Speak Your Mind

Every artist needs to hear feedback from people about her work to see different perspectives on the work. I encourage you to leave comments, ideas and questions on the blog.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Liquid Light (Revival)

This was an installation made by myself on 9/2007 at the Princeton University in collaboration with composer and musician AldoManutio Abruzzo. More about this on my previous blog here.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Broken Rainbow Cloudy Night

I originally wrote this post for the Netfilmmakers.dk blog in which this machinima is being shown. The actual machinima is online here.

Getting Started

Broken Rainbow Cloudy Night took place in the night sky of Second Life 300 meters above the Brooklyn Is Watching sim in mid 2008. As the name suggests, it was a cloudy night and I purposely set up the installation at the level in the sky where the clouds form the thickest. I had become curious about what kind of space and visual experience could be possible using lines at 90 degrees alternating in color and translucency. As with many of my virtual works, I wanted an experience where patterns both visual and audio revealed themselves as the avatar viewer moved (in this case flew) through the work. Broken Rainbow was created incrementally, as it developed I layered new 3D shapes (prims), scripts that determined motion and random color, the outer contained pattern, animation and interactive soundscape. While I have never been much of a painter, I believe this piece developed much like an abstract painting in multiple x,y,z planes.

Use of Color and Light
I was trying to push the intensity of color and glowing light to almost uncomfortable levels using primary colors on a black night sky. And by using a native Second Life glow effect compounded by transparency, I wanted to at times overwhelm the viewer and at others fade out to negative space. One surprise was the way the layers of zig-zag patterns acidly burned through each, largely depending on how the viewer positioned herself. I was interested in how color and light could alternate between solid and transparent, flattening the viewing plane and then dropping away to reveal space beyond.

The Machinima
Unlike most of my works in Second Life which I have copy of backed up in my avatar's inventory, due to an unfortunate event this video is all that remains of the piece. So in a way, the work only exists today in a machinima state. With the video, I intended to place the viewer in the position of my avatar to replicate as much as possible the experience of being present within the light installation. This was done by moving through the piece and capturing the immersive quality of the experience, viewing the forms and light affects in a variety of positions, and triggering the audio as a soundscape effected by the avatar's motion. It was important for this video to show the avatar's body in relation to the art work to understand the ephemeral yet architectural quality of the piece. In other machinima I have made I chose not to show the avatar in reference to the piece to take a more filmic approach. However, this video was intended to show the interaction of the avatar in time and space rather be a disembodied camera. I find this more compelling as it focuses us on the idea of an alternate space (what DC Spensley has dubbed hyperformalism) that borrows little from real life yet is still in relation to a simulated physical being and our interactions in the environment. In this way, it stretches the idea of the abstract. More important to me, the immersiveness makes us aware of ourselves in a situation, having an experience and bringing our own interpretations to the piece.

On Painting, Film and Space
As both the creator and spectator of Broken Rainbow, I often felt that I was creating a new kind of painting that had the potential of taking on any number of compositions. Then it occurred to me that the kinetic quality bordered on filmmaking, creating frame upon frame of continuous, non-narrative experience. Yet precursor to both the 2D painterly quality and the machinima was the installation and this notion that this was a virtual space that one could explore and be present inside. I believe one's perspective of the piece depends a great deal on each viewer's level of interaction and one's preconceptions of the piece. Because of these contradictions, showing the work as machinima raises questions about what we're looking at and how we think about art.

Friday, August 21, 2009

As Real As Un-Real Can Be

I originally wrote this for the Netfilmmakers blog about the Real-Un-Real exhibit I am a part of this coming weekend.

I should start off by saying that I don't really consider myself a filmmaker or a machinima maker. While I use video extensively in my work to capture a "point of view" on my installations and performance in Second Life (sl), I don't set out to make a film and certainly not to tell a story. I try to use my sl art as a medium with its own language, patterns, immersiveness and state of mind. I do this with as little reference from real life (rl) as possible (of course I break my rules from time to time). By using visuals, space, motion, sound and avatar interaction, I try to create a state of mind or situation that I wouldn't experience anywhere else, let alone a rl gallery or rl art genre. sl provides this unique opportunity that it would be a waste not to experiment with as much as can be done. Now that I have explained the virtual-native quality of my work, I should explain that it has become increasingly visual and experiential, something I would have been ashamed of in the early part of my rl art career as a conceptual artist when I cared more about the idea and the verbal, frowning on more visual artists as formalists (and recently "hyperformalists" in sl.) But the medium of a virtual world can play funny tricks on an artist and I've come to wholly embrace sensory art as a worthy experiment. Now let me try to answer Stine's questions in her previous post.

