dancing with cats

In some ways, it turned out to be much more than a kickass party: it not only marked the opening of a great exhibit, but it signified the end of nearly a year of close interaction among a group of exceptional, adventurous and exceedingly generous creative spirits. So much had happened over those months.. there were countless hours of brainstorming, pondering and deep discussion, spiced with some of the best wit and humor ever to grace a chat log. Many of us became good friends during the journey and, gods willing, will have a chance to renew and extend those friendships on future projects.

We also had our share of obstacles to overcome, though, and hurdles to crawl under; at times the show itself hung by a mere thread. Let’s face it, getting twenty or so artists to come together for that length of time working toward the same goal was about as close to herding cats as you’d ever want to get. There were unavoidable delays in terms of the availability of the sim, a transition of leadership, a missed chance to synchronize the show with its real world counterpart and, ultimately, sheer fatigue as the goal posts kept being moved forward. I had nearly given up a few times myself; looking back from here, though, I’m glad I hung in there.

All of that and more was celebrated at this event; and from what I could see, there wasn’t a dry virtual eye in the place.

In the photo above: lots of avatars, dancing under the dome of the new Caerleon Museum of Identity.

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the water of life

Eighteen artists from around both worlds have been pondering and discussing the issue of virtual identity for almost a year now, with one goal in mind: the creation of a collective art exhibit that would express these ideas in a virtual setting. After nine months of preparation, the results of that effort have been built, tweaked and critiqued and will become the premier exhibit marking the launch of the new Caerleon Museum of Identity in Second Life. I have to say I’m proud to have been a part of it, and value deeply the new friends I’ve made along the way.

Now, to the issue at hand…. Since the avatar can be both an expression of one’s personal identity as well as a separate and distinct entity, I quickly realized that any attempt to capture the elusive concept of human identity in a virtual world would be as difficult as grasping a handful of water. I then decided to approach the subject from a decidedly playful direction. I turned to the comic strips I had been creating for over a year, probing the zone in which the two worlds touch, overlap and sometimes even intertwine – not so much to unravel the mystery of it all as to marvel at it, to enjoy it – and, occasionally, to poke fun at it.

But there was an additional challenge for me as an artist: I had to find a way to bring them to life, to enable them to jump off the page, as it were, and into a 3-dimensional exhibit. What emerged from those efforts was a kind of hybrid art form, something I call ‘microcomics’: single panel works combining the elements of painting, comics art and text.I then began to merge various panels in phantom form to create visual sculptures, As a result, the work encompasses everything from entire comic strips to free-standing 3D microcomics as well as other experimental takes on the genre… including a four-panel comic strip footbridge… like walking into a funhouse; or as one friend put it, like being in Alice in Wonderland.

Looking forward to the opening event, which will be held this Saturday from noon to 2pm; entertainment provided by Mommaluv Skytower. Should be a kickass party. Hope to see you there.

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Caerleon Museum of Identity Teaser from Botgirl Questi on Vimeo.

SLURL: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Caerleon%20Isle/219/128/40
OPENING: Saturday 2 October 2010, 12:00-2:00PM, and continuing through October.
DJ Mommaluv Skytower for opening party.

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Reviews and commentary:

Second Life Destination Guide

New World Notes

Second Life Art Parks

Goatmoose

Shiawase Ltd

.  .  .  .  .  .

In the photo above: some of my 3-dimensional comic book art in the foreground, with an installation by RAG Randt on the right, and the new Caerleon Museum of Identity in the background. (click to enlarge)

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If avatars could cry….

Visited the World Trade Center Memorial in Second Life this morning, and stood on the fringes of a crowd of fellow avatars who had come to honor and remember the 2,927 human beings who were lost on this day, exactly nine years earlier. One could only hope that the human race might have found a way to make their world a little more user-friendly by now, but from all reports it is still a pretty dangerous place. Alas, the waves from that tragic event still circle the planet. Today I can even feel them in here.

The slurl for the WTC Memorial: http://slurl.com/secondlife/New%20York%20NYC/54/211/22

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it’s a plug’n’play world

As Camille mentioned in the previous post, I’ve been higher than a kite (around 3000m), working on some new paintings for an upcoming show. Now, the very fact that I’m working at all is kind of exciting (at least to me:), since I had been suffering from an acute case of creative block-headedness lately. Suddenly all those blocks broke loose and the river began to flow like the headwaters of the Nile. Damn, I love this job.

