Second Life has always been a powerful medium for artistic expression, whether it be 2D (through the creation of photographs and machinima taken in-world, or the use of SL as a means to display paintings and drawings, and so on), 3D (in the form of sculptures, models, etc.), or immersive (such as partial or full region builds).
Such is the platform’s versatility, that it has always attracted amateur and professional artists, who have formed one of Second Life’s strongest and most vibrant communities of users who have created some of the most stunning pieces demonstrating the creative power inherent within the platform.
Rose Borchovski an artist in both RL and Second Life is renowned for both her immersive works in the latter and for her multimedia music theatre performances and multimedia art installations in real life, of which perhaps the more internationally recognised being The Blue Planet, produced in collaboration with her RL spouse, director Peter Greenaway (with whom she is also collaborating for a new installation in Rotterdam entitled Sex and the Sea).
Within Second Life Rose is perhaps best-known for her Susa Bubble creations. Susa, is child-like character who “went to bed single and woke up double”, came into being in Second Life when Rose’s own daughter was ill, and Rose created the first story for her.
Since then, of course, the Susa Bubble story has become famous across Second Life, and Rose sees the platform as the means by which she can carry forward the developing story of these small, fragile-looking but nigh-on indestructible characters as then go about their own explorations and mischief.
Rose sees SL as a means of expression on many levels; not just in what we might regard as “art” in the usual sense, as demonstrated by her one pieces in-world, but also in how we chose to present ourselves through the medium of our avatar, it’s appearance and what we bring to it from the real world in terms of our own thoughts, desires, ideals and physical attributes, such as our own voice, touching on all this combines to affect how other react to us and identify with us.
“I still would like to convince you that you’re going to film Rose, my avatar, and not me. Because Rose is handsome and she’s slim and I have a charming accent, so Rose is much more sympathetic as an image,” she tells Drax at one point. In many respects, the creation of our avatar presents a level of freedom in how we express and present ourselves which simply isn’t possible in real life for a variety of factors, external and internal. As such, the artistic and emotional involvement we have in the process of creating and refining our avatar is a means by which each of us can artistically express ourselves, if we so wish.
And of course, how we opt to behave when using our avatars might also be seen to be reflected in some of the tales Rose tells through her Susa Bubbles stories …
Second Life is also very much as practical tool for Rose. While she has stated elsewhere that as a means of artistic creation, SL can be a slow and time-consuming medium in which to work, it is one that nevertheless greatly assists her real world art; allowing her to visualise and model her real life installations and walk through how she wants to stage them and have them appear to the visitor.
In this she touches upon two other aspects of Second Life which lift it above the “mere” definition of it being a game or simply an open sandbox: it can have both a practical feedback into our real lives, much as it helps her visualise and build real life installations, objects and models, and it can form an even greater channel for emotional and creative release because it can feedback equally into our real lives as much as we feed into it from our real lives; something I believe I’ve been experiencing in my own small way through SL photography, which has started to feed back into my real life activities.
For the artist, Second Life has always, and in so many ways, been at the cutting edge of expression and development. That is as true today as it was back when SL burst into the public consciousness. Almost every visual development and enhancement to the platform adds yet another opportunity to the visual artist. As Rose herself says, more fool those outside of the platform who could benefit from it in their refusal to accept it as a means of expression; given its global reach, they are only denying themselves a new, and potentially huge, audience.