and other devices for flight, than we do flying. The first gift I received in Second Life® was a Superman t-shirt, and soon after I was sporting wings (and this phase lasted several months), but I can't recall ever going on a barnstorming flying party or gliding for any other reason than to get from point A to point B or to put some distance between myself and a large party so that I could concentrate on an IM.

We even walk to fundraise in Second Life's annual Relay for Life to benefit cancer research - Photo by Janet Powell

Hamlet Au (aka Wagner James Au) agrees. He has been chronicling Second Life, both as its first embedded journalist in 2003 for the company that owns it, Linden Lab, and since 2006 on his own blog, New World Notes. In his book, certainly the definitive oeuvre on SL, The Making of Second Life (he's working on the paperback edition at the moment), Hamlet explains:

"...the ability of avatars to fly in Second Life actually began as a quick work-around, so the developers wouldn't have to devote time and resources to creating climbing animations. When it came to transitioning from Linden World to Second Life, the team opted to discard the jet-pack propulsion but retain flying. For Rosedale (SL's founder and Chairman of the Board), the power to transcend gravity was "innately, strongly interesting to people," especially when it did not come from an external mechanical function but was a graceful, effortless ability that came from within.

But if flying is a universal dream, few Residents have embraced it in full. Where one might expect airborne societies of people frolicking in the clouds, the overwhelming majority of Residents insist on remaining earthbound for most of their time."

Maybe the soon to-be-released Watchmen movie might change all that? I doubt it.

Hamlet goes on to say...

"Why the fear of flying? Many have speculated that the sensation of self-propelled flying is too jarring for extended periods, and that people's visceral empathy with their avatars means they need to maintain a visual reference of themselves on the ground in order to feel comfortable."

I don't believe we're afraid. After all, what's the worst thing that can happen? Our avatar falls down and automatically (and comically) dusts itself off. I think we don't enjoy watching our avatar's backsides (the default camera view) as much as we do being able to pan up and down and gaze upon our creations face-forward or from some more flattering angle.

Case in point, we adore watching our avatars dance, and one of the most fashionable animations on the grid is this one. I don't know what it is called or who created it, but perhaps one of our readers might help us fill this in?

Filmed and edited by Bettina Tizzy at Earth Primbee's Inspire Space Park during a particle show (teleport directly from here)

One is the loneliest number

Another common objection is that flight is a lonesome practice, unless it is with others, in which case it requires relatively good hand-eye and team coordination to keep up with each other, lest you be unable to find your way. This is, unquestionably, the best and really the only way to get completely lost in virtual worlds as you always know where you are (the name of the parcel, sim and coordinates are always in front of you).

In typical Hamlet Au fashion, he closes the topic this way...

"Whatever the case, flying remains a largely temporal behavior, sparingly used to quickly get around barriers. (Which was, when you think about it, the function's original purpose)."

Interestingly, there have been some new developments that I will share with you in my next post in this series that may help to change your avatar's gentle (and grounded) mind about all this.

See also:
+ Overcoming gravity (and reality) - Part I in our Gravity series
+ Oh, those intrepid gravity challengers - Part III in our Gravity in Virtual Worlds series
+ Climbing walls, sky dancing (in HD!), and weightless sex/showers - Part IV in our Gravity in Virtual Worlds series

Overcoming gravity (and reality) - Part I in our Gravity series

Posted by Bettina Tizzy

I am becoming as fascinated by how technology affects us as I am by what we do with it. Lately, I've been wondering why we don't much celebrate our ability to fly in Virtual Worlds, even while it may be working its way into our subconscious.

My avatar in flight over Strawberry Holiday's "On Their Journeys" installation

Most of us take avatar flight for granted, but I suspect it has had an effect on my psyche as I don't recall having any dreams about flying in the past two years, which is also the length of time that has elapsed since I logged in to my first virtual world: Second Life®. I used to dream about flying... often.

