Bryn Oh’s latest installation on her home region of Immersiva opened on Sunday, March 29th. Entitled Lobby Cam, it is, in keeping with her previous works there, a full region installation; albeit one which, on the surface at least, seems a lot less complex than pieces such as Imogen and The Pigeons or the more recent The Singularity of Kumiko. But as we know with Bryn, all is not always as it may first appear to be.
Bryn has always embraced the so-called digital divide, and by doing so remove it somewhat from people’s view. Her virtual work has often incorporated elements of her physical world artistry, while her work in the physical world has frequently encapsulated her virtual art. Lobby Cam takes this a stage further, as it places a number of Bryn’s paintings front-and-centre within the installation, which itself appears to have its origins painting possibly inspired by a trip to Sasakatoon and the surrounding region of Saskatchewan in Bryn’s native Canada.
The artwork is on display in a lobby-like gallery to one side of the region – although this is not the lobby to which the title of the piece refers. Here visitors can obtain a HUD (free of charge) which presents the wearer with a journal forming the hub of an unfolding story. From here, the visitor can progress through the gallery space, reaching a wall on which is mounted a copy of the painting on which a good part of the installation is based. As this is approached, the wall breaks apart, allowing access to the rest of the region.
Most of this is given over to fields of wheat which stretch off to the horizon, and from the midst of which a huge wooden grain elevator rises bluntly into the sky. This is not just any grain elevator, however; it is No. 888, originally built in Keatley, Saskatchewan in the late 1920s as a part of the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool, but which was moved in the 1980s to North Battleford, some 137 kilometres (86.5 miles) north-west of Saskatoon, where it was restored as a museum.
Such grain elevators where once widespread across the prairies, and early photographs of Saskatoon itself show just such an elevator located alongside the railway tracks on the edge of the town, forming something of a focal point. Within Lobby Cam, the elevator sits as a focal point within a broad spread of wheat, like some tall ship riding the sea, the rippling wheat, which moves to the SL wind, the waves beneath its prow.
Given its size, the elevator is a natural destination, and there are several floors within it to be explored, including the upper floor which links back to the HUD-based story, which I’ll get to in a moment. Further across the fields, towards the south-east corner, sits the battered bulk of an old Toronto streetcar, doors and windows broken, a part of it boarded-up as vines wind their way through it. Elsewhere amidst the wheat visitors will also find the rusting hulk of a old pick-up truck, sitting like a raft in the middle of a yellow ocean.
All of these pieces are perhaps emblematic; a commentary on the passage of time and the changing of ways. They also help to attract one’s attention to elements of the unfolding story. As mentioned above, the HUD obtained at the start reveals a journal. Initially, only the first few pages can be read but, explore the region and you’ll come across more, which are automatically added to the journal as you do so, allowing more of it to be read. I’ll not say too much more on this, other than you should take a little time in your explorations, as there are pages and more to be found.
Throughout the build, there are many references to some of Bryn’s other works, some obvious, some perhaps less so. Such motifs are not uncommon to her work, and they add both depth and familiarity to her pieces.
In the default windlight (I’ve taken the liberty of using a different windlight in the images here), the entire installation has something of a “rough” look to it colours in places – such as on parts of the grain elevator – can look a tad odd to the eye, which the old Toronto streetcar might at first look like a badly-made model. However, this is entirely intentional.
As already noted, the entire installation is essentially the recreation of a painting; thus, the colours and rough uneven surfaces and (in places) blocky finish to various elements in the installation are all redolent of the colours and textures found in the original painting.
Bryn’s work can often be taxing for some computers, and Lobby Cam is no exception, although Bryn has once again put considerable effort into minimising any loss of performance that might be experienced. She also offers some notes on how to lessen the potential impact and improve