I hate to think of the loss of an important SL site as a death in the family. Sometimes it feels like that. As with a beloved aunt or cousin who lives far away, perhaps we don’t visit as often as we should or would like to. But those people and places that hold strong memories for us become a painful loss when they are gone. And I feel guilty about not keeping better in touch.
We get busy. And more importantly in a place like SL, we crave novelty. There is so much new happening that it’s sometimes difficult to revisit a place we’ve been to before, even knowing they’ve had changes. The initial experience is often more muted upon repetition. It has been one of my strongest missions in life (both first and Second) to get people to slow down and actually take the time to experience things in depth, not just in breadth. And yet I have to plead guilty myself to neglecting old friends and focusing on the new. But then I hear the news of a friend or relative who is sick or dying or gone and I get a pang of remorse.
In the last year or so we’ve seen the loss of friends and institutions that will all be sorely missed. First was my friend Sabrinaa Nightfire, who passed away after a noble battle with cancer. Her impact on many lives and the SL art community as a whole is well known. We are all poorer for her loss.
More recently, we’ve seen the demise of the UTSA sims, which hosted so many amazing sim-wide art exhibitions including the amazing “Snowcrash” installation by Igor Ballyhoo and Rebeca Bashly – the last of a string of important activities from the UTSA sims run by Dr. Carmen Fies (SL: constructivIST Solo). Carmen has been a strong advocate and supporter of art in SL. UTSA was a partner in the UWA 3D Open Art Challenges. Not only did they select group awards each month, but they supported those selections by inviting the artists to show their work at UTSA.
And speaking of Igor, I didn’t know him, really. Probably exchanged no more than a few words ever. I certainly have respect for his work and I was saddened that he felt the need to leave SL for whatever his reasons.
Then there is CrossWorlds Gallery, run with such class, grace, and devotion by Fabilene Cortes with the often less overt, but equally essential, owner and patron Nerd Bert (who I’m not certain I’ve ever actually met). When I first visited CW, I was simply astounded at the scope and size of the gallery. Dozens of real artists… and I mean REAL in the sense of not only being rl artists, but also in the sense of being authentically creative…spread across floor after floor of gallery space. I could scarcely imagine a rl gallery of such magnitude.
Both UTSA and CrossWorlds are closed due to the obscene cost of maintaining a sim. I know how this pressure can be. I’m not wealthy by any means. I’ve maintained the sim at Artemisia for nearly 4 years now and it has always been a challenge to come up with the money all this time, primarily by working hard and renting out large portions of the sim to cover the costs.
I just heard that Pop Art Display is closing due to lack of funding for the host sim. I visited on Sunday and it was still intact and just got an update that is will be open until January 14. I urge you to see it if you can. My first time there, I ended up spending about 3 hours going through the place.
The original group notice from eros Boa was brief and lacking details beyond this quote from Andy Warhol:
“The most beautiful thing in Tokyo is McDonald’s. The most beautiful thing in Stockholm is McDonald’s. The most beautiful thing in Florence is McDonald’s. Peking and Moscow don’t have anything beautiful yet.”
and a reference to Linden Lab and “goodbye” in a couple dozen languages. I thought the tone of the message was a little bitter, but I can understand the pain of losing something you’ve poured your life’s energy into only to see it go away because it’s unsustainable.
For those who haven’t seen it (stop reading this and go NOW), PAD is an extraordinary document of the Pop Art era from the 1950s-1970s. Especially highlighted are Andy Warhol (Merlino Mayo built a fascinating reproduction of Warhol’s Loft studio), David Hockney, Roy Lichtenstein, and many others. This was a beautifully curated exhibition by the Italian team of Matteus Taurog (coordinator critic), with Zorro Hirvi (who constructed the multi-level building with an ingenious traffic pattern that ensured you would not miss anything), and eros Boa. eros created many wonderful interactive elements, including full 3D dioramas of many of the classic paintings, along with free wearable avatars that you could wear and become a living part of the image. You literally walk into the paintings on the wall. They had some remarkable events there, including an episode of Susa Bubble by Rose Borchovski. But what excited me about PAD as much as the content was the quality of presentation. The logic and flow of the massive installation was intuitive and informative. In addition to the participatory dioramas, many objects had links to vetted Wikipedia or YouTube resources for more depth. I often touted this place as a model for museum-like education. It was not merely a gallery. It was a totally engaging experience.
And finally we come to Immersiva. Anyone who is unaware of Bryn Oh’s full sim playground has simply been living in a cave. Arguably one of the more important artists working in SL, Bryn was fortunate to have the generous support of patron Dusan Writer for the last couple of years. If you know the cost of a sim, you know what an incredible boon it is to have someone believe in an artist enough to put up the cash for it every month. But inevitably these things end, and now Bryn is looking for a new home. She has petitioned LL to provide sims for her Immersiva and for Kiana Writer’s MadPea projects (similarly supported until now by Dusan Writer).
Bryn is one of the lucky ones. She’s had incredible opportunities to be freely creative because she is brilliant and people want to support and be a part of her brilliance. And part of her brilliance is being aware of opportunities and taking advantage whenever possible. Most people are not nearly so fortunate, and it’s not because they aren’t as brilliant. It’s because they aren’t connected.
So what will happen to us all? It costs $23.60US to maintain a single 100 prim object inworld for a year. A full sim only gets 15K prims. Simple math indicates that in order for new work to happen, old work must go away. And someone has to pay for it. Cost is the single greatest force driving people from SL to alternative grids, followed closely by prim limits. Most people I know have a presence in at least one other grid. This is not a bad thing. Diversity, decentralization, competition, are all good for virtual worlds in general. Ultimately the balance between cost and value will determine where things happen. At the moment, SL is still the place to be if you want to have your work seen. But that could change as more people–an especially as more institutions–are frustrated by the burdensome costs.
I hate to see these great institutions of art in SL disappear just because LL fails to understand that the artists and educators are the ones who are legitimizing the platform as a viable place to work. That we are pushing the technology. That we are the ones showing the way. It is unfathomable to me that LL raised the prices to education and nonprofit users and has been milking the rest of us for every penny they can, when cost is THE barrier to growth in this industry. We don’t need more features. We need a break.
For my friends in the arts community I’ve begun a project to bring people together to talk about sustainability of the arts in virtual worlds. I’m calling it ArtGyro for the moment until someone comes up with something better (and surely someone will) using as a model a spinning top that creates stability with movement. The project is getting a slow start because of the holidays and needing to get the new series started at UWA. But I’ve been talking with several people about this and I think there are opportunities to leverage what we have as a community. If you’d like to be part of the conversation, please join the ArtGyro group and drop me a note or IM or email.