Which led me to consider, "Is virtual flight (and virtual life, even) a substitute for lucid dreaming?" Norm Bearrentine explores how the brain constructs our reality, and how understanding that can affect the way we think of ourselves and who we are. "As people learn about lucid dreaming, an interesting fact about the brain will become known: it is a virtual reality generator," he says.

He goes on to explain, "The difference between these kinds of virtual reality and physical reality is that we can step away from the video game, movie, or book, and become aware of the technology that produced the experience. It is impossible, however, to step away from the brain, which is the technology producing our experience of “physical” reality. All our experience happens in the brain, and the only difference in the varieties of experience is the kind of technology that provides the brain with it’s material – books, TV, movies, video games, or none of the above."

Someone who would have undoubtedly explored virtual worlds were he alive today, Yves Klein created the photomontage Le Saut dans le Vide taken at Rue Gentil-Bernard, Fontenay-aux-Roses, in 1960, as "a symbol of the desire to overcome gravity and thus enter into the unlimited aspects of virtuality." It has been said that this was a manifestation of Klein's will to transcend limits. [Photo by Harry Shunk/Wikipedia]

And then there is this TED Talk featuring game designer David Perry, in which he shares a video created by a remarkable student, Michael Highland, who's words are etched indelibly on my mind: "... beyond the graphics, sound, game play and emotion, it is the power to break down reality that is so fascinating and addictive to me. I know that I am losing my grip. Part of me is just waiting to let go. I know though, that no matter how amazing video games may become, or how flat the real world may seem to us, that we must stay aware of what our games are teaching us and how they leave us feeling when we finally do unplug."

Will videogames become better than life?

Which leaves me wondering: Is it because we have overcome reality that we are not all that impressed with our ability to fly in the immersive environment of the virtual realm?

See also:
+ I can fly, but meh - Part II in our Gravity in Virtual Worlds series
+ Oh, those intrepid gravity challengers - Part III in our Gravity in Virtual Worlds series
+ Climbing walls, sky dancing (in HD!), and weightless sex/showers - Part IV in our Gravity in Virtual Worlds series

Saturday, February 21, 2009


Posted by Alpha Auer

You wander along the long bowels of a caterpillar like structure to gain access to the head, a spherical chamber, to witness the cycle of a hurricane!

Yes, I would most definitely urge the visitor to zoom out and look at this huge creature, with (at least to me) very obvious biological references, arduously crawling along a bumpy terrain, to become aware of this extraordinary convergence of the micro cosmos and the macro cosmos in the piece which Douglas Story and Desdemona Enfield have currently on show at NMC Campus West. A caterpillar of clouds, of weather - a storm caterpillar... Inside, the progression of a hurricane displayed as sound and video/image sequences, revolving in a time cycle; and outside, a sad old "cloud creepy crawly"... For me this utterly bizarre juxtaposition is what sets this piece in a class apart, lifts it from the mere recording of a natural phenomenon to a state of creative endeavor. I need to have these quirky associations, this element of the unexpected - the surreal (for lack of a better word here) - present in creative output, for things to really start working for me, for them to stick in my imagination.

So, yes, I did like StormEye very much indeed. But even with the wonderful combination of the concepts above, were the piece not well worked out in it's details, it would have suffered a loss of effectiveness, which it obviously hasn't. That said, there are still a few things which I would like to mention however, when it comes to the nitty gritty of realization:

One of them is the time cycle: The most effective parts of this are during the height of the storm, the downpour. Studies show that around 85% of the effort of ensuring that a state of psychological immersion in virtual environments is achieved, is spent in implementing convincing sound systems rather than those of visuality. Apparently it is our ears that immerse us and not our eyes. And indeed, at StormEye too, the effect of immersion into the climate, the storm reaches its apogee during the downpour, during which, of course, sound levels become vastly pronounced. I wish these parts of the cycle lasted much longer than they currently do. It seems that at the moment the time cycle is distributed fairly equally, I would have much prefered it to have been strongly biased towards the storm rather than the lovely blue skies...

