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What you probably missed

[This article is about some of the pieces in the January round of the UWA 3D Open Art Challenge. The complete photo archive of the entries in is on my Picasa site.]

I’ve never been completely comfortable with the idea of competition in the arts. The essence of art is the expression of the individual. Who’s to say one person’s expression is more valuable than any others’? Well, apparently we are…

That’s a bit of hyperbole, of course. We aren’t really talking about the value of an individual, but rather their talents in communicating ideas. But it is difficult to compare apples to asteroids. Some artists convey ideas of color and pattern, while others may have a political message. Some are abstract and others are realistic. All are valid, but there is clearly something we can point to in each piece and say “this is well done” or “this one is … not so much,” though sometimes it’s not easy.

I find it very interesting as curator at UWA to examine each piece closely. Sometimes repeatedly over the month. I often find some unobvious spark of genius in an otherwise pretty ordinary piece. And conversely, I’ll often find some of the glitziest, most popular pieces to be really unoriginal and uninteresting. (A friend once had a yard sale and put an ad for it in the newspaper. He’d had bad luck before listing the items he had for sale, so this time he just said “shiny things.” The response was phenomenal.)

I feel that an important part of my job as curator is to educate, so after the judging in the last round at UWA I thought I’d share with you some of the things that you probably overlooked. Regretfully, I can’t really do this before the judging, so by the time you read this, most of these pieces will be gone. But I’d encourage you to contact the artists and to go see their work if possible.

From UWA 3D Open Art Challenge – January 2011

Obviously, Harter Fall’s Fluchtpunkte (Vanishing Point) was among my favorites, which was why I awarded him the Curator’s Choice prize. When I first saw the piece I just smiled. I’ve been struggling with trying to find ways to give the sense of scale in virtual worlds. Clearly he has as well, so I felt a lot of resonance. I saw immediately what he was trying to show, so I didn’t rush up to see it, but stood there a moment to savor the Escher-inspired illusion, then walked slowly towards it to see if my perception would change. It could have been 10 meters or 100 meters away. As I wrote about the piece for the awards ceremony, “Harter is interested in exploring the peculiarities of this land without shadows — a 3D space on a flat screen that distorts perspective and confounds scale. When first confronted, it is impossible to determine how large or how far away his piece is. An intriguing illusion that exploits the limitations of the medium.”

The simple and elegant fashion portrait framed in the piece by Jimmy Debruyere (Butter in White) is actually a photo by artist Cat Boccaccio.  Jimmy does simple, understated pieces that are really quite lovely.

LavitaLoca Vita’s Invincible Summer was probably overlooked by most people. It’s a good example of why you should take the time to really look at pieces. Lavita’s installation had a small lock in the snowy hillside. When you touched it you were transported inside where it was a lovely springtime scene with a flowering tree and flowing water. If you didn’t know it was there, how would you know about it unless you took the time to explore it carefully?

Miso Susanowa’s piece should have gotten a prize. In a way it did, as the parts of her body sold out in a matter of hours. Miso’s pieces tend to have the complex political overtones of an artist who has much to say. This one was among her most engaging yet. By commenting on the commodification of art by commodifying the artist, she created a buzz that exactly demonstrated her point and people swarmed to purchase her various body parts (I am the proud owner of her right arm). The project’s elegant self-referential process was delightful and engaging and worked on every level.

As a large, complex immersive installation, Nino Vichan’s Surveillance won a prize and a lot of attention. For me, his other piece, the collage image called La Nascita de Venere (the Birth of Venus) was actually more compelling as art. Not just another SL photo portrait, the composition is very beautifully constructed.

JayJay and I always eagerly await the next entries from Gingered Alsop. Ginger and I have this little game where I try to impress her with how I think her scripts work and she laughs and says, “ok, if that’s what you think…” The piece I liked this time was her Liquidity sphere. The happy accident that made this piece remarkable was how the geometric patterns shift in different ways on the outside and inside surfaces.

I hope you had a chance to watch Oberon Onmura’s Chroma particle loom. Simple in concept, the scripted changes in the particle targets resulted in really interesting pattern morphs. As the piece occasionally rotated slightly it added a startling third dimension.  Oberon can always be counted on to come up with interesting and novel applications of basic processes.

