Of trees, cultural hysteria and shit

LEA_square_logo_60Over the years, AIR has presented artists with the opportunity of using a full sim region and offering SL residents immersive environments they can enjoy. Over the years, this has led to some fascinating and quite amazing installations which might otherwise never have seen the light of day. Other times, it has to be said, the results have been less than satisfying.

As life has been keeping me a tad busy of late, I decided to combine recent visits to three of the current LEA Artist In Residence (AIR) installations into a single article. Into which of the above two categories they might fall is a matter of individual choice.

Travel Narratives into Trees

Uan Ceriaptrix uses Travel Narratives into Trees to offer visitors insight into the things that please him: natural environments unfettered by the imprint of human intervention, coloured by the natural flora and fauna within it, how these define reality for us, and the responses they evoke within us.

Travel Narratives into Trees, LEA14
Travel Narratives into Trees, LEA14

Or at least, that’s the intent. On an island which itself has a distinctly organic shape, perhaps a creature swimming in the sea. From this rise a series of leafless trees, almost claw-like in their appearance. Eye-like buds grow from the trees, while your path along the island creature is marked by giant ants, flowers and the skeletal forms of what might be dogs.  The path leads to a smaller island, guarded by crocodiles (complete with a pose, if you fancy being their next meal) and on which can be found a teleporter leading you up to the second part of the installation.

Here sits a desert-like landscape, albeit one with plenty of trees and shrubs, in the midst of which sits a gigantic hollow tree which appears to be part study, part laboratory. Stairs and platforms wind their way upwards inside and around it, leading the visitor to various scenes of labour.

Travel Narratives into Trees, LEA14
Travel Narratives into Trees, LEA14

Metaphor is strong here, with clues provided by the artist’s biography and the notes accompanying the build. Whether the metaphor measures up to the visitor’s eye, however, is perhaps questionable.

Cultural Hysteria

Mario Zecca’s Cultural Hysteria is designed to be a piece that grows of the months of its existence. Starting with the build at ground  / water level, successive platforms will be added over time,  with the installation as a whole used as a venue for music, dance and poetry events.

Cultural Hysteria, LEA15
Cultural Hysteria, LEA15

Mario says of the installation, “the textures in the 3D prims, were derived from a process of  automatic drawing. I used color or scribbles to create a texture or area and then allowed the images to arise. These are images that I have “drawn” from my imagination, the feedback from a lifetime of studying while I enjoyed cartoons, comic books, illustration and academic drawing. While building the installation here I had my avi walk around to get the walking point of view and perspective. My goal is to share and convey, in the form of an immersive visual environment, the unknown, undocumented and unmeasured language of art.”

Cultural Hysteria, LEA15
Cultural Hysteria, LEA15

The result is certainly colourful, and does require a fair amount of camming around to see. The region is filled with prims, some flexi, some static, some of which display static images, others moving images, some of which have glow applied, and so on. In terms of potential appeal, however, I’m really not sure how this installation will strike people. Perhaps we’ll only be able to really make a determination once all the levels have been added and, as Mario promises, the title of the piece becomes evident as they arrive.

Ovis Aries

So to Sheep – or to use the Latin as creator Sowa Mai (aka artist Stephen Beveridge) does, Ovis Aries. From the start, this piece is somewhat unusual and hard to define. Take the description, for example:

Sowa Mai has once again sidestepped his original idea and brought us a complete bastardization of the whole Second Life art ouvre.  With this pile of shit he has left on our doorstep it is safe to say this will be the last time he is invited to participate. Don’t miss it.

Ovis Aries, LEA22
Ovis Aries, LEA22

Well, errm. Yes. Interesting reading. Taking the proverbial pee? And if so, at whom? The artist himself, or the “whole Second Life art ouvre”? It would be easy to conclude the latter, but let’s not be so hasty.

Your arrival is marked by a trio of sheep, one of whom can be chatty. If you’re on your own, it will initially discard with any pleasantries with a curt, “Go get a friend and we’ll talk…”. However, wait long enough, or have someone else present, and the sheep will engage in some ostentatious art babble – a poke, perhaps, at the world of art critics?

Ovis Aries, LEA22
Ovis Aries, LEA22

The sheep stand on a barren landscape enclosing, quarry-like, a body of water and shrouded in an evocative, misty windlight. A single stone  tower rises from this landscape, while four transparent prims located to one side of the land offer a sound scape of crowd noises. At the top of the tower, celestially spotlighted sits … a turd, while down just above the water (and below it, for those who look) are images of the artist’s real-life abstract art.

Again, metaphor runs strong here, right down to the title of the piece. For those looking for a clue as to intent of this piece, a note card from the artist available at the landing point might hold a clue or two, dwelling as it does on issues of judgement. There is also a hint of questioning identity as well, found both within the note card and perhaps in the way the images of the artist’s work are presented.

Given that judgement does play a role in the artist’s definition of the work, I’ll leave it to you to form your own opinion of this installation – exactly as he intended.