Yet another thing I noticed goes to texturing: Now, I am talking entirely through my hat here, since I am not at all familiar with the usage of video sequences in Second Life® and what the appended limitations might be in this regard. For all I know, there is no way of way of using alpha transparency in video textures. I do know that alpha enabled videos can be created by rendering quicktime video as a PNG sequence. Whether these can be imported into SL, I have absolutely no idea. But, if this is at all possible, it would seem to me that the weather videos could use some seamless blending and also variance, which I think could be achieved by layering prims on which the textures take advantage of alpha transparency, on top of each other rather than just only side by side. A mere detail this, really - but one which may make a deal of difference nonetheless...

And finally, one more tiny gripe - but possibly the most relevant one: Animations! Now, this is also partially due to how I, Alpha, tend to simper around with the current animation overrider that I have. I have been meaning to rework this for the longest time now; but when I was in there, clutching Bryn Oh's gorgeous umbrella as if it were a mere parasol - pretty much as if I was a nice little Edwardian lady out for a sunny Sunday afternoon's stroll - while all hell, in terms of weather inclemency, was breaking loose around me, the whole issue of tailor made animations befitting a particular milieu/occasion in immersive environments became most painfully apparent. I would thus urge Douglas Story and Desdemona Enfield to place an animation overrider with appropriate animations into the umbrella and require visitors to wear it while they are there.

There seem to have been a great many people involved in the realization of StormEye and I will simply refer you to the notecard given inworld at the location of the piece for a listing of these:

"Thanks go out to Alexandar Vargas for supplying the workspace in which we created the piece, AM Radio for helping to secure that workspace and for loaning us the big window, and Tayzia Abattoir & Larry Pixel of the New Media Consortium for providing the venue for the public showing of the work. Also, Vlad Bjornson helped me plumb the mysterious depths of sculpty creation in zBrush and Lynne Heller/Nar Duell's observations were most valuable. Thanks also go to Bryn Oh for making the steampunk umbrella at the last minute, and Dizzy Banjo who suggested a better method of media playback.

The storm sound effects samples served by The Freesound Project, and were produced by www.digifishmusic.com. When you are done getting wet here, visit the Aho Museum below us by using the transporter near the archway. This installation is covered by a Creative Commons license. Details may be found on the website listed above.

More information may be had at http://slstormeye.blogspot.com/

Please post your photos to the StormEye Flickr group

You can teleport to StormEye directly from here.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Head, move back up to the neck please!

NPIRL joins Olza Koenkamp's Big Psomm

Posted by Tooter Claxton

There's a huge box in Brussels that looks like a giant padded cell. So, I felt right at home when Bettina Tizzy and I arrived there on our first NPIRL team building trip. We were there for the opening of Olza Koenkamp's latest project; the Big Psomm. There are a bunch of free avatars you can wear there, and each avatar is a piece of one giant avatar. The idea is to gather a group of people, everyone picks a body part to wear and together you try to construct the Big Psomm. Sounds simple; it's hard.

Olza had sent out invitations and put up a huge sign at the Hobo info hub, so there were more than enough people there to make it happen. At first everyone was trying on the different avatars, admiring Olza's work on them and running around in circles. So for ten minutes it looked like the Big Psomm was hit by a train. But then it slowly came back to life. The lower leg cuddled up to the foot, some of the heads (one of the more popular avatars) found their way to the neck which was trying to decide which of the 3 chests (also popular because of it's curviness) to attach to. Then there was a lot of laughing and shouting instructions to each other. “Head move back up to the neck, please!” “There are three bellies, give us a hand!” Text chat covered the window. Everyone tried to get this done in their own way; some IM'd their nearest limbs, some politely asked where to go, some yelled, and I started a group called Big Psomm right leg. I'm so pragmatic.

And sure enough, we pulled it off. There was the Big Psomm in all it's glory! Some dislocated joints in places, but a recognizable human shape nevertheless. Frankenstein, eat your heart out.

