Escaping the prison of one’s mind

Quan Lavender invited me to the opening of two new exhibitions at the Art India Gallery on Wednesday August 14th. Together, they make interesting companions – and a strong juxtaposition of images and emotions.

Inner Prisons

“The sculptures of Chuckmatrix Clip always had a strong dark side for me,” Quan opens her introduction to the first of the pieces, Inner Prisons by Chuckmatrix Clip. “About 6 months ago I asked him if he would like to exhibit at Art India Gallery and to concentrate on this dark side. Luckily he agreed.”

The result is something of an autobiographical exhibit which, I understand, has it roots in a piece Chuckmatrix submitted to the UWA, one that touched upon his own struggle with mental illness.

Inner Prisons
Inner Prisons

Inner Prisons takes this a stage further, presenting a series of sculptures which vividly  – and with the help of the accompanying soundtrack – very emotively capture the struggles he, and others with the same affliction, face in dealing with the demons inside their minds.

Staged within the confines of a set representing an asylum, the sculptures are mixed with a series of pictures which provide insight into the many factors which can contribute to the unsettling of the mind from childhood through to adulthood, and which can so easily leave a person isolated, feeling unloved, alone, and with little more than self-loathing and fear for company.

It is a series of dark vignettes which one does not often see identified as art, much less put together in an open exhibition like this. It’s also a very moving experience as well – as Quan says in her notes, this is an emotional bearing of a man’s soul, and intensely powerful one at that.

Inner Prisons
Inner Prisons

And the fact that it is, is also why Inner Prisons carries an underlying message of hope in the final piece. Fears can be controlled; inner demons can be exorcised. It takes time, it takes help, it takes a willingness for people to understand – but it can be done. One can be brought back from the edge of despair and a contemplation of suicide to face one’s darkest thoughts and, if not be rid of them entirely, be able to sublimate and dispel them; all it takes is a simple trigger to start the entire process. For Chuckmatrix, that trigger came in the form of a small white  teddy bear, the focus of the final sculpture.

While it may have been a long, painful road from where he was when that bear re-entered his life towhere he is today, Chuckmatrix nevertheless stands a proof –  to use his own words – that “no matter how far you fall, there is always a way back up”.

Pictures alone do not do this work justice. It needs to be experienced.

Inner Prisons
Inner Prisons

Escapes

Of his own piece, Escapes, Dan Freehand says:

My work shown in SL manipulates and abstracts pornographic imagery.  Porn is generally not treated as art, yet it is part of our visual language. Porn as an escape for some, an anathema for others, but to simply dismiss it or hide it under the bed denies us the ability to understand something about who we are. I look for the art in it.

His pieces are a vivid contrast to Chuckmatrix’s work. Here we have vivid colours and shapes, all drawn from the naked human form, female and male, but not exactly in a manner which is NSFW. The images have been abstracted (some, admittedly a lot more than others), some have been given motion, scrolling slowly across the canvas in a series of hypnotic and ever-changing patterns. All are exhibited in a more “usual” gallery-style environment.

Escapes
Escapes

The contrast between the two exhibits couldn’t be stronger. Where Inner Prisons is stark, dark and disturbing, Escapes is initially loud, proud, and bold. Escapes is also much smaller in scale and setting than Inner Prisons, which also makes it perhaps more intimate.

There an initial subtext here as well which tends to get the mind boggling a bit, and I’ll be curious to know what conversations may well come out of it. Here were have images deliberately focused on pornography on display in a virtual environment which is, in the eyes of the world, some kind of hub for pornography and sexual encounters. Yet the images are themselves, through the very nature of being abstract, demure and devoid of the in-you-face attitude people associate with pornography.

Escapes
Escapes

There is also something else in Escapes, however; something Quan picked-up on herself in her notes as curator of both exhibits. Whereas Inner Prisons is stark and unsettling, it nevertheless carries a message of hope. By contrast Escapes, because it is based on the pornography business which can be dark and ugly, may well be bright and alluring to look at, but it perhaps carries a darker and more uncomfortable subtext.

Which is not to say it should be avoided – both exhibits make compelling sets and are equally deserving of an audience. You can catch both of them now through until  September 29th.