What emerged after all those months was a kind of hybrid: I began to work on paintings which I called ‘microcomics’, single panel comics (tempted to say haiku here) which combine the elements of painting and comic book style with text, each of which could stand on its own merits as a singular work of art, or when gathered together as a group form a sort of non-linear narrative – scenes from an imagined world with the same cast of characters – plug and play stories for a world with a short attention span.

Then, while working on new ways to present these images, I came upon an interesting discovery…. having made multiple copies to experiment with, all of which were phantoms*, I was stunned to learn that when you pass two copies of the same image through each other, not only is the integrity of the original image retained from certain angles, but when you walk around it you discover entirely new versions, some nearly abstract in their jagged eruptions. It was a virtual 3D comic book/painting/billboard/sculpture, or something like that. Don’t know what it is, but I like it.

Seen in the very top photo (click to enlarge), from left to right: Soul Vamp; Shadowcaster; a tower built from the comic strip Sun Downer; and in the background, Sleeping Beauty and a wall made from a strip called Matinee Idle. The photo above is a night shot taken from another angle.

*Phantom is a setting which can be applied to any object, converting it into a virtual ghost. That is, although it is still visible it has none of the properties of a solid object; you can walk right through it, for instance, and in this case it can pass through other objects.

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My fifteen minutes of fame

Wow. This is amazing. Chrome actually loosened his grip on this blog site and graciously (though belatedly) allowed me to jot down my own thoughts here. Interesting, because I know for a fact that he was confronted by a very good friend recently about his intellectual and artistic perfectionism, and advised to lighten up a bit, goddam it! and join the neohuman race. Love ya, Mr. Underwood. :)

That’s a photo of me at the staging platform high above his gallery at Avant Garde, where he’s been assembling some of his new work, which includes 3-dimensional walk-through versions of his comic strips, and a new form he calls ‘microcomics‘, in which he tries to capture an entire mood, idea and even a hint of narrative in a single image.

I happen to appear in many of these new microcomics, for some reason, so I thought I’d stop by and check them out. Hey, I havta tell ya, I could get used to seeing my face the size of a billboard; makes me feel like a movie star. I might even begin angling for an extra five or ten minutes of this fame thing. It sure would be a nice gesture by the new, looser and freer, Chrome Underwood, dontcha think?

The work above is being prepared for the upcoming show at Caerleon, the Ambiguity of Identity, which opens in September. Details to follow.

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the unbearable lightness

OK, this guy walks into an auto repair shop dressed as a woman to check on his twin sales guys who are standing behind the counter waiting to be tested for their rez speed. It just so happens that a friend is hanging around the shop and he asks sarcastically: hey, is your facelight bright enough? Not for me, (she) says; I can’t see a thing. Well, here, he says, I got a better one for you. So he gives (her) a new facelight, which looks like it may have been used to light up the Nurenberg rally for Leni Reifenstahl. Thanks, (she) says;  this oughta scare the papparazzi away. Yeah, they generally don’t do studio work, he says.

This is a (true) story. Bodies have been changed to protect the innocent.

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These are my new friends. I didn’t have any, so I made some.

“Go forth and multiply!”, she say. “Can I borrow your calculator?”, I say.

Just over a month ago I began the daunting task of creating a small tribe of avatars for an education project in Second Life. Having spent three years focusing on the subtleties of ‘synthetic individualism’ – tweaking shapes and skins and other things into distinct and credible virtual beings, I thought to myself – hell yeah, this can’t be that difficult, right? Well, I was cruising along at a pretty good clip until I hit the magic number ten and began to realize that creating fake people by the dozen was not for the faint of heart.

To make things more difficult, they all had to be ‘professionals’; that is, their appearance had to comply with the standards of the business world. Needless to say, having spent most of my real life (not to mention my virtual one) avoiding those standards by invoking my artistic license, I suddenly found myself staring into a yawning chasm, an occasional white shirt and tie drifting by. I not only had to quickly get a handle on an unfamiliar style of dress, but I had to find places to buy the damn stuff. I soon learned that there are a lot more mini skirts than pencil skirts in this little paradise of ours.