We all just stood there for a while to take some pictures and let Olza get his footage, and then we got overconfident and tried to shimmy sideways. (“East!”, “Which side is east?” and so on) and the whole thing fell apart again.

So there it was: an evening spent with sixteen or so people -most of whom I had never met before- turning abstract art into figurative art, and back again. Quite an accomplishment. And a lot of fun too.

Olza Koenkamp (Piotr Kopik) is a Real Life artist, computer graphics teacher, father and avant garde shanty choir singer from Warsaw, Poland and one of my favoritest people in Second Life®®©™. I know Bettina already told you a lot about him here on this blog, but since both Olza and I spend a lot of time building in Glidden Campus I got to do an in-depth interview with him. I'm not much of a interviewer, so at times the answers are at 1% length of the questions but who cares, right? Right.

Me: The thing about the Big Psomm that was quite surprising to me was the fact that working together with a group of people to get it together is half the fun. Did you anticipate that?

Olza Koenkamp: I didn't have any clear expectations. I was really curious if people would like to participate and what they would do. I thought it would be more of a mess. I provided the toys with certain aesthetics, in a specific setting, so there was some control. But they could do anything, I was surprised that they wanted to cooperate.
It wasn't just the idea to make a perfect connected body or to make a video of moving body parts only, there was also the social aspect.
I was thinking about the body and how every part has got some kind of consciousness. The head wants to sit and do something, but the arms are tired, as is the backbone. The legs are half relaxed half stressed... etcetera. You think and feel many things at the same time. The same thing happens when all the different people make the Big Psomm.

Me: Now that you mention conscious body parts: why doesn't it have genitals?

Olza Koenkamp: That would have made it all go one way. Everything would have focused on sex .. so i just added some additional elements, like the flaps. If anyone feels the need to do make a penis with them, ok.

Me: In your art, you seem to be obsessed with certain techniques or metaphors for a while, and then you move on. Recently you are preoccupied with the human body. Are you a fetishist?

Olza Koenkamp: I don't know. I concentrate. Now I'm working with 'body'. This is body art. New body art. It's about combining mind and body. I explore expressions, feelings, physical sensations. It's all about me, but I don't use a mirror or photos. Just my imagination.

Me: So the characters you build into your avatars (see Olza's shop-TC ) are all you?

Olza Koenkamp: Sure. In my avatars I emphasize a certain pose or feeling that i have, I just improvise to adjust them to my mind.
I'm searching for a kind of Utopian -I dont think it is Utopian- harmony. Of course, to find it you must pass many of the monsters. Which I actually think they are not.

Me: So the next stop is blissfulness?

Olza Koenkamp: Little joys, little steps. If I was near to super-blissfulness-enlightenment I probably would not do anything anymore.

Me: So the harmony is in acknowledging and embracing the flaws. That's very Ying-Yang.

Olza Koenkamp: As well as Indian, Hindu, also some baroque, fairy tales from the far east and organic things. Someone said about my exhibition in Real Life that it is folk art. Also, I've been doing yoga. That's very inspiring and helpful for this theme. But I know that 90% of yoga is shit. It's so popular that 90% must be shit.

Me: Somewhere on your site your work is compared to one of my all time heroes, Kurt Schwitters, and I agree, but with one exception: you make what you use, he used what he found. On the other hand you could say that you 'find' techniques like black and white graphics, figurative painting, video, animation, graffiti, tape, food, Second Life®©™, right?

Olza Koenkamp: yes

Me: So do you have a plan as to where you're going with your art? Do you go with the flow and see what happens, or do you adapt your style to your theme?

Olza Koenkamp: Now I go with the flow. I just have some plans. I want to make another Real Life build from wood which I will paint and put stickers on, and big pencil and crayon drawings on paper, and I have ideas for new avatars and there is a 'serious' movie* I will do. There's also the Szu Szu art group, so there are really many different things to do. The only thing I know is to make more, and get better at it, to satisfy my eye.

