chrome at the crossroads

at the crossroads

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machinima in the fast lane

Several people have asked me recently whether Persia had disappeared down another rabbit hole following her dramatic introduction to the readers of this blog several weeks ago. I thought it might be a good time to mention some of the goings on behind the scenes, by way of explanation. Not long after she first appeared here another development took place in her virtual life, the onset of a transworld event which quickly took on a life of its own and a few other lives along with it, including Persia’s. The event was a grid wide machinima competition to select the best music video for a new song by an RL Danish band, Giana Factory. Pop Art Lab’s Machinima Expo 2011.

Needless to say, a huge undertaking, and one which actually provided me with the opportunity to collaborate with SL’s great creative team, Douglas Story and Desdemona Enfield, on an interactive invitation, a combination poster and notecard giver. They began by creating the interactive polyhedron which rotates in the center; while I began designing the poster which was to be a virtual frame around it. I was thrown slightly off rhythm at first; I had never designed anything with a large, gaping hole in it; but I love a good challenge. The results of our work can be seen above, in a photo taken in Second Life. You be the judge.

Sooo,,, that is the story of the mysterious disappearance of Persia Bravin. She wasn’t missing at all; she was just moving at warp speed in another part of the metaverse. Stay tuned to this station for news of further sightings.

Pop Art Lab Machinima Expo 2011
Saturday 26th March
2-6pm SLT/PDT

Live web broadcast at:

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truth two

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truth one

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living color

A shot of me, wandering around Sub Versa, soon to be the site of Chrome’s new gallery. I’m beginning to wonder if he might have been onto something when he referred to me as a “camilleon” the other day. Ya think?

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Berlin, revisited

Author’s Note: This is the third in a series of blasts from the virtual past, in which I revisit some of the posts I’ve written since my first rezzable moment in SL back in 2007. First published in 2008 under the title, Berlin is, quite simply, da bomb, this recounts the events surrounding my part in an exhibit held at the Austrian Embassy in Berlin, Germany.

During the long flight from Los Angeles to Amsterdam, where we caught a connecting flight to Berlin, my physical counterpart and I spent some time contemplating the significance of our long journey. One of the more interesting tidbits we stumbled upon was the fact that his father had entered Berlin as an American infantryman many years before and was at the center of the final decisive battle that crushed Hitler’s army, liberating Berlin and the rest of Europe from the Nazi nightmare. Now, at the dawn of a new century, his son was entering this vibrant cultural capital to participate in an international celebration made possible by that victory: the opening of an art exhibit at the Austrian Embassy. If only Daddy could see him now.

From the first evening we were there, it felt as though we had arrived at a large, cosmopolitan dinner party. The city itself, like all great cities, has an air of excitement about it, but Berlin seems to have a special kind of energy; it is filled with a sense of its own renewal. After all, how many metropolises have been bombed into oblivion, only to arise from the ashes a few decades later as a thriving center of art and commerce? This was indeed a special place with much history and you could smell it in the air; even under those cold, grey, snow-laden skies. Within hours we were enjoying wienerschnitzel and pilsner at Cafe Einstein with fellow Second Lifers KK Jewell and Jaynine Scarborough; and this was just the beginning. The following day we paid our respects at the Bauhaus Archive, just a few blocks from our room at the Hotel Berlin. The likes of Klee, Kandinsky and Mies Van Der Rohe had all walked and talked in these hallowed halls. What a country.

Later that evening we attended a dinner reception at the Twelve Apostles restaurant in East Berlin for the participating artists, generously provided by our host, noted architect Bernd Boetzel, aka Vision Planer. It was a real international cultural exchange, with El Bocho, a grafitti artist from Berlin; Mario Dalpra of Vienna; Iskren Iliev, a painter hailing from Bulgaria but now living in Vienna; Nina Maron, a painter from Vienna, Rob Steenhorst, a digital artist from the Netherlands, and yours truly, Chrome Underwood, frontin’ and maxin’ for the USA and Second Life. The words and the wine flowed in endless streams until the late hours of the night. We then climbed into the back of Rob’s van (haven’t done that in a few years) and headed out to visit Billy Wilder’s bar, where we finished off the evening’s adventure.


The following night found us at the Austrian Embassy, mingling with a pretty good-sized and highly-energized crowd in the upper level gallery. This had been preceded by a series of short performances by two well-known Austrian actors which, as far as I could tell, went over pretty well. I didn’t have a clue what they were saying, but it was a chance to sit back and listen to the German language in the raw; I found myself marveling at its expressiveness and, well, to be honest, its musicality. Without understanding a word, I was moved by it, as I might have been by a jazz performance. Perhaps I had seen too many sneering Nazi officers on the silver screen over the years; this went a long way toward correcting that imbalance.

