Art, Physics And Cloudy Avatars in Second Life and Beyond

Changing Statue

Art has quite a good following in Second Life, Draxtor Despres covered the work of Rose Borchovski in episode 14 of The Drax Files : World Makers. There’s the Linden Endowment for the Arts. The Second Life destination guide has an arts category and bloggers such as Inara Pey regularly cover the arts, a recent post appeared on Inara’s blog regarding Dathúil: visions of desire in Second Life.

The mixture of arts and technology also sees Second Life turning up in articles about artists who have gone beyond Second Life, or have exhibitions inworld and outside. Second Life of course does not have a monopoly on creativity in virtual spaces and we see this exemplified in an article over at The Huffington Post : What Can Virtual Reality Bring To Art?

The article covers the work of Adham Faramawy and Jessy Jetpacks for an already sold out show by the Royal Academy of the Arts : Virtually Real. The technology being used here includes HTC Vive which might indicate a bright VR future for art, but the Huffington Post article also sees Adham Faramawy mention Second Life and physics :

I was never a gamer but this was always my problem with Second Life. So many people wanted to replicate something that already exists, when actually these technologies can be quite useful speculative tools. Even though the way platforms are designed guides how you use them, they can still be used to visualise a variety of possibilities. And what’s wrong with imagining new ways to be situated in the world?

Indeed, virtual worlds and spaces do not have to be inhibited by the physics that apply to the physical world and we see this sort of issue raised again in an article by Christian Petersen over at Art Slant :Wednesday Web Artist of the Week: Martina Menegon. Martina, it’s fair to say, is a lot more enthusiastic about Second Life, even though she doesn’t login much these days, partially due to a cloudy avatar but I’ll come to that later.

Martina Menegon is a new media artist, programmer and educator who hails from Italy but is currently living and working in Vienna. The Art Slant article is a good read for those interested in how technology can inspire an artist’s work and we definitely see this with Martina admits that she is generally a shy person who doesn’t like being photographed and yet in digital spaces she has created a project entitled Virtual Narcissism :

Virtual Narcissism investigates, with a personal view, the concepts of intimacy, sexuality, loneliness and identity crisis in our digital era. It is a sort of storytelling, a narrative of the bittersweet reality of a lonely self, struggling through an identity crisis between physical and virtual realities.

We also see in the Art Slant article the power of collaboration and shared community, even if people aren’t in the same physical space. This is particularly telling when Martina talks of Second Life :

Second Life has been and still is a big and important experience and influence for my art. It was the first place where I experienced tridimensional glitches, the frustration of being stuck in a wall, having an arm passing through my body, etc. It was also the place where I started socializing, as I had a little shop where I was selling clothes and furniture. I was part of a design community that created amazing artistic events, and I was always trying to go to art performances and installations there as well.

Martina has been a resident in Second Life for almost 10 years, but alas she doesn’t login much these days because in an experiment that nobody should try and replicate, she decided to attach everything she owned in Second Life to her avatar, which resulted in a crash and a cloudy avatar. This hasn’t ended well :

Since then, whenever I try to open Second Life, the app crashes. I tried some solutions I found online but nothing worked. I will try to contact the Linden Lab soon, because I have to admit, I miss being in Second Life.

Whereas virtual worlds have a lot of good, some things that seem simple in the physical world, aren’t as simple in the virtual world, as Martina points out in a project entitled Ouch!.

That’s also part of the beauty of the virtual experience though, being different to the physical world adds a new dimension, which can be explored and used for creativity.

Art still thrives in Second Life, artists are inspired to extend their reach via new technology too and this should ensure that Virtual Reality art prospers in the future.

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