Keep an eye out for Olza, it may get satisfied. I'm pretty certain it will.

For now you can still build a Big Psomm with your friends here, and watch Olza's video of our attempt here. Or see some (better) photos on Olza's Flickr pages.

* Olza has made avatars and written a scenario for a Second Life machinima movie that is being picked up by people in the 'business'; but I promised to keep quiet about that. TC.

P.S. I'm new to this blog. Find out all about me on this one.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

My valentine for you, M Linden

Posted by Bettina Tizzy

I'm living in Austin, Texas now, where the city motto is "Keep Austin weird," or as one person explained it to me, it's that amalgam of oddities that could only have happened in an environment of "collaborative fission of coordinated individualism." M Linden, this is my wish for my Second Life®, and yours. Keep the soul, and Happy Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Whitetrash plays Whitenoise, Opera 1 Automatica of the Trivial Mechanisms

Posted by Alpha Auer

Once upon a time there was a greenhorn newbie avatar named Alpha Auer, who through a series of bizarre coincidences found herself in Second Life®, with an inkling but no tangible leads as to what this place might be good for - until she encountered a clan of avatars...

Throughout my life I have had extraordinary luck when it came to my instructors, but in few more so than MosMax Hax. So, try as I might, I am going to find it very difficult to write on "Whitetrash plays Whitenoise, Opera 1 Automatica of the Trivial Mechanisms" without touching upon the personal: MosMax Hax and his cohorts have re-educated me in what has probably been the most fundamental lack in my creative makeup until quite recently: Play.

Max Wysznowitzer, one of the members of the entourage of MosMax Hax

The artist Max Moswitzer/MosMax Hax has been active in Second Life since early 2007, achieving the distinction of being one of the recipients of the award at the Ars Electronica 1st Annual Architecture & Design Competition in Second Life in 2007 with the first incarnation of "Whitenoise", a 2 storeyed construct which he then defined as "an experiment for non-human architecture in second life. This construct uses Freebee objects which are all set to white. The interesting views are when these objects affiliate with others. With a tool we use this build has just around 25 prims, normaly it would have 1000 prims. It is a ongoing project and will go into more "high res" detail. We call it "WHITE-NOISE". White Noise, a reference to a random pattern and "Bildrauschen", which we as builders see working on it for hours and you think you get snowblind."

Whitenoise Church. Teleport from here

Whitenoise evolved from this early construct, to what I consider to be one of the noteworthiest landmarks of virtual architecture both in and out of Second Life: The Whitenoise Church. Heaven knows, I have made enough references to this text, but I simply have to do so yet again, since what I wrote there goes straight to the heart of the matter of what I want to express here:

"The narrative space of Karnak. It reminded me of Second Life. Or rather of a structure that I am very familiar with in Second Life: The Whitenoise Church, by MosMax Hax. I am not sure what the pantheon that generated this circular cathedral is all about. A church for avatars. Is there a myth of creation already in place for Second Life? If so, is Ruth the mother goddess? Like Karnak, the church tells a story with its bottomless rowing boats, its chained in place cars, its columns constructed out of trucks and its teddy bear steeple. These are not about Ruth, or any kind of Second Life pantheon for that matter. Instead they are the projections of the psyche of a man who used to be a boy who played with trucks and cars and teddy bears and who has now managed to find his way back to that boyhood - and who has the guts to express it. And somehow, through an almost magical act of transformation, this conglomeration of boyhood objects winds up becoming more than the sum total of its parts, in fact winds up becoming the manifestation of a myth of creation for a yet to be named deity, for a yet to be defined ritual. The deity of Second Life would have to be childhood, and the ritual would have to be play. And its book of prayers would then be endowed with narrative".

(These days, floating over the ocean, the church is still there and it is amazing to me that it is not teeming with avatars, making the pilgrimage out there to see it - so little is it known in Second Life...)

