Important note: The SL Go service is to be shut down on April 30th, 2015. For more information, please read this report.
OnLive, the providers of the Second Life streaming service, SL Go, which allows users to run Second Life from a low-end PC or Mac or and Android tablet or iPad (using a TPV based on the official SL viewer) or on a low-end PC or Mac using a version of the Firestorm Viewer, have launched an in-world support group for their users.
The idea for such a group was first discussed at the special Firestorm Q&A meeting held in December 2014 following the release of Firestorm on SL Go (see my review of Firestorm on SL Go here). At the time, Dennis Harper, OnLive’s Product Manager for SL Go. indicated the idea was a good one, which he would follow-up back at the office.
On Friday, January 16th, Dennis contacted me in-world during the Third-Party Developer Meeting to let me know the group is now up and running, and open to anyone to join.
If you are an SL Go user, and which to join the group, you will find it listed as SL Go by OnLive using the viewer’s search, or you can view the web profile for the group. A number of Firestorm support staff are helping with providing cover within the group, so enquiries on either the SL Go SL Viewer (SLV) and Firestorm for SL Go viewers can be asked through it.
In passing the details to me, Dennis said, “It’s been quite a ride for us since the Firestorm release, and we’re very pleased to be able to offer in-world support to our users as a part of our growing commitment to Second Life.”
Shadow Play: Tales of Urbanizationof China is a project by a collective entity known as Lily & Honglei (in fact three artists – Xiying Yang, Honglei Li and He Li, based in Beijing and New York). It spans three distinct mediums – the physical world, the virtual world and augmented reality – and combines modern technology with the ancient art of shadow puppetry to present a unique perspective on the changes people in China have, and are, facing.
“Over the past few decades, China has been undergoing urbanization at an astounding pace. In 2013, the newly inaugurated national leadership raised the process to a new gear when it unveiled its plan of converting 70 percent of the population to a city-oriented lifestyle by 2025,” the Artists note in their introduction to the work.
“Such a significant change would undoubtedly transform the character of a country that has been largely agrarian throughout its millennia of history. One may wonder how, and to what extent, the landscape, culture, and daily being of the nation’s people may be altered. As artists, we are compelled to explore and reflect upon the various phases of this historic undertaking.”
Commissioned by New Radio and Performing Arts, Inc., and sponsored by funding from the Jerome Foundation, the virtual reality element of Shadow Play: Tales of Urbanization of China take the form of a 4-chapter story located on land provided by the University of Massachusetts, Boston.
The four chapters, The Land: Death of the Village Head, The Ruins: Lost Children, The City: Into the Void and The Maze: No Exit, unfold across a series of ornate panels designed to evoke the nature and characteristics of shadow play, and mix traditional Chinese artistry with modern photography and drawings to tell an unfolding story. Each chapter is intended illuminate genuine situation that have arisen in China as a result of China’s shifting (and often enforced) face from those of an agrarian society to a highly urbanised society: clashes during land evictions, child abductions, the rise in suicides among migrant workers, and the impact of cultural and environmental degradation.
To best understand the story, I’m recommend a visit to the Shadow Play website, and in particular to the cast of characters. (this page also provides an overview of the augmented reality element of the work, which can be experienced on iPhones, iPads and Android devices under defined circumstances and using the Layar application).
Once you’ve got a handle on the characters involved, the individual elements of the story are easy to trace. Each of the panels is quite extraordinary in execution, with some powerful motifs – most noticeably with the faceless forces of the police (who I suspect are representative of the large faceless and remorseless bureaucratic machine).
The final chapter of the story is in two parts, one on the ground, and the other in the air. The former includes a model of the Great Wall of China in flames. Originally a part of a 2010 installation by the artists called Celebrate, the burning wall stood in that pieces as a statement against the Chinese government’s rigorous enforcement of Internet censorship and filtering. While that message still fits with the narrative presented here, it also further reinforces the narrative of cultural upheaval and separation from past ways of living for so many of China’s population.
The airborne element of the chapter is equally striking: a single lit candle surrounded by faceless police, high-rise buildings and with blood-red tanks printed on the ground around it, offer a very clear symbolism of its own.
Shadow Play: Tales of Urbanizationof China in SL is a quite striking work; although I can’t help but feel one that is not presented here to its best advantage, and would benefit greatly were it to be displayed within its own dedicated skybox. Also, I cannot help but feel that it doesn’t fully utilise the uniqueness of a 3D environment such as Second Life, and that more interactive elements would greatly enhance its power and appeal. However, these asides don’t detract for the artistry evidence in the pieces, particularly the panels representing the first two chapters. which are beautifully striking.
Now open at LEA 6, as a part of the University of Western Australia’s Full Sim Art series, is Lives of the Monster Dogs, an installation by Vilvi Rae.
Located on a set of white platforms that are themselves visually stunning (and something of a tribute to the monumentalism architectural style of Alvar Aalto) which rise from the otherwise flooded region, the exhibit showcases art from furry fandom, the subculture interested in fictional anthropomorphic animal characters with human personalities and characteristics.
“Furries have been part of Second Life right from the beginning (although only part of the fandom inhabits Second Life),” Vilvi notes. “Furry fandom is many things for many different people. Many artists inside the fandom express themselves through art depicting furry characters.”
Vilvi has curated the pieces displayed in the installation, taking time and effort to seek the artists’ permission to reproduce their work in-world. The result is an engaging, informative display, with over 30 pieces of art from a number of artists on offer to visitors. In addition, one of the platforms includes a small media centre providing links to Vilvi’s own excellent machinima on Vimeo, including the award-winning Sun Dog, which took the 2nd Runner-up prize in the UWA-sponsored Machinima section of the 2014 Screen My Shorts Project Homeless short film challenge.
Everything about this exhibition has been carefully and beautifully executed, including the title itself, which as Vilvi notes, is drawn from the 1997 novel of the same name by Kirsten Bakis. Touch any of the pictures on display and you’ll receive information on the piece and its artist in local chat, while the minimalist form of the structural components ideally presents the works on display. Finally, the exhibition is topped through the use of Fox Amoore’s music stream.
I confess to not having come across the latter until visiting Lives of the Moster Dogs, but the music is not only fitting given Fox’s links to the furry community, it is in itself outstanding, and my thanks go to Vilvi for introducing me to it – do make sure you have music streaming turned on as you walk through the installation.
All told, a superb exhibit, perfectly showcasing the artistic talent within the furry community; Lives of the Monster Dogs will remain open through until the end of January 2015.