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Singularity 1.8.1: MOAP, Voice Morph, Object & Shape Import / Export, and More

singularitySingularity updated to version 1.8.1 on August 12th, as noted on this week’s viewer round-up summary. There are a lot of updates in the release, including extended import / export capabilities.

The following is a look at the principal updates in the 1.8.1 release. For information on contribution credits, please refer to the Singularity release notes.

Windows Download and Install

The new version has seen some extensive code clean-up, which may have contributed to the installer weighing-in at 5Mb smaller than the 1.8.0 installer. As always, installation was painless and quick; as this is the first time I’ve installed Singularity on my new system, I didn’t have any concerns about clean installs (which tend to be a rarity with Singularity away, as it just gets on and does the job).

Media on a Prim / Shared Media

The headline announcement for the release is that Singularity supports Media on a Prim (MOAP), the ability to see and interact with shared media (such as viewing a web page displayed on a prim, or watching a YouTube video, etc. Shared media AutoPlay is disabled by default, but can be enabled if preferred, via Preferences > Audio & Video and checking Automatically Play Prim Media.

Import / Export Options

While MOAP is the headline update for Singularity, it’s the enhanced import / export options which are liable to be of particular interest, especially to content creators.

In covering this, I’m going to stay first-off and in large, friendly letters, that Singularity respects object permissions. Therefore, it will only export those items for which you are owner and creator in full, and it will not let people run away and do naughty things.

Support for uploading .anim files has been added to Singularity 1.8.1, along with the following.

linden_ genepool Export / Import

For those working with avatar shapes, perhaps the interesting news is that Singularity 1.8.1 now supports wearable export/import in linden_genepool format. This means shapes supported in this format (saved as XML) can not only be used in Blender/Avastar, they can be re-imported into SL with the need to fiddle with the shape sliders after being modified externally using something like Blender.

Wavefront and Collada Export

Pie menu .OBJ and .DAE export options
Pie menu .OBJ and .DAE export options

Singularity 1.8.1 also includes the ability to export those objects to which you have full permissions (again, creations which are entirely your own) as .OBJ or .DAE files (as well as to .XML via the pre-existing Export option).

The options can be accessed directly by right-clicking on the object in-world and selecting MORE > MORE > TOOLS in the pie menu. If you do not have permission to export the selected object, the export options will be grayed out and non-selectable.

Voice Updates

Voice morphing becomes available in Singularity with 1.8.1. This subscription service provided by Linden Lab allows people to use – wait for it – voice morphing in Second Life, and has been a part of SL since the arrival of Viewer 2.1. With Singularity, options are accessed via the Active Speakers floater (requires Voice to be enabled, obviously), and the overall UI changes are shown in the image below.

Voice morphing and updates in singularity 1.8.1 (image courtesy of the Singularity team)
Voice morphing and updates in singularity 1.8.1 – click to enlarge (image courtesy of the Singularity team)

Alongside this update is the ability to adjust your own voice volume from the Active Speakers floater.

Radar Updates and Avatar Lists Right-click Options

There have been a number of tweaks to the Radar floater with the new release, and those familiar with Singularity will quickly spot them.

This release also sees a right-click functionality added to avatar lists – such as the Radar – which allows you direct access to common actions you might want to carry out with another avatar, such as IMing them, paying them, offering them a teleport, and so on.

You can now right-click on avtar lists in singularity and carry out avatar / avatar functions (names removed from radar list for privacy)
You can now right-click on avatar lists in singularity and carry out avatar / avatar functions (names removed from radar list for privacy)

Web Profile and V3 Web Search Support

The Singularity avatar Profile floater now includes a button (top right) which will open the avatar’s web profile in a separate panel, allowing both it and the Singularity Profile panel to be viewed independently of one another and closed independently of one another.

Singularity 1.8.1 also sees an additional tab added to the Search floater, which contains the V3-style web search capability, and an option to search from a separate floater if preferred.

V3-style web search now in Singularity
V3-style web search now in Singularity

For OpenSim

For OpenSim, Singularity 1.8.1 now offers hypergrid map support and high-altitude building.

And the Rest

For a complete list of the top-line updates to Singularity 1.8.1, please refer to the release notes, which provide more information on things like LSL support updates, improvements to the script editors, the ability to start / stop scripts running in an item directly from inventory, notes on new  shortcut commands and chat bar commands, an improved auto response function, performance and stability updates, the latest available SSA code updates, and more. The release notes also credit those responsible for the various updates and improvements.