Since there were  many, many wonderful experiences, too numerous to recount here, I will leave you with the impressions of an American artist in Berlin…..

Grey skies and light snow as we walk the streets of recent history; bullet holes in monuments, church towers stand alone and broken, filling the air with sadness, pride, hope and a bright new energy braced with knowledge of an awful truth. Standing near the door of a Spanish bistro in the cold East Berlin night, smoking hand-rolled cigarettes with my new German friends. Everyone looks good in black, it says on my bag of Dutch licorice. The Berlin Wall, the longest running art show in the world, where graffiti trumps the Cold War. Cheap trinkets at Checkpoint Charlie, memories of the death and resurrection of freedom bolted to facades all around us, twisted rebar and triumphant images of German artists. A luminous Brandenberg Gate suddenly appears in the night as we weave our way to the Austrian Embassy. Throngs of passionate visitors surrounding each tiny jewel of a painting at the Paul Klee exhibit; the unbearable heroic sadness of Kathe Kollwitz; the pristine purity of the Bauhaus Archive rusting in the snow, a woman whose makeup is ruined by tears. A golden angel staring pointlessly at the memory of France. The exhilaration of liberty in the soaring, dancing, singing buildings of the New Berlin, where hope is made of glass and steel, and embedded in the hearts of its people. Ich bin ein Berliner.


Images, from the top: anonymous graffiti on what’s left of the Berlin Wall; LoveDot, giclee print on aluminum by Rob Steenhorst; and another anonymous work on The Wall.

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the mysterious Madame X

Well, Chrome finally got around to setting up the new SecondSnaps photo studio today, and since I was to be his model first time around, I was eager to see what he could do with it. Naturally, I had to dress for the occasion, so I put together an outfit that I thought might inspire him to do something new and different, or maybe even old and ordinary. Whatever he wound up doing would be pretty good, I figured.

When he had taken his first shot, he stepped back and stood silently for a while, gazing at the image he had captured. “Well,” I said, “how does it look?” He pondered it for a little while longer and then slapped his forehead. “Of course!”, he said; “That’s who it reminds me of!” He was jubilant, and I was puzzled; “Can I see it?”, I said. He showed me the image and I thought, “Wow, this is pretty amazing for a first attempt; but who does it remind you of?”

“John Singer Sargent’s portrait of Madame Gautreau, which he entitled Madame X in a vain attempt to conceal her identity, causing such a great scandal at the Salon in 1884 that he left Paris for London, never to return. The two of you would have made quite a pair – you, the ‘camilleon’ who never appears the same way twice and who could drive any man mad; and Madame X, notorious in Parisian high society for her beauty and rumored infidelities. Two peas in a pod… how ironic, and….  how coincidental.”

“Second Life seems to be full of just as many mysteries as the first one is.” I said, smiling at my new friend from another world. She looked away, as mysterious as ever.