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Poodle vulnerability: Lab issue RC viewer with browser fix

On Wednesday October 15th I blogged about the Lab having issued a Grid Status update warning, those who use the viewer’s built-in browser may not be able to access certain websites. The notice was issued by the Lab as a result of the Padding Oracle On Downgraded Legacy Encryption (Poodle) vulnerability reported by Google.

As noted in my original article, the Poodle vulnerability exploits a flaw in the design of the SSL 3.0 protocol, which despite being 18 years old, is used as a fallback security protocol within most browsers. By using a series of connection failures between a browser and website, an attacker can trigger what is called a “downgrade dance” where the browser eventually falls back to using the SSL 3.0 protocol to maintain communications. When this happens, the attacker can use the exploit within SSL 3.0 to grab sensitive data.

How a Poodle attack works (image courtesy of Critical Watch)
How a Poodle attack works (image courtesy of Critical Watch)

There are a couple of caveats to the vulnerability; for the attack to work, the attacker must be on the same wireless network as you or in the path of your communications (as shown above), and your client must be running JavaScript. However, it caused Google to issue an advisory that SSL 3.0 support is disabled or that tools that support TLS_FALLBACK_SCSV (Transport Layer Security Signalling Cipher Suite Value) are used be websites, which prevent the “downgrade dance” attacks. This prompted some websites to remove / disable SSL 3.0 support, which in turn resulted in some websites becoming inaccessible when using the viewer’s internal browser or browser-related services.

At the time the Grid Status update was issued, the Lab indicated they are working to fix the problem within the viewer’s browser capability. This has now been done, and release candidate version of the viewer, referred to as the “Browser Fix” viewer, removes SSL 3.0 usage from the viewer’s internal browser, allowing it to connect to sites which have disabled SSL 3.0 support.

If you do use the official viewer and prefer accessing websites using the internal browser, you may want to download this RC. For those not using the official viewer and who have experienced issues accessing websites through the viewer’s internal web browser, try switching to using an external browser to open web links (set via Preferences), as per the advice on the original Grid Status update from the Lab.

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Transcending Borders: final weeks

Transcending Borders, the UWA’s combined Art and Machinima Challenge which offers a combined prize pool of over L$1,000,000 to entrants, plus L$240,000 in audience participation prizes, is reaching the final couple of weeks before the deadline for submissions is reached on October 31st.

The challenge presented by Transcending Borders is for entrants to interpret the title of the competition in any fashion they deem applicable, and produce an artwork or film based on their interpretation. For example, it might refer to transcending borders between space and time, or the past and present or the present and future; or it might refer to the divisions between dimensions, real and virtual; or it might be used to explore the borders separating nations or cultures or languages; or it might involve any or all of these ideas, and more – such as the many borders we encounter as we navigate our physical and virtual lives.

Jipe Loon's Baculum Murder, a piece the artist suggests has many interpretations: physcial transcendence; spiritual transcendence; genetic transcendence, and more - you determine what it may mean to you
Jipe Loon’s Baculum Murder, a piece the artist suggests has many interpretations: physcial transcendence; spiritual transcendence; genetic transcendence, and more – you determine what it may mean to you (click for full size)

Art pieces submitted to the competition should not exceed 150 Land Impact, and should preferably by submitted with COPY permissions, and art entries are limited to one per entrant, while machinima entries should preferably be no more than 4 minutes and 30 seconds in length, although this is not a “hard” rule, and there is no limit to the number of items an entrant can submit.

The first prize in each category is L$100,000, with a number of runner-up and prize category prizes as well, as detailed in the original UWA blog post on the challenge. Winners will be determined by an invited jury of academics, SL business people, journalists, bloggers, artists and writers.

Tutsy Navarathna’s “MetaPhore – Transcending Borders” – one of the machinima entries in this year’s Transcending Borders UWA Art and Machinima challenge

And if that is not enough, there are also audience participation prizes available as a well (a total of L$135,000 for participating in the art section and a total of L$105,000 in the machinima section).  All you have to do is list your personal Top Ten entries in either the art or the machinima sections of the challenge (or both!). Prizes will be awarded to audience members whose top 10 lists most closely align to the final juried top 10. Keep your eyes on the UWA blog for details on how to enter.

Ama Avro's "Utopia" focuses on communications
Ama Avro’s “Utopia” focuses on communications (click for full size)

Art entries can be viewed now at the UWA’s gallery space, while machinima entries can be viewed on the Transcending Borders page at SL Artist.com. Please remember that submissions will continue to be added to both locations through until the closing date for entries on October 31st, 2014.

(Spiral Silverstar’s “Transcending (Surreal) Borders” – one of the machinima entries in this year’s Transcending Borders UWA Art and Machinima challenge

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Note: the images and machinima included in this item should not be taken as any indication of my personal preferences as a member of the  Transcending Borders jury. They are included purely for the purposes of illustrating this article.