RAG Randt’s big blue Ascension Ship really took you places. RAG’s work seems to be either not so interesting or just mindblowing. In this case it’s a bit of both. The spaceship itself didn’t do much for me. But it was pretty astonishing the vast landscapes he created within the confined spaces inside. Like Harter’s piece, this one played on the lack of depth perception in SL.

Among the most overlooked artists in this show was probably Takni Miklos, who had two entries. The Invisible Sphere was a fantastic shifting sphere made of disconnected flat panels that appeared and shifted according to the position of the observer. There were times when it seemed not to be working at all, and I fear a lot of people just missed it. But then I’d be standing in this empty space when a curved field of colored prims emerged. I spent quite a bit of time observing this piece.

The other Takni piece was done with the Venus sculpture created by Yasmine Paneer (presented nearby as the static Black Venus statue). The fragmented version made by Takni scattered the parts in apparently random ways until someone approached. Then they would coalesce in a still-fragmented and somewhat chaotic manner, but less so, enabling the viewer to gestalt the Venus figure as sufficient parts moved to their intended places, but always changing, never quite whole.

Gleman Jun’s Ethereal Wave is a deceptively cool piece. It seems a current fashion to create mathematical works. Gingered Alsop, Takni Miklos, Suzanne Graves, and others are all using algorithmic rezzers and shape shifters to create dynamic geometries. While I really like the processes and have experimented with them myself, I’m not generally overly impressed with the results as art. Setting a process in motion is certainly art, but it feels a little disembodied, detached, cold. As with fractal arts the choices of color and focus and scale may be creative, but the mathematical geometry tends to lack an organic humanity. Also another thing I’m finding a bit tired is shifting rainbow colors that look best against a black background. It just makes me thing of paintings of Elvis on black velvet. Despite these criticisms, there are some pieces that are simply compelling forms. Gleman’s piece is amongst the most beautiful I’ve seen of the genre.

Dusty Canning’s piece called Life is a kind of hilarious and unequivocal celebration of our origins. The little spermatozoa dancing around the big pink sphere dotting the “I” had me giggling every time I saw it.

With 74 works spread out over an entire sim, it’s pretty easy for casual visitors to miss a lot of the details. I could talk about every single one of them, but I hope this little tour will encourage you to spend more time examining the art more carefully. This is not the place for balloon tours or roller skates.

3 comments to What you probably missed

  • Thanks for the nice words, FreeWee. The ‘prize’ for me was the response to my piece and also the contacts and conversations I had about the piece; true value that won’t show up on any metrics spreadsheet.

    I missed Takni’s Sphere at first also; lag doth make blind men of us all. When it did engage, I was as enchanted as you were.

    I second your mention of Nino’s Venus; I found it as beautiful and worth spending time just feeding my eyes on it; it would make an incredible stained-glass piece.

  • Corcosman Voom

    The value of the UWA exhibitions to me has been the exposure to a wide variety of artists. I normally take the time to make the round of all the exhibited work each month.

    The competition aspect, especially on the juried awards, I think, has value for the artists because it is a recognition that their work has communicated in a meaningful way to an audience. And every artist is trying to ‘say something’ whether or not it is even possible to verbalize their message.

    You’ve also given us a glimpse into all the work that goes on behind the scenes each month at UWA exhibitions. I remember spending some time with you commenting on a few pieces I liked; and the care you took with a heavily scripted piece to determine if it was functioning the way the artist intended. Thank you and everyone that has been involved in making the UWA exhibitions an enjoyable activity.

    • Thanks for your comments, Corcosman. It’s a lot of work mounting a new show of this size every month. Aside from all the administrative work and figuring out where to put things, I feel a tremendous responsibility to the artists to make sure their work is seen and appreciated by all. You can’t really do a job like this without passion. Fortunately the art and the people I work with make it all very much worthwhile.

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A sample text widget

Etiam pulvinar consectetur dolor sed malesuada. Ut convallis euismod dolor nec pretium. Nunc ut tristique massa.

Nam sodales mi vitae dolor ullamcorper et vulputate enim accumsan. Morbi orci magna, tincidunt vitae molestie nec, molestie at mi. Nulla nulla lorem, suscipit in posuere in, interdum non magna.