First Life to Second Life (2007)

First Life to Second Life: Notes on the Design and Development of a Synthetic World Installation, In The Sweet Bye & Bye: An Immersive Memoir

aka Jacque Quijote_4a

The development of In the Sweet Bye & Bye, and the trajectory of my work spanning four decades, describes a process of migration, transformation, convergence, and synthesis. The sequence of projects discussed in this paper illuminate this process, in which a set of concepts, intentions, and content migrate through a spectrum of modes, and from the physical to the virtual, from the offline proximal world of First Life to the online digital realm of Second Life. The intention and design of the projects in this series were transformed in each mode, and revealed in new ways. As it morphed into its final form, In the Sweet Bye & Bye emerged as more than the sum of its parts, it became generative.

ABSTRACT: (re)Learning to think in the Synthetic World paradigm

Experience, understanding, perception, and communication in the synthetic world are not less or more “real” than in the physical; rather, the implementation in one case is organic, in the other it is synthetic; all are processed and made coherent in the imagination. The efficacy of working in this or any mode remains the same: to implement the expressive impulse; to enable curiosity; to make work that transcends the tool.

The synthetic world of Second Life is not limited to being a replication of the physical world (First Life). This is a temporal terrain that, while sharing and simulating many attributes of First Life, has capabilities and characteristics that distinguish it as a potent and important frontier in many disciplines and practices.

My approach to transposing installation design, architectural ideas, and narrative composition, or other content sets, from First Life to Second Life has a metaphor in the transposition of standard 2D chess into 3D chess – different points-of-view (pov) reveal different relationships, dynamics, and meanings within the same content set, as well as possibilities for new ways to create understanding through the spatial and interactive organization of the content.

Guides and influences include Romare Bearden, Charles Mingus, R. A. Schawaller de Lubicz, Roy de Carava, Langston Hughes, Claude Debussy, Jean Cocteau, Robert Ferris Thompson, Charles Finch, and Antoine de Saint Exupery. Their genius informs this process, and is the ground.

Modes and temporal terrains with which I am familiar include fiction writing, 35mm and view camera photography, 16mm animation, analog and digital video, digital imagery, 3D modeling and animation, synthetic worlds, sculpture in polyester resin, and drumming as ritual practice.

My embrace of technology implements has its origins in my youth, mid 1950s, and my first personal electronic device, a Heathkit crystal radio set. Consisting of a small quart crystal, a piece of wire, and a small earphone this was my probe into stratosphere. I spent many late night hours, hunched over this rig, gentling stroking the crystal’s sweet spots with the “cat’s whisker”, listening to the sky (and country western honky tonk booming out of Texas). This elementary instrument of quartz and copper, portal for my imagination, also introduced me to a way of seeing that I later came to understand as fundamentally alchemical. At its core, Alchemy is the understanding of immutable principles and forces that enables one to perceive/reveal the sublime in the mundane.

Following are snapshots and notes chronicling the movement of concept and content from the physical to the synthetic world. There are turning points in the path where concept/intention/dream and tool capability converge, and I am able to manifest particular ideas and intentions not previously possible.

Elements of this body of work originated in a several previous projects including opera production design concepts, broadcast television and photo/chemical photography. These fragments are part of the content pool from which the subsequent works, discussed here, are derived.

ENTER PORTFOLIO

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The sequence of projects and process:

1. FOOTPRINTS: traditional (physical) gallery installation

2. In The Sweet Bye & Bye v1: model of immersive gallery installation

3. MIRRORS & SMOKE: antecedent to the current series

4. In The Sweet Bye & Bye v2: first synthetic world version

5. In The Sweet Bye & Bye v3: synthetic world model of new concept

6. In The Sweet Bye & Bye v4: final version of installation

7. In The Sweet Bye & Bye v5: miniature replica

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1. FOOTPRINTS, Arizona State University, Feb 2006

This exhibition at Arizona State University was comprised of a selection of works spanning 20 years, including video, animation, projection, interactive computer disc, prints of digital graphics, and portfolio book.