Theater for Automatica of the Trivial Mechanisms at Ouvroir

But MosMax Hax has moved on from the church to the skies over Ouvroir, where he has created the theater for the "Automatic Trivial Mechanisms" - an undertaking still very closely related to the concept underlying the church. A concept the roots of which reside in an Avatar Religion, founded by Hardwarehacker Hoch. Thus the manifesto of the 3rd Life Church reads as follows:

"Excuse Me, But Are You Human?
We are "intellectual" avatars, to arrogate the same rights of privacy that flesh-and-blood humans have.
We don't believe in AI (Artificial Intelligence) because, - WE ARE! - Ready!
Our human operator is a spiritual machine which should be set on sedatives to derive more freedom in our schizophrenic relationship.
Antagonism and bondage to the dictatorship of our users!"
We are "Prosumers".


It is a twofold experience, this theater of MosMax's: The first is the actual space that you will find yourself in, as it slides around you and underneath your very feet as you move along. The illusion of infinity on both the vertical as well as the horizontal axes, created through a layering of black and white textures. Concealing and yet revealing. Never still and yet not moving? Am I moving or is "it" moving? Very likely not at all a scripted wonder, but simply the expertise of a skilled builder, who transports us into this illusory state of being immersed in a fluid space, which continually reconfigures and reshapes itself as we fly and walk inside it. Illusion accomplished through perfect craftsmanship. I would urge the visitor to don on his flight feather (obtainable here if you haven't got one already that is) and to fly fly fly, walk walk walk in this extraordinary space.

Fly to the peripheries where things are dark and quiet...

All the way outside where you will see the entire construct embedded into it's gigantic megaprim...

And back into the center where the whole thing is a-flutter with ripples...

And this center is where you will find the "actors": And no, these are not "bots" but avatars. Avatars who walk the gird. Have their own tales to tell. Fly helis. Make acquisitions, rez things, all of them creative entities in their own right. With opinions and relationships. After all, do I myself not live in constant dread of the anticipation of yet another visit from that sour faced old gentleman, Hegemon Maximus, chiding me as to the highly objectionable superficiality of my ways?

I have a little eye-to-eye with Falsche Hoffnung. Visible in the background is Erdbeermund Schnute...

Adolf Svoboda

So, why does MosMax Hax call his entourage "Trivial Mechanisms" then? If anything it would be to elevate them from their simulative "humanity" to a state of purity implied within a mechanical system, following sociologist/systems theorist Niklas Luhmann, who proclaims "Human Likenesses... What objects of horror. If I may be so heartless in expressing this, "man" really does not interest me at all".

Adolf Svoboda, the valiant pilot of the Search & Rescue Organization of Second Life, half brother of Hardwarehacker Hoch. A quiet country lad, a clean innocent face - however, dressed today in Whitenoise. Trust me, in his everyday existence he is not scary at all... Cinzia Zanzibar, the dark exotic beauty in her dance silks and her nemesis Erdbeermund Schnute, also clad in the very same apparel - and oh what a difference... Falsche Hoffnung, very much the girl next door with her cute little freckled nose. Somehow it seems to me that the dance silks do not look quite right on her... Schwanzlurch Salamander, in all of his Whitenose regalia... Hegemon Maximus, an elderly sage whose passion and mission are one and the same: Cardboard... Inworld Zapatero, who has spent an entire autumn hanging out outside his little hut in the sun, on his tiny island... His brother (?) Inworld Placebo, on whom I cannot say much, having only become aware of his existence quite recently. The same of which would also apply to Hirnhaut Suppenkraut, although Cosima Snook I do know. I even took her shopping once a long time ago...

Cinzia Zanzibar

Schwanzlurch Salamander

Avatar art: I do believe I want to coin a phrase here. This is avatar art. The virtual instantiation of the splitting of the human self into many many selves. The acknowledgment of the many facets residing within our labyrinthine psyche. And giving them all their day in the sun. How did Hardwarehacker phrase it again? "Our human operator is a spiritual machine which should be set on sedatives to derive more freedom in our schizophrenic relationship". Playing ourselves against ourselves. MosMax Hax is an undoubted master of the craft.