Why use the filmic language in Second Life?
As I started to say, I don't see my own machinima as machinima at all. But to say my videos are mere documentations of virtual work would be wrong too. In a strange way, they are akin to the original machinima made in early video games like Quake that documented the experiences of a player moving through levels of a game. But in place of a shoot 'em up fantasy, my videos show the avatar (an extension of the person himself) moving through an art piece either as an interaction or as a performance to enhance the environment. Simple photographic images cannot capture such a complete experience. At the same time, I was once accused by a fairly hardcore rl and sl performance artist (of the Burning Man variety) that a video of one of my performances Seeing Dots, Being Dots was overly dramatized and enhanced by the cinematography and interestingly it was created by another video artist Evo Szuyuan who I felt had taken it to another level completely and a very good collaboration. So I believe that filmic language in sl for me can be documentation, it can be an extension of sl and it can be it's very own thing that uses sl as a canvas.

Does Second Life provide less restrictions compared to the making of machinima in other 3D online-enviroments?
Probably the main way that sl reduces restrictions is the fact that the sl artist can create and extend the environment itself to not resemble a 3D rendered reality of real life at all nor the game itself. Possibly even more important is that sl has the critical mass of all the artist community working together, collaborating and even competing with one another. This can be clearly seen at the Brooklyn is Watching sim, a cross reality sl and rl gallery that has attracted some interesting collaborations in the past few years. If anything the openendedness or the lack of restrictions is what sl has going for it the most. Depending on what culture you're from, a lack of structure can actually present a challenge.

Is the making of “Machinima” another way of playing with identities and virtual relations?
Myself being a female Asian avatar named Juria Yoshikawa in sl certainly means to me that I get to play with identity quite a lot. What started out as an experiment of creating a virtual female artist to interact with the virtual art world and its community turned into a subtle lesson in gender issues and how that plays into making the work and communicating about the work. While most people know that there's a guy behind Juria, there's a general tendency to ignore the rl artist identity to focus on what the avatar is trying to do. So my relations with other avatars in sl is influenced by the persona of Juria. As Juria is actually an important part of the artwork itself, either in performance or installation creation as a performative action, how she looks, dresses and acts is very important to me and is reflected throughout my work.

Does the virtual body language give way to new interpretations of physical acting or is this a kind of digital puppetry?
As I started to talk about above, creating art in sl for me goes beyond roleplaying. An alter ego is formed that cannot be described as digital puppetry. The closest thing to describe it is you may have a slightly different identity with your parents than you do with your work mates. You are both of those people and there's nothing artificial about that. But in the virtual world and especially when you are engaged in art making amplifies identity. As those who use social media regular have some idea, your actions and tone of your communications allow you the freedom to explore a certain otherness. The virtual body takes that a step further and makes the virtual identity as real as real can be. In many ways, realer than many of my rl work relationships.

Broken Rainbow Cloudy NightAre soundtracks more important in machinimas compared to the use of these in “real” films?
In my work, music and sound is a key component. This is true both at the installation/sculpture stage and the video stage. In many machinima I've seen that follow a more narrative approach, the soundtrack is used almost the exact same way as it is in "real" films. I'd be lying if I said this was interesting to me. In the alternative narrative possibilities that this exhibit attempts to show, I believe sound should be seen as more a sensory component that adds another layer to the visual and interactive elements. In my video to be shown in this exhibition Broken Rainbow Cloudy Night, the sounds are actually random sound clips placed inside prims throughout the installation that gets triggered through the use of a sensor script when the avatar flies through them. This is obviously not a soundtrack then but an interactive experience that depends on the movement of the viewer. What you can hear in the video is that interaction and the layers of musical soundscape that comes from immersing oneself in the installation.

What kind of new narrative possibilities does this genre open up to?
I believe that rl art is often very institutionalized through function of the gallery and museum. Genres are recognized to try and explain the chaos of expression and artists may find themselves taking on a certain genre to more easily be understood. Of course this is a generalization but I think that virtual art so far is more about experimentation and less about focusing on what genre a piece may fall under. And for this reason the work I like evades words and follows little what is being done in the rl art world. New narrative possibilities? Probably the participatory nature of the narrative is the most important thing. You and your avatar become part of the "scene" in which the "story" is happening. From the perspective of machinima, this can mean seeing the avatar in the film as an extension of a rl person and putting yourself in her place. A fairly complex cross reality experience can occur from the viewer's perspective and the artist effectively using this "you're looking at me looking at me" can lead to interesting new possibilities of self-expression.