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Standing in the midst of the gallery exhibition, I was struck by the compromises inherent in this presentation mode. This format of distributing individual “pieces” on the perimeter did not /could not convey the dynamic relationships between the elements, and the ways in which they speak to, and comment on, each other.

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Nor could the analog reproductions and reflected light of framed prints and projections convey the luminosity of the original digital imagery. The impetus to develop a different approach to the design of an installation of my work began here, as I got a glimpse of a deeper point to the work as a unified and fluid experience. I envisioned these elements exploded in the space, immersing the visitor in multiple simultaneous compositions, sounds, and narratives. In my imagined installation, the work is luminous and translucent, not opaque. This vision required a new approach to the content and the space. The concept and design challenge was to create an immersive environment/experience that conveys these relationships and qualities, and make this comprehensible and coherent to the visitor through the design and form of the installation itself.

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2. In the Sweet Bye & Bye v1 – Modeling the Imagined Physical Gallery

In the Sweet Bye & Bye v1 was first envisioned as a design concept for a traditional (physical) gallery installation.

The Aesthetic Technologies Lab, Ohio University, Nov 2006

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The mode in which I began the visualization of this immersive installation concept was the 3D modeling and animation application Strata 3D Studio. This implemented my desire to experience the pieces in their original luminous form, and to control the light conditions in the space. The starting place was a scale model with the dimensions of the ASU gallery in which FOOTPRINTS had been installed.

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the image above is a render of the Strata 3D Studio model, illustrating some of the design intentions addressed in this mode.

The installation concept that guided the modeling was to create (simulate) an experience of immersion. The elements that I envisioned to achieve this include suspended transparent acrylic panels with text/image compositions, digital touch screen displays on the walls, lighting effects, and sound scapes.

The placement of the suspended panels serves two functions. The first is to create a labyrinth in the space, guiding and orienting the visitor in navigating the installation. The second is to create intentional sightlines that the visitor discovers through shifting position and direction of gaze. These sightlines are

formed by looking through multiple planes of panels and elements. The model has an array of spot lights that simulate the effects of light beaming through the panels, casting projections on surfaces and visitors, and reflecting off walls, floor, ceiling. Visualizing this blending of multiple projections and reflections, filling the visitor’s field of view and dynamically changing with movement is a key design intention of this model.

The content of the panels are text/image compositions from LISSEN HERE!, a collaborative print project with Dorothy Mallory Jones, poet/novelist/historian and my mother. These compositions were in portfolio book form (12”x18”) in the FOOTPRINTSgallery. In this design mode the compositions are luminous and perceived as several times larger. The new scale and level of detail evoke a visceral engagement not possible in the book form. The original design intention for the LISSEN HERE! compositions envisioned them scaled up to large panels in a physical gallery, and the digital image files are very high resolution.

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To further enhance the visitor’s experience of immersion, the installation design incorporates another mode and perspective through which elements can be explored. A temporal labyrinth, a narrative in the imagination, is discovered through twelve wall mounted touch screen displays, each @ 42”, presenting highly detailed interactive scenes. These scenes were previously presented in the FOOTPRINTS gallery as framed prints on the walls. On the large digital displays these images return to their native luminosity and resolution.

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Story Time, one of the touch screen scenes, at full-frame.

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By touching the screen, the visitor enlarges a section of the image, simulating moving around and into the scene. Previously hidden details reveal narrative threads, and visual surprises.

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as native digital imagery, elements of these compositions are designed to be animated. Example: the carousel is a render of a 3D model. This model can be fully animated, and the movie then composited into the scene.

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With multiple touches, the visitor “enters” the composition, and discovers that it has become part of another scene, that can be explored on another display.