They all love to fly helis. Every last man, woman, child and furry...

This fluid space is not just there to amaze you in its intricacy. It is a complex theater building housing a complex drama - the one of the "many selves". And if there is a riddle here, for me it is not one of technology. I am not concerned with how this was built. And you know what? I am not even so wrapped up in how beautiful it is. And yes! It is, in fact, very beautiful this space. The sense of depth and breadth alone... But ultimately, when the chips are down, there are oh so many breathtakingly beautiful constructs to be seen in our virtual world here. So, the riddle for me is the transmission of a psychological state into actuality: The creation of identities out of the one identity. Creating a fluid, wide, deep, transparent and yet opaque stage whereon these identities can find a suitable platform of expression. One which is capable of doing the entire convoluted drama justice. And then the acknowledgment of the male and the female; the beautiful and the trashy; the timid and the adventurous and the elderly and the lazy - all present and accounted for in this entourage of persona conglomerating around the one central figure of MosMax Hax.

MosMax Hax is not a man of many words. I have written this text based solely upon what I have learned about him through my close association with him, with its many ups and downs, in its good days and not so good ones over the past (almost) two years. So, whatever errors of judgment there may be, they are all flights of my imaginative fancy and in no way attributable to him.

So, is this a "finished" work? Signed, sealed and delivered to it's audience in its neat little box with a neat little label? I's dotted and T's crossed? All explanations in place? No, most definitely not. Instead it is v.01 of an evolving, emergent artistic process wherein MosMax Hax explores and then projects the workings of the many facets that make up his (non)holistic "human" self. A lifetime's occupation it would seem to me.

I would urge you to visit the skies of Ouvroir by teleporting directly from here to see this "work in progress". There you will find the "stage" all set for the performance of the opera of the "Trivial Mechanisms". And, you will be more than likely to encounter some of the actors of this drama while you are there as well. If they are not all out and about wandering the grid that is...

If however, you make a point of going to Ouvroir at the hours below, over the next 3 days, you will be able to encounter the cast in full bloom, all together, performing for you:

6.feb 2009 1pm SLTime (Opening)
7.feb 2009 1pm SLTime
8.feb 2009 1pm SLTime


You can also view more and larger sized images on Flickr here.

Update on ARENA, Uqbar: OK folks, here is the story: Although MosMax was added to the Arena Artists group, in order to be able to rez the theater at Uqbar, when he attempted to do so yesterday morning, he found that he did not have the necessary permissions. His designated location did not give his group status rez rights, in other words.

He has been trying to contact the administrators at Uqbar, to fix the problem since yesterday morning however to this hour has been unable to do so, either in-world or through email.

Thankfully the original location at Ouvroir is up and running and thus the opening will be held there today at 1PM SLT, instead of at Uqbar. When the rez problem at Uqbar eventually gets addressed, you will be updated on whether the theater will in fact also get rezed there in the days to come or not.


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Four Yip freaks us out

Posted by Bettina Tizzy

Four Yip is an Amsterdam-based illustrator and artist in Real Life who amuses herself (and blows our collective minds) by creating often-free virtual items that push the boundaries so hard that they must hurt.

I picked up my freebie copy of her "Waldemar Twins," a most unusual avatar and set, at the Freakshow organized by Loglady Loon, which opened earlier this week.

You wear the avatar and then throw your arm over the shoulder of the photographed twin on a set. Genius.

Four explains it this way: "I made one part of the twin (and) the "other-half" is lost. Only a portrait of her other-half is left. You can pose with the other-half's portrait if you put on the avatar (sit on the poseball), and soon you will find 'the freak' inside you."

Get yours and see the rest of the Freakshow by teleporting from here.

See also:

* four Yip's improbable tableaux + you
* Folks love four Yip
* Hotel accomodations to dance about
* A birthday present from four Yip
* four Yip's Lune-acy
* The four Yip Fashion Blender a la Alpha Auer