Now that it’s all over, though, I must admit it was satisfying in an odd sort of way. Not to sound megalomaniacal or anything, but it did make me feel a bit godlike, even though it was probably a bit more like being one of the elves in God’s workshop. But don’t tell that to the 21 new creatures who now believe in me. I wouldn’t want to disappoint them.

That little fox up there, btw, is Quin, my femme finale. She had just acquired that glorious crown of cascading locks and I had just enough strength left to snap a photo. A fitting image to end one of the bigger population explosions in the history of sl; 21 avatars birthed in 36 days. Would that qualify them as noobie boomers?

Anyway, I think I’ll  try to grab me a bit of sabbath. Procreating can be a lot of work, ya know.

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Identity 3.0

I had just finished writing this post yesterday…. well, actually, the one I had written yesterday; this one is completely different… and just as I finished, the damn page froze and the whole thing disappeared. Odd indeed, since I hadn’t posted in a while (creative slump ya know); so it felt somehow like the gods were not at all pleased with what I had written.

Too frustrated to start over again, I picked up my Ross MacDonald mystery and went out on the back deck to read. As soon as I opened the book, though, a squadron of gardeners launched a full-out ground assault on my next door neighbor’s greenery – hedge trimmers, lawn mowers, leaf blowers – man, those gods were pissed. So, I put the book away and took my dog for a walk. Fortunately the coyote we ran into just looked at us and walked away. The coast must be clear by now; let’s try this again.

I think the problem might have been that photo up there; they probably thought we were taking over the metaverse, when we were actually just holding one of our many meetings for the upcoming Ambiguity of Identity exhibit at the Caerleon sim. The show is a virtual followup to the rl show held last April at the UMass gallery in Boston, the brainchild of Dr. Gary Zabel aka Georg Janik, and the embodiment of some of the ideas put forth in his upcoming book by the same name. His work has been cited on the blog site of the PBS documentary series, Art21, along with an interview with one of the artists, Artistide Despres.

So, now that all of that confusion about who runs the world has been straightened out, I’ll finish by naming the demigods shown in the photo above and some of the other artists in the exhibit, which will be held in September, details pending. From left to right: Pete Jiminy, freewee Ling, Fuschia Nightfire, Chrome WhatsHisName, Botgirl Questi, Gracie Kendal and Maya Paris. Participating artists also include Alizarin Goldflake, Cat Bocaccio, L1aura Loire, Lollito Larkham, RAG Rant, Sabrinaa Nightfire, Swann Jie, Taralyn Gravois and Wotthe Dickins.

Hey, maybe we do run the world.

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The Manhattan Project

“It’s been a long, long time coming,” as the man once sang, “but change is gonna come.” This particular change has been in the works for a long time here in the Chrome Zone, but now, it would appear, it is on the horizon: noted techno pop artist Manhattan Atlas has joined our growing team of troublemakers. Given the name, you might assume he’s from New York but, alas, you’d be wrong. He’s actually a native of Turkey, where his mother was born, but moved to America as a young man to attend art school. His father was a cabdriver in New York; thus, the colorful first name.

His primary interest is in digital painting from within virtual worlds with the intent of capturing the inner lives of their inhabitants, offering it as a mirror for humanity to catch a glimpse of its own foibles and frivolities. Manhattan has been Chrome’s virtual apprentice for the past year and a half, and now feels he is ready to venture out on his own. He’s begun a series of avatar portraits called Face/Time, and plans to have them ready for exhibition in the near future. Though it might be difficult to resist riding on Chrome’s coattails, he is determined to establish his reputation as an artist in his own right. He might even give Chrome a run for his money.

Photo: Manhattan with one of his new paintings, None of the Above. Click to enlarge.

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Mix Master

Noted techno-electro beatmeister Cari Lekebusch (Mantis Oh in SL) threw one hell of a party to celebrate the release of his new album, State of the Art, today in Second Life. As you can see in the photo above (click to enlarge), the place was packed. Lekebusch, well known in Europe and North America for his sonic wizardry and flawless production skills, is also a familiar figure on the SL rave scene. He commissioned Hern Worsley of AVZ, creator of the legendary Poetik sim, to  build the dark and magical setting for the parties. Keep on rockin’ in the v-world.

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