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The touch screen mode facilitates another design intention of the original digital paintings. The master files of these images are very high resolution. For example, each brick is painted from a high res photo of a single brick. In several compositions, working at 300%-400% scale, I created scenes within scenes. These were deleted from subsequent iterations as they were not discernable in print or accessible to most viewers.

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Another mode employed in this design to enhance the immersive experience is the creation of a soundscape in the gallery. The Holosonic acoustic system, using ultra sound technology, projects discrete beams and cylinders of sound. Simulated in the model, the visitor moves into and out of areas with particular voices and ambience. Twelve audio zones are incorporated in the design, and the textured weave of sounds, with elements triggered by visitor movement, become an analog of the visual.

Modeling this design concept also provided test and assessment of various problems created by the concept/design. The technology and fabrication costs estimated to fully realize a physical gallery installation are significant. Also, the modeled dimensions (the ASU gallery) do not comfortably accommodate the elements I intend to use. And critically, text on transparent panels does not read correctly from either side.

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PLAY ANIMATION

The conclusion of this phase is a 4:00 animated walk-thru which effectively visualizes some possibilities of an installation of this collection of work in three dimensions, using transparence, translucence, projection, reflection. It also indicates the possible viability of the immersive digital environment as mode and temporal terrain for realizing this concept, rather than in the physical realm. This model and animation were produced in Strata 3D Studio. This format requires rendering still or motion sequences in order for an audience to experience the piece, which limits the audience to views and moves that I select. An appropriate approach if the piece is to be fully realized as interactive disc-based, for example, as with the next piece discussed.

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(An Antecedent)

3. MIRRORS & SMOKE: A Performance in Virtual Place

Institute For Studies in the Arts, Arizona State University, 1999-2001

MIRRORS & SMOKE predates and foreshadows the series of works discussed in this text, by a decade. In its design and narrative approach it evidences the same process of migration / transformation / convergence / synthesis. The outcome is a prototype in the emerging terrain of immersive performance and non-linear narrative. Collaborators on this project include Ralph Lemon, choreographer/dancer/narrator, Katherine Milton, Ph.D., interactive scripting, and Patricia Clark, video.

PLAY SAMPLE NAVIGATION

MIRRORS & SMOKE is a performance that is native to, and which could only be experienced in, an immersive environment. It is a disc-based interactive performance for solo audience. The viewer composes the piece, in terms of field of view, sequence of image/sound events and their duration, through navigation and interaction choices. The piece can be paused, and sequences repeated. The 3D environment is composed of more than 100 animated sequences, scripted to simulate movement, and afford the viewer an experience of intuitive navigation and discovery. By clicking on the center or sides of the screen, the viewer triggers animations that pan/tilt the view or move toward an object or area. The interactive environment is also the viewer’s interface to access a rich variety of embedded visual and sound elements. The main performance elements are movement sequences and spoken word by Ralph Lemon. The narrative passages, spoken by Ralph, are excerpts from his (global) travel journals and memoir, made during the span

of this project. They are heard in the space, triggered by the viewer’s navigation and interaction choices.

The visual design of MIRRORS & SMOKE mirrors the fragments of journal narrative and dance in the performance elements. This visual approach is influenced by Jean Cocteau’s set and lighting design in La Belle et La Bette (1929), suggesting place with fragments, light and shadow. It is also influenced by the genre-defining video game Myst(1995), by Robin and Ryan Rand.

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Homage to Elegua at the Crossroads.

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MIRRORS & SMOKE is intended to be too extensive and layered to see, hear, and process in one walk-thru, and intriguing enough to warrant multiple encounters. The returning viewer brings familiarity and memory, plus new eyes with which to discover other elements, narrative paths, and meaning.

My prior research into symbolic language systems, and field production experience in The Caribbean, Central America, India, Africa, and the South Pacific was significant in the collaboration with Ralph. His research and performance travels had taken him to many of the same places. We knew the same smells, the same taste of dust. This shared sensibility allowed me an intuitive approach to the visual narrative and presentation of the performance elements.

