[art, virtual worlds]

Winter Lights, an art and photography exhibit, has just opened in the Gallerie Octaviana. The show features work from Mad Swiss Cow, Marcel Moré, Sume, Marjie Kennedy, Pirate Johnny, Smiling da Vinci, and Nancy Waldman on the first floor of the expansive gallery space. Upstairs are two new installations of a Circleworks box and a hued light environment.

The owner and artistic curator of the gallery is Annie Octavia.

gallerie beth felice © 08 all rights reserved

What you may now be realizing is that Annie and her gallery are located in the magical space of a virtual world called Second Life. Annie is the online avatar of Beth Felice. I interviewed Beth about Second Life, her gallery, the show, and some of the special kinds of creative works that are all the rage in this Other (S)P(l)ace.

Here’s the interview along with shots and videos from the gallery, the installation.

1. For those people who have never even heard of Second Life… can you give us a brief overview of what it is and how it works?

Second life is an example of a MUVE, multi-user virtual environment, a fancified way of saying 3D web browsing. Does it look like a video game, yes. Is there any “game” objective, not really. Who is there? Currently a vibrant world community of about 7 million, including over 350 colleges and universities, NASA, CDC, libraries, museums, both with counterparts in the physical world and those that exist only in second life (sl).

For a presentation I gave in November at the Federation of State Humanities Councils I created a wiki at http://virtualplace.missourihumanities.org/secondlife. You’ll find a nice assortment of articles, factoids and links there.

gallerie1 beth felice © 08 all rights reserved

2. How long have you been involved in SL? How long have you had the Gallerie Octaviana?

I stumbled into SL Labor day weekend 2006. At that time there were about 400,000 users. There was a release of virtual land (512 square feet is included with each paid account) in December of 06 and I staked a claim then, and built the first gallery.

3. Have you had other exhibits?

Yes, I’ve quite enjoyed bringing flickr friends into SL, and hopefully vice versa.

4. Is exhibiting art in SL a good way to get publicity for one’s work?

I’m not sure if you are talking about a subjective or a metric here. In a way, there is a large community of eyeballs, a very organized art community, and the ability to have things on display 24/7. That being said, the most traffic is generated by real time events, openings, artist discussions, etc. I am most interested in this idea of immersion, of being able to walk the representation of self through the art. I am very interested in this intersection of photorealism and illustrative style, and using some of the fantastical qualities, the “magic” not possible in the physical world.

gallerie2 beth felice © 08 all rights reserved

As an aside, I have read that up to 10% (and many believe this number might be higher) of the Sl community is physically challenged in some way. There are some pretty amazing stories about the communities of stroke survivors, wheelchair bound, autistic, and people living with chronic diseases like cystic fibrosis rejoicing in the ability to be “just another” person…or just another person that can fly. :)

I’m still stuck on the concept of publicity for one’s work. I’m not sure. I think the most interesting work might be that which combines sound, movement, scripting, graphic, and interpretation. And it might exist specifically in a place like SL. Am not sure that work ports straight across from a gallery wall around the corner, into the virtual gallery.

5. I think it’s fairly easy to conceptualize how you put images onto the “walls” of your gallery, but you also have moving 3-d sculptures. Those are a little tougher for me to imagine creating. Tell us about those.

I made a little video, creating an object, and assigning properties and “textures” (graphics). SL Prim-er for Practically Creative Quarter folks

[readers: be sure to check out this primer on prims.
it's well done and totally intriguing.
also you'll see the pcq home page on the gallery wall!]

6. Tell us about your alter ego, Annie Octavia. How is she like you? How is she different? Did you have an idea of who you would be on SL or did it evolve out of the experience of being there?

There seems to be an ongoing discussion between immersionists and augmentationists in virtual worlds. Some people want to explore parts of their personality they might not commit to IRL (in real life) and some people see the avatar as an extension of self, trying to make it as close to reality as possible. I remember one of the first librarian meetings I went to, one fellow had made himself into a two story tall dust ball.

gallerie3 beth felice © 08 all rights reserved

There is actually a good deal of scholarly interest in these topics
virtualworldsconnect.com/
edition.cnn.com/2007/TECH/06/07/virtual_identity
ibiblio.org/nmediac/winter2004/matusitz.html
gwynethllewelyn.net

Annie began as a representation of self. I’m not much of an actor. Recently a great friend started to explore the visual and creative aspects of costume. Remember, as everything in SL is user created, this includes hair, clothes, etc. A current favorite designer mixes traditional Japanese costuming with a distopian future and goth.

7. What else would you like people who haven’t experienced it to know about Second Life?

In a way it is a next iteration of the internet, and reminiscent of how you might describe what one could find “online” in the early ’90s. It is a communication tool, a collaboration application. It takes the more singular activity of person browsing web via computer to a social activity.

gallerie4 beth felice © 08 all rights reserved

8. Anything else you’d like to say that I neglected to ask about?

Winter Lights
is up through April. Anyone wanting a little help learning the SL environment, please feel free to email. The next project is a more intensive scripting project, coordinating events of sound and image with avatar movement through space, or interaction with other avatars. I also seem to be composing a lot these days, and that happens in a very NON networked world!

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A Visit to Gallerie Octaviana

When Beth asked me to be in her show this time, I decided to go visit Gallerie Octaviana. I had never been on Second Life but had heard about it, so I was curious. It takes a little time—but not money—to get set up there. I would estimate that it took me between one and two hours to begin. This included time to register and decide on the basic parameters of my avatar (my name is *Aplomb Pomilio*—you can freely choose your first name but the last name must be taken from an extensive list). Then I went to the orientation island where I figured out how to navigate, use the map, chat and appearance interfaces and so on.

I then set out in the world to find the gallery. Even though I thought I had the parameters, I was not able to find it on my own. Second Life is big! I landed in some pretty amazing places though. Finally, I had to email Beth and ask her to contact me in SL. She pinpointed her spot and I was able to teleport there.

Walking through the gallery with Annie (dressed fabulously!) as my guide, is like being a character in a video game, I suppose, except better because you know no one’s going to shoot at you! I have to say it’s pretty amazing to see my photos and the PCQ home page up on a gallery wall in this other worldly place. Thanks Beth for a fascinating introduction to Second Life.

Here I am in some person’s clothing shop (sorry I am too disoriented in this foreign land to know where exactly I am):
nancysmwaldman

I’m sorry I didn’t turn around to face the camera. I couldn’t figure out how to make that happen. The bird on my shoulder was given to me when I showed up on orientation island. It’s probably a sign of a real n%b*. :D Anyway, it was a stay-at-home adventure for sure. Cheers!

*Note from Beth:

The bird on your shoulder is not the sign of the n00b, just a gift from someone, who also was once new. In virtual and real world communities, people care about one another, and this just makes every day a complete wonder.

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You can find all of Beth’s projects and websites at bfelice.jaiku.com :: Beth is also a member of our social network: Being Practically Creative Come on over and check it out.

February 08: Some of my thoughts and photos on further exploration of Second Life. And on the pleasures of playing dress-up!

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also posted in: Art , Art - process, craft, tutorials , Inspiration , Photography , Photography - technique , Virtual Worlds


Comments

1 Comment so far

  1. Vivienne on January 25, 2008 2:08 pm

    Great interview with one of the smartest women in SL!

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