To get a sense of my aesthetic, I'd like to share with you this e-book my friends at the Diabolus Art collective put together about my work over the passed few years. Also, if you have a chance to access Second Life, go check out a collection of my work currently up at the Kennesaw University sim at this slurl: slurl.com/secondlife/VWDEV%20ITEC%20ISLE/29/129/35/

Friday, August 14, 2009

Amethyst Rumination Cube


Amethyst Rumination Cube is a condensed, mixed sensory piece I cooked up a while ago but never found the opportunity to share. Now, at the new BiW at the KU sim, I've dug it out and brought back to life as a space to meditate, socialize quietly, be inside and outside at the same moment.

See a slide show of more photos taken of this piece on Flickr here.

This work was an offshoot from another installation and machinima I made called Gnossienne Groggy Deep. View the video here: vimeo.com/1953611

Best viewed with sun on midnight and sound on. Follow the landmark to tp directly into the center of the Cube.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

My SL Artist CV

For the Real Un-Real show for Netfilmmakers in Copenhagen on August 23rd, I was asked to provide an artist CV. To put it together, it was interesting looking through 2 and half years worth of virtual art exhibitions. Have a look...

SL Artists CV of Lance Shields (rl) / Juria Yoshikawa (sl)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Real-Un-Real: Imagery from the Virtual

Netfilmmakers are hosting their 17th edition of new media artists and art talks Real-Un-Real around SL machinima and I was fortunate to be invited by curator and new media artist Sachiko Hayashi to be one of the 3 artists who will exhibit a machinima on the site and give an artist talk in Copenhagen on 8/23/2009. The other artists that I feel lucky to exhibit along side are long time net artist and author Alan Sondheim and the celebrated SL artist Gazira Babel. Alan and I will be present for art talks on 8/23.

"Real-Un-Real" exhibit in the words of the curator : “The purpose of this edition is to present “machinima,” a new genre which has been on its emergence as an established art medium. The three works presented here are created with avatars, and all the artists are well active in the virtual world Second Life that has attracted much attention from artists of various fields (architecture, music, visual, performance, etc). While the selected works take advantage of possibilities with virtual world imagery in various ways, the common denominator for this selection has been their focus on alternative narrative quality not confined to filmic story-telling.”

The "alternative narrative quality not confined to filmic storytelling" led Sachiko to choose my machinima and art piece Broken Rainbow Cloudy Night. This machinina can be seen on my Vimeo page here. I'm looking forward to sharing my work and exchanging ideas with Alan, Sachiko and local Danish new media art enthusiasts while in Copenhagen. I will also be posting on the Netfilmmakers blog soon next to Alan's post. I will also post more on my blog during the event in the coming weeks.

Netfilmmakers’ 17.edition:
"Real-Un-Real: Imagery from the Virtual"

Curator: Sachiko Hayashi

Presents works by:
- Alan Sondheim
- Gazira Babel
- Juria Yoshikawa (SL) / Lance Shields (RL)

Launch and artist talk:
Date: August 23rd 2009. Time: 13:00-16:00
Place: Medical Museion, Bredgade 62, DK-1260 Copenhagen K

About Netfilmmakers
is a non-commercial net gallery and netart and netvideo which exhibits a new edition every 3 months and is curated by guest curators - Danish and international. Every edition addresses a new theme which explores content and form to explore the net as a space of art. It is partially supported by the Danish Arts Council.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

transformation of E

While everyone else is off at BiW Best of Year 1, I set up this new work at the old BiW sim. Feels good to be back making art.

RL Fans of SL Art Look Like Paparazzi!

Photo: Jay Van Buren

At Jack the Pelican Presents in Brooklyn the RL opening of the BIW BEST OF YEAR ONE FEST occurred with crowds of enthusiastic viewers as seen in this photo. I find the Paparazzi quality of this photo amusing and telling that the work at Brooklyn is Watching is really turning heads. Part of this is owed to organizer/founder Jay Van Buren (pictured on left) and much to the 30 artists chosen in the 1st years best. I am happy to be a part of this crowd of talented artists. Encore!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

"Are You OK?" - A Mixed Reality Collaboration

In "Are You OK?" as part of the Brooklyn is Watching "Best of Year One Festival", I was invited to create a virtual environment for avatars to perform in and which would then become a mixed reality installation at the Jack the Pelican Presents gallery in Brooklyn NY. The av interactions with the immersive art would be projected in the rl gallery for rl visitors to experience the art from an av's perspective. Also creating work in SL is my good friend Oberon Onmura who invited me to join the event. I adapted my own work "The Wild West of My Watercolor Set" to make a winding walkthrough to allow an av (and the gallery visitors) to experience the work from different perspectives and levels of immersion.

Directed by Bianca Ahmadi and Juan Rubio
Jeff Ertz : Live Sound
Virtual Art: Oberon Onmura and Juria Yoshikawa

More about this can be found on the BiW blog.