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the history of persia

Chrome Underwood is one of those rare men who are impossible to refuse. Maybe it’s his potent mixture of charisma combined with bona fide artistic talent, or perhaps his innate ability to tap into the art zeitgeist of virtual worlds. Whatever it is, Chrome and I have been friends for over a year now and in the daily, tidal wave of instant messages, his are always welcomed. No matter what I am doing within my second existence, when Chrome speaks – I listen. So it made perfect sense for me to join the able, jolly crew of ‘Chrome Never Sleeps’ as a blog contributor, where I will be accompanying Chrome, et al. on their journey to discover the best and most intriguing virtual works of art in the metaverse.
Who am I? Well, obviously Chrome knows all about me, but by way of introducing myself to the readers of this blog, he suggested I write a brief but revealing biography of myself for these very pages. Fact and fantasy have been merged. Consider this biography to be the perfect hybrid between real and second life and you will be on the right track to knowing more about both the flesh and blood and pixelated Persia Bravin. One thing is for sure. I am not a character lifted from the pages of Chrome’s graphic novel. I am in fact, very, very real….
“My virtual birth is shrouded in secrecy. The result of a passionate yet illicit tryst between my Mother, an elite courtesan from GOR and my Father, a senior member of the Linden Lab board of Directors, I entered this world at a nomadic encampment on the night of the thirteenth moon. Named in honor of the arid region where I took my first breath, I was smuggled out of the desert at only five days old by a caravan of kindly spice merchants to avoid the inevitable shame upon my Father, and was sent to be brought up by a succession of loveless matrons at a girl’s boarding school in deepest, dampest England.
As the years passed, I sought solace in the schools oak paneled library, immersing myself in great works of English literature whilst dreaming of adventure and my eventual escape from the suffocating confines of my education. To distract myself throughout those endless grey, rain soaked days, I developed a fascination with art in all its forms and vowed to one day travel the world in search of great, contemporary artistic talent. Feeling evermore frustrated at my circumstances, I found an outlet for my inner turmoil by becoming a crack shot with my antique Purdey rifle and by refining my skills as a dancer of ‘Raqs Sharqi’- the ancient dance of eastern women- in tribute to the Mother I have never known.
My teenage years were spent under the tutelage of a wise and jovial old English teacher, who in his youth had been a newspaper Editor in the glory days of Fleet Street, London. His love of the written word was infectious, and his accounts of his raffish escapades, all in the name of journalism, were intoxicating to my young ears. With his guidance, I set upon the path to my own career in reporting and moved through the ranks from cub to established journalist, writing stories from the frontline of fashion, music and cultural events that have helped shape the dawn of this new century.”
But….something was missing. Haunted by my origins, and desperate to find the Mother who had given me up as an infant to protect the reputation of the man she had sworn to love until her dying day – I was compelled to return to the place of my birth. As I walked into the desert encampment for the first time in thirty years, I saw a lone figure sitting under a palm tree, his handsome profile silhouetted against the setting sun, the dying rays glinting off the polished metal of a gleaming motorbike parked nearby. Offering up a flask of water, he welcomed me to sit with him and to tell him my story. After listening intently to my tale, the stranger introduced himself. “Hi, I’m Chrome,” he said with a devilish grin. “And I am looking for writers to help me explain the aesthetic wonders of the Metaverse to people who don’t yet realize the wonders of the land we live in – would you care to join me on this quest?” How could I resist the charms of this man who I have since learned is just as accomplished in the real world as he is in the land of pixel dust? I’m just grateful he never sleeps.

Artist’s Note: The image above is a mashup of two different worlds; Chrome and Persia were shot in Second Life and then dropped into a scene rendered by the brilliant game artist, Peter Gikandi. Check out more of his work at I Nomad.

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identity crisis

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the limits of engagement

Isn’t living a second life through an avatar in itself a form of role playing?

This, and many other questions, are now rattling around in my head about the nature and limits of living through multiple avatars after suffering through a momentary identity crisis last night. I had been invited to attend a Press Preview of new Installations by Em Larsson, Scottius Polke, RAG Randt & Eliza Wierwight at Amase Levasseur’s new art sim, Originalia, and decided to go as Camille, one of my alts, in hopes of expanding her role in the virtual world and thus expand my own work there, and here.

I arrived at Scottius’s installation, “The Docks” (photo, above), early in the evening and within minutes found myself squirming in my blue suede boots and looking for the exit. What I hadn’t anticipated, for some reason, was running into friends who knew me as Chrome, yet who may also be familiar with Camille from my work. The awkward part was not knowing whether to inform them of something they may already know, or to act as if nothing was amiss and continue with what soon began to feel like a charade. I wasn’t quite sure how to handle it, to be honest, and after a few awkward moments, just backed away.

I should point out that over the past three years or so I have put thousands of miles on my alts, and yet there are only a few people in the metaverse who actually know me as more than one “person”. In public, I am always Chrome. My use of alts up until this moment has been almost entirely for the purpose of my art; they are the subject of my paintings, comic strips and photographs. Now, I’m expanding their roles and personas, to be documented here and on my new gallery site. I am pushing them out into the world, and now trying to find my way through the maze of emotions that seems to be an inherent part of this process.

My apologies to any friends who may have experienced that awkward moment with me last night. I considered for a moment IM’ing you to let you know that I was “really” Chrome, and for that matter, that I was really Mick… but I thought it might be too disruptive and the moment passed. I’m now thinking that each of my alts should have a title over their head, something like “100% Chrome Plated”. I’ll work on that. In the meanwhile, I’ll continue to try to improve the lives of my alts by giving them a social life, so if you run into one of them, just go with the flow. We’re all role playing anyway.

Aahh, what tangled webs we virtuals weave. :-)

Posted in Camille Topaz | 12 Comments