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view of upper level

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PLAY SAMPLE  ANIMATION

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The 3D modeling and animation sequences were produced with Strata 3D Studio, and the navigation and interaction scripting was done with Macromedia Director.

MIRRORS & SMOKE was recognized as a new frame of reference for media-makers in a range of genres when Katherine Milton and I were invited to present this work at The Flaherty International Film Seminars conference in 2001.

In the following animation sequence, showing a view of the environment,  I saw a glimpse, possibilities that I had not expected. There are three animations in the scene, the foreground water globe, plus two layers in the background with steaming images of a street scene in Bangalore, India. Though this view is rather innocuous, its multiple layers and planes of motion, colors, scenes, and narrative content, indicated to me significant next steps in my approach to design of immersive experiences. The impact of this view was not so much in what I saw, but what I imagined could be. These frames were notes on planning a more intentional immersive environment/experience.

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4. In the Sweet Bye & Bye v2: An Immersive Memoir in Second Life, Jan 2007

The “virtual” world, Second Life (SL), affords solutions to several technology and resource problems revealed in the physical gallery design for In the Sweet Bye & Bye v1, and limitations of the development and presentation format (Strata 3D Studio). Second Life also presents a very different workspace and tool set. It is an online, real time, persistent world, simultaneously shared with tens of thousands of other users (residents) based around the planet. It is a dynamic environment that is created by its users, and can be modified with building tools/functions and scripting language. Second Life functions as an integral component of my creative studio, in concert with other tools and modes. It also functions as a medium of creative expression; as presentation mode & venue; and as place of contact with audience, collaborators, and colleagues.

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The first installation site was inside the Art & Music Building on the Ohio U. SL campus.

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view inside the Art & Music Building, Ohio U. Second Life campus.

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Working within the physical installation paradigm of adapting design and content to fit a predetermined site, I transposed the design for the physical installation that I had created in Strata 3D Studio into an available structure on the Ohio University Second Life campus.

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Several weeks into this phase I had become comfortable in this environment, having learned the fundamentals of movement/navigation, communication, and working through this new implement, the avatar. The installation site had become my new workspace, interfaced with the other digital/virtual environments that are my studio environment (Photoshop, Final Cut Pro, MS Word, etc.). Engrossed in discovery and experimentation, I worked through many quiet late-night hours, intensely focused on visualizing dreams. This experience has resonance with my crystal radio set period, exactly fifty years prior. This immersion was heightened by the real-time encounters and interactions with other avatars that entered the installation site. It was a strange, indeed creepy sensation to glimpse movement in the space, on the periphery of the display or deep in a corner of the room, and realize that someone else is present. The first several times this happened it was as if a stranger was crawling around in my mind. With recurrence, this phenomenon subsided, becoming part of the nature of the environment. Interacting with other avatars, in the installation site and beyond, became an integral aspect of working in this synthetic world. A cadre of familiar avatars formed, regular visitors who observed the metamorphosis of the space and the evolution of the piece. With these visitors I discussed my ideas and approaches to this project, and from them I got invaluable critique and commentary that helped me solve problems and clarify intentions.

Second Life Design Fundamentals – New Ground and Challenges:

The avatar has three attributes: it is one’s probe in the metaverse – sent out to investigate / collect data / communicate; it is one’s implement – the means of manipulating the environment – to create / build / interact; and it is one’s social presence –.

The avatar has three points-of-view (pov): 1st person – thru avatar’s eyes; 2nd person – default over-shoulder view watching avatar; 3rd person – camera view, independent of avatar. (How one looks determines what one sees.) Installation design in First Life assumes the visitor has 1st person pov only.

The avatar can navigate horizontally and vertically, and teleport almost instantly to any other location inworld. (Everywhere is the same distance from anywhere.)

The avatar cannot move with the precision or fluidity of humans, but the camera view (3rd pov) can, and more.

Objects can be permeable (not barriers to avatar movement). Objects can animate, transform, and interact in real time. Light effects, time of day, and sky conditions can be controlled. Inclement weather and gravity are optional, so walls, stairs, doors, roofs, etc. need other purposes. Example: to control background and peripheral view, delineate or suggest shape and boundary, contribute to the aesthetic coherence of the environment.

As the installation elements shifted and morphed in this space, several things became clear to me: the compromises imposed by the predetermined shape and dimensions of this space are obstructions to realizing the vision; and the elements, arranged with intention, can be understood in terms of a fragmented narrative.

Convergence: design intentions and characteristics of the medium intersect.

Among the migrated concepts and intentions fundamental to my process is an approach to narrative composition gleaned from the work of Charles Finch III, M.D., on the iconography of the Nile Valley civilization, and R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz’s definitive study of the architecture and iconography of the Temple at Luxor. Hieroglyphic is a symbolic language (non-verbal) in which complex narratives and subtle meanings are conveyed in a single figure/image. The narratives and meanings are conveyed in their entirety, at the moment of encounter. The degree of understanding and perception of the viewer determines the depth and breadth of the meaning received. In the Temple at Luxor, the Hieroglyphic texts are composed as if walls were transparent or reflective. These interlaced texts are read “through” opaque walls separating chambers, combining texts that are not seen simultaneously, and/or on opposite walls in the same chamber. Each hieroglyph passage is a coherent message, but reading the multiple texts as one gives the whole, deeper meaning.

The manner in which Second Life applies and manipulates texture maps on object surfaces, reading correct L-R on both sides of a transparent surface, allows me to explore the concept of interlaced narrative elements in my design of the space and the composition of the narrative.

view of an event in In the Sweet Bye & Bye v2

In the Sweet Bye & Bye v2, while still a work-in-progress, became a synthetic world teaching/learning installation. It is a venue in which I continue to give talks to audiences based around the world. Classes from the Game Design program at Georgia Tech, the Writing program at UCLA, Education scholars at U. C. Berkeley, classes from Duke U., Stanford U. and schools in Denmark, Portugal, and UK are among the groups and individuals who have found relevance and resonance in this synthetic world installation.

Another antecedent to my working in synthetic worlds and a factor in its attraction is to be found in the temporal terrain of my childhood, circa mid 1950’s, which I call The Flash Gordon Syndrome. This was contracted as I spent engrossed hours with the Flash Gordon theatrical serials (1936) on TV. I was particularly enchanted by the Space-o-Graph, a proprietary remote sensing technology of Ming The Merciless, Emperor of the planet Mongo. Peering into the view screen of this device, one could tune in a remote location to observe, manipulate the field of view, and communicate with image and voice. Half a century later, with view screen and avatar, I have realized and exceeded the boy’s cinema science fiction dreams.

fig 4.5 Snapz Pro XScreenSnapz027

5. In the Sweet Bye & Bye v3 (model), Mar 2007

early thoughts on modeling a SL installation in a SL installation

A transformation in perception came with the recognition that the Second Life characteristics of an independent camera pov, with its precise navigation in 3D space, and the way scale is perceived by the viewer, allow one to build miniatures that look, feel, and navigate exactly the same as full-sized (avatar scale) spaces. Second Life implements new possibilities for design of environments that are only perceived or accessible in a particular pov. This miniature building capability also facilitated development of an installation concept and design indigenous to this synthetic world. Central to this design approach is the integral involvement of the shape, dimensions, and material qualities of the structure/container to the meaning of the piece.

In the Sweet Bye & Bye v3 (model)

As the installation model took shape, its container became a dodecahedron (12 sides). This is a mystical form to the Pythagoreans, for whom form is not only the shape of a thing, but a state of being. There are eleven scenes on the interior walls, plus entrance/exit opening. The shape places each wall equidistant from the center. The center is the conceptual and visual entrance to the narrative. The piece is arranged in four thematic zones, which can be accessed from the center, or sequentially from the entrance traveling either to the left or right.

Each component is at 30, 60, or 90-degree angle on the default world grid. Avatar movement and direction of gaze causes elements to appear or disappear, and reveals sightlines, and creates optical illusions of vistas and architectural forms.

In the Sweet Bye & Bye v3 (model)

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6. In the Sweet Bye & Bye v4 Ohio University Second Life campus, May 2007

The final version began by scaling up the In the Sweet Bye & Bye v3 design model. At this point the piece revealed itself in new ways, again. The elements had space to float apart, and be seen. I was able to be intentional with selection and placement of elements. The piece had room enough to breath within its container, and a non-intrusive background of tree tops, hills, sky and sea.

Several visitors have commented on their epiphany of recognition as they began to see the order and intention of the installation design. As they deciphered how to read it, the piece opened to them.

The process of developing this installation in the Second Life immersive environment illuminates, for me, the coherence of this body of work as memoir; literally, the text is written by my mother, Dorothy Mallory Jones, derived from her life and insights; many of the images and scenes are personal/family; and metaphorically, memoir as form suggests glimpses, recollections, and ruminations.

This memoir is unique, in concept and execution, to Second Life, and could not be realized in this way in First Life, or another available immersive environment. It is read in three dimensions, in real time, through intuitive navigation. Its stories are on, and between, floating text/image compositions and luminous murals. Voices move in the space, speaking the text. It is composed, in sequence, duration, and visual composition, by the visitor avatar’s navigation, point-of-view, and gaze. It is more stories than I know. Yet, it is the same story.

This concept of reading in three dimensions, composing in layered composite image, through shifting pov and focus of gaze, illuminates new territory for narrative genre(s) native to the synthetic world. Indeed, it glimpses the possibility of thinking about language in new ways, and very old ways (Temple at Luxor).

An avatar in In the Sweet Bye & Bye can read a text/image composition on one of the floating panels, and get a whole coherent story. There are intentional sightlines in the space where looking through the transparent portions of a panel reveals other compositions and scenes that form new compositions, and whose stories and meanings intersect and extend the meaning of the first. If the avatar moves to the other side of the panel, the first story is still there, but the composite field of view has changed, creating a different narrative path. The avatar is free to move around and through the panels, or drift above them, discovering the intentional patterns and sightlines, that illuminate narrative paths, as well as serendipities and surprises.

“Everything is part of something else.” Romare Bearden

Romare Bearden’s influence on my thinking and vision is foundational. I study his writings and collage work before beginning new work. In his transfigurations of one thing into another I find the essence of Alchemy, revealing the sublime in the mundane. The precision of his compositions, their geometries, is integral to their perception and meaning. Bearden observed that he learned to paint by listening to Earl Fatha Hines play Stride piano. Rhythms are created by the silence between notes. As with Jean Cocteau’s compositions in La Belle et La Bete, what is not there is as important as what is there. From Bearden’s combinations and collisions of scale, perspective, and content I get license to be bold. Finally, one is always aware that the work is about touching Spirit.

“The art of painting is the art of putting one thing on top of something else.” Romare Bearden

Exploded collage and immersive narrative, as organizing concepts for this and subsequent work, has much to do with my vision of stepping into and roaming through Bearden’s collages.

Orson Well’s innovation of extreme deep focus in Citizen Kane is another reference. Through this visual approach, multiple simultaneous narratives are possible, the foreground story, and something(s) else in the background.

A visitor observed that the installation suggests a 21st century Dogon village.

Aboriginal Dreamtime narratives, Dogon cosmology, Esoteric Thought in the Nile Valley civilization, and many other forms do not transpose well (meaningfully) into our shared Euro language structures and linear worldview. Perhaps there are stories that can only be told in immersive environments, and with this approach.

Narrative threads of the memoir are expressed on 3 levels: personal or family anecdote / communal lore / allegory. The allegorical level is the series of color scenes on the perimeter and floating in the space. Hecate and Elegua flank the entrance, signifying that herein there are choices to be made, lessons to be learned, and secrets to be revealed.

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Hecate and Elegua flank the entrance.


“Dance For Absent Partners” is one of the murals in the allegory sequence. It depicts The Sisterhood (a mythic trans-generational society) performing a ritual that helps sustain the community. (Signage in the installation explains the scenes of the allegory to visitors.) The foreground figure is avatar-size, approx 2m height. This perceptual scale creates a visceral affect in the visitor, and is a critical element in the installation design. By controlling the aspects of field of view and background, scale and distance references enhance the illusion, and hence the experience, of a full-sized scene. The 2D image becomes 3D.

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“Dance For Absent Partners”

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In front of the scene, an animation of the dancer with her (spirit) partner floats on translucent membranes. Avatar navigation alters and reveals compositions.

PLAY THE ANIMATION

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Another element of the allegory is the iconography of Santeria, presented in a group of paintings of Orisha. The images are placed to associate with particular images, texts, and zones. These images are densely coded in the mythology and cosmology of Santeria, and function in the same way as Hieroglyphic in the Nile Valley. Each image conveys a volume, to those who can read it. In the story of the Orisha are keys to understanding the other associated images and text. A visitor in In the Sweet Bye & Bye, who does not understand the nuances of English language, but who does recognize the Orisha, can find a comprehensible orientation to enter the narrative. The images are inspired by the paintings of Alberto Pozo.

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Yewa

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“All art aspires to the condition of music.”

Walter Pater

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The bass and piano solos of Charles Mingus are guides in the transposition of structure and experience from one form to another. My intention is to compose visual analogs, in qualities of light and shadow, shape and motion, to cord progressions, tonal changes and rhythms of Mingus’ compositions and performance. The solo piano composition,Orange Was the Color of Her Dress: Then Silk Blues, evokes in a sense of home, and also a narrative progression through the piece.

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The image/text compositions floating on panels in the installation appeared in theFOOTPRINTS gallery in the print portfolio, LISSEN HERE! at 13” x 17”, In the synthetic world manifestation they are experienced at the scale originally conceived, 1m x 2m. The layering of images and text on multiple planes creates new compositions with associated elements (sightlines). The visitor perceives multiple simultaneous facets of the same character or situation.

Each encounter with In the Sweet Bye & Bye is different for the visitor, as the same navigation, pov, focus of gaze, and duration choices won’t be repeated. With each visit, more is seen and heard, different views discovered, texts (re)read. Memory is revised, and new meanings discovered. Two different avatars, in the space simultaneously, will see and hear different pieces, each putting it together – making meaning – in their own intuitive process.

In the Sweet Bye & Bye is the prototype in my investigation and development of “generative design” in synthetic world narrative composition. The intuitive navigation, duration, pov, and gaze choices of the visitor, in this fixed set of elements, has the potential to create new meaning, beyond /other than what I intentionally designed.

A visitor based in Paris, after exploring In the Sweet Bye & Bye for 30 minutes remarked, “I feel I’m in the presence of ghosts.” A confirming comment, as it touches an essential intention, that the work is an interface between the seen and unseen worlds, that it evokes an experience of Spirit. This is the heart of ritual practice. Among my several guides in this realm is Robert Ferris Thompson and his critique of the Afri-Atlantic expressive tradition (Flash of the Spirit). In this tradition, “art” has three essential qualities and intentions. It is Juridical, it teaches right and wrong, and gives

prescriptions for correct living. It is Medicinal, it nurtures and heals. It is Aesthetic, it is the membrane interface between the corporeal and ethereal.

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“A poem should not mean, But be.” Archibald MacLeish

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PLAY THE MACHINIMA

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SL Landmark (66, 199, 33).

SL inworld IM @ Jacque Quijote

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Second Life has tools for generating inworld motion media (machinima), so it can function as a movie set. The machinima that I produced in the In the Sweet Bye & Byeinstallation presents the piece as I have envisioned it since that generative moment in the FOOTPRINTS exhibition gallery. It serves as primer for visitors on reading in three dimensions, disclosing the richness and depth of the piece when viewed from the optimum point-of-view. The sequence of views and paths through the installation are barely a glimpse of the content and possibilities. The sound track of the machinima simulates the layers of voice and ambience in the installation. The machinima is available to visitors at the installation site through a kiosk adjacent to the entrance.

7. In the Sweet Bye & Bye v5: miniature replica

The miniature version was evolved through a lengthy series of scale, dimension, and aspect ratio adjustments, involving several hundred objects. This piece is a complete replica of the full size installation, and can stream the same video and audio media. The top can be raised to expose the interior. At this scale, the piece can be placed in a variety of contexts and environments. Iterations are currently installed at several residential and office sites in Second Life. Installing the miniature, as well as the full size version, is accomplished in a few clicks.

The miniature is viewable through the avatar 1st person & 2nd person pov from the exterior only. The avatar cannot climb into the miniature container.

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Dynamic access to the interior, to the piece itself, is only possible in 3rd person pov, through the independent camera. The camera can maneuver into and through the interior space with fluidity and precision, creating the same sense of presence, interaction and scale as the full size piece. This miniature, with its specific pov characteristics, has implications for the development of narrative genre unique to this environment. Elements of a narrative, certain scenes, interactions or information, for example, might be contained in miniature components that are only accessible in the camera pov. From the avatar pov’s (1st and 2nd person) the entrance to such a miniature component might appear at a glance as a framed picture on a wall. Moving past it reveals that it has depth, and possibly movement and sound within, beyond the threshold. Using the camera pov to penetrate the threshold opens new realms of exploration, discovery, and meaning.

This use of miniature environments is a composition and architectural mode that I am investigating in current work. Another iteration of ‘how one looks determines what one sees.’

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Conclusion

The process through which In the Sweet Bye & Bye was developed (migration/transformation/convergence/synthesis) has been revelatory and confirming. Moving from the analog/physical/proximal gallery installation FOOTPRINTS, to the ephemeral synthetic world presence In The Sweet Bye & Bye, is a paradigm shift in perception, both for me as artist and for the audience/visitor. The experience of the synthetic world visitor can be more profound, in terms of engagement with the artwork, and the meaning and understanding received, than encountering the same content in the physical realm. There are ideas, concepts and visions that can be realized in the synthetic realm that are not possible in First Life. I am not suggesting that the synthetic environment can or should replace the physical. Kinetic engagement with a space and the superior range of sensing in the body are a different order of experience.

The concept of reading in three dimensions, composing in layered composite image, through shifting pov and focus of gaze, illuminates new territory for narrative genre(s) native to the synthetic world. Indeed, it glimpses the possibility of thinking about language in new ways, and very old ways (Temple at Luxor).

In the Sweet Bye & Bye is also an indication of emerging possibilities for organizing, accessing, manipulating, and presenting a range of content materials. Intuitive navigation, pov, and the ability to rapidly (re)compose the elements can catalyze new understanding and insight. I am engaged with several projects investigating interdisciplinary discourse and collaboration, pedagogy, and art practice in synthetic worlds.

At the heart of my art practice is ritual, the creation of the membrane interface between the see and unseen worlds. In the migration and transformation of traditional knowledge systems into 21st century modes of expression and perception, my quest remains the same, in the process of the making to touch the hem of the Muse. The making of the work is a meditation, a path to discovery. ‘Temple’ comes from the Latin ‘templum’, which is not a space, but a span of time.

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Dream of Distant Shores


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