The Singularity of Kumiko – Click to see all images full size
Bryn Oh opened her latest immersive piece The Singularity of Kumiko on Friday February 14th – and believe me when I tell you, it is something you are really not going to want to miss.
It’s an amazing piece, demonstrating the visual and intellectual power evident in Second Life as a medium for expression, art, discussion on the nature of death and the potential to live beyond it, and for creating an immersive, involving narrative.
The essentials lie within in communications involving two people, Kumiko and Iktomi, who are an ocean apart. Some of these (from Iktomi) come solely in the form of messages in a bottle, while some of those from Kumiko take the form of the spoken word as well a bottled missives.
These have a strange dynamic which immediately draws one into the story, making one a part of it. The discussion revolves around loss (and being lost), the potential for immortality (of a kind) which Iktomi appears to have perhaps embraced and tried to have Kumiko to do likewise, perhaps almost desperately so, although how or why – or what has happened is something which must be pieced together.
I say “pieced together” because the narrative is entirely non-linear. The exchanges between the two are scattered across the region, and one must discover fragments through exploration and discovery of the bottles (and where present as well, the microphones), which are to be found in small vignettes and scenes through the region, some of which are almost connected by broken roads, while others are linked by narrow passageways or sit on open plains or within the house you’ll (eventually!) find.
This may sound easy; but trust me, it is not. Bryn has created an environment that is very, very dark, and visitors are reliant upon a headlamp and points of local light. The result is that you almost have to feel your way around the installation, distant points of light drawing you forward until a scene appears in front of you, like a sudden flash of memory in the darkness or a connection with … something … In this way, Bryn powerfully draws you into Kumiko’s world and her condition – although precisely what her condition is may not be apparent. This is also intentional; you are on a journey of discovery, one in which you very much become a part of the story itself.
Be warned, however. This is also a dangerous place. Just as death, and survival beyond it, form a part of the exchanges between Kumiko and Iktomi, so to can you experience both in your travels. Damage is enabled, and “death” can be visited upon you by an aggressive rabbit called Mr. Zippers”. Once a much-loved toy from Kumiko’s past, offering her protection (comfort), Mr Zippers is here transformed into something far more physically protective of her. Listen-out for the squeaking wheel in the darkness and get ready to run …
The Singularity of Kumiko – watch out for Mr. Zippers!
Imagery throughout the installation is incredibly powerful and multi-faceted. Not only is it in the extraordinary exchanges between Kumiko and Iktomi (some of which are beautifully brought to life through the voice of Jenna Stillman (Akonia Resident) as well as through Bryn’s writing) and the vignettes one encounters while exploring, it is also in the soundscape one experiences whilst exploring; there is even reference to Bryn’s earlier work, Imogen and the Pigeons. Together these help give one a sense of familiarity with Kumiko (through exposure to Imogen), whilst also immersing us further into Kumiko’s world and situation. similarly, the title of the piece and the use of the term “singularity” suggests multiple approaches to the work, depending upon whether own looks at the word in terms of complex analysis, natural sciences, literary studies, technology or science-fiction.
To be enjoyed to the fullest, you’ll need to set-up your viewer in accordance with the instructions given at the arrival point. Note that having the Advanced Lighting Model option in Preferences > Graphics is preferred (although you don’t need to have shadows enabled as well). This may impact the performance of some low-end systems, but if you can manage it, your experience in seeing the various elements of the build will be greatly enhanced.
Bryn has done much to try to reduce lag within the region as much as possible, up to and including limiting the numbers allowed in at any given time to just 10-15, something which means you may not get a successful TP to the region at times, but which also further heightens the sense of immersion, as you’re less likely to bump into others.
Several people have helped Bryn bring this piece to life; they are listed in an acknowledgement posted in the arrival area. They should all feel justifiably proud of their input into this piece. Without wishing to overstate matters, it really is remarkable.
This most definitely is not one to be missed.