No Materials

The keen-eyed may have noticed there’s no mention of materials processing support. This is because the Singularity team opted to pass on adding the support with this release. Given that Linden Lab are themselves still working on the viewer-side code, and have themselves just made a significant set up updates available to TPVs and users within the Materials Project viewer, this is actually an understandable move on the Singularity team’s part.

That said, preparatory work has been carried out in readying Singularity for materials processing support, so expect it to appear in an upcoming release just as soon as the team are satisfied LL are not about to drop a significant set of updates on people.

Volunteers Needed

One other change which has occurred with this release is that F1 no longer opens Help, although it will still open a web browser window / tab. This is because the Singularity team are thinking about picking-up a V3-style help; however, they need more hands to make this happen. So, if you are interested in giving them a hand and have the necessary skills to make it happen, please give Siana, Latif or one of the team a shout in-world.

General Feedback

As ever, a tidy set of updates incorporated into a v1-style viewer which is solid, reliable and which shouldn’t overly tax older computers. For those looking for a v1-style viewer which supports SSA (which Singularity has done since the release of 1.8.0 in April) and which offers a very credible list of additional TPV capabilities, then Singularity 1.8.1 is very much worth taking the time to look at and to take for a spin in-world.

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A short stay in Collins Land

I dropped in to Collins Land after coming across shots of it in Cerys Collins’ (aka Cerys Celestalis) Flickr photostream. It is Cerys’ Homestead region, to which she extends a warm invitation for people to visit.

This is a rugged region, with high hills cut in two by water, a large sheltered inlet laying below them which protected from open water on one side by a sweep of low-lying land. There are a couple of houses here, one up on a hill-top and another with an ultra-modern geodesic dome down on the coast. There are also farm outbuildings, cobbled paths, high wooden platforms and more to see.

Collins Land
Collins Land

The arrival point is in an old greenhouse up on the hill to the north-west of the island. From here you can wander up to a high glade where stands a barn and sheep graze. There are places to sit here, as there are on the platform on which the greenhouse sits. For those wanting to explore onwards, there’s a wood-and-rope bridge spanning the deep split in the hills. Crossing this brings you to a small house with outdoor hot tub and a modest vegetable garden.

The region is a curious mix of features – the old-style house and wood-framed buildings on the tops of the hills, the modern stone-and-concrete circular house with its huge glass dome down below; a broken and rusting old van, a sleek yacht… But all of it comes together in a way that is both natural and very pleasing to the eye.

Collins Land
Collins Land

There are also lots of little details which bring the region to life – the picnic laid-out at the side of a track, seagulls wheeling over the water, wildlife ferreting in the underbrush or sitting calmly watching you watching them, and so on. There are one or two touches of humour as well – such as one of the stars of a certain series of animated feature films and his long sought-after object of affection (or is that greed?). In fact, such is the level of detail it’s worthwhile taking time in your explorations or you will miss something along the way.

Getting from the highlands to the lowlands can be done in one of four ways. You can jump (but that’ll probably hurt) or you can fly (but that’s cheating), or you can take the elevator down the wooden tower near the arrival point, or, if you’re feeling daring and want some fun, you can use the rope slide.

This last one can be enjoyed in first or third-person view, and takes you across the inlet on the east side of the island from a platform up near the little house to one on the banks of the inlet, not far from the circular house.

Collins Land
Collins Land

About Land for the region has a kindly invitation: “A quiet and peaceful for those who seek serenity and quiet place. You are welcome :)”, and the island certainly is peaceful, with plenty of places to sit or lie down. This is a place which can be enjoyed on your own or in the company of others, and places like the path-side picnic and a little lodge near the waterfalls certainly invite you to stay.

But … there is also something of a dark secret as well; you’ll need to keep an eye out for it, but in this little piece of paradise there is something that might have its own mysterious story to tell, for those who find it…

Collins Land
Collins Land

But if it does have a story too whisper, then it is something I’m going to leave to your imagination to discover!

Collins Land is a perfect place to visit and relax, and a fun place to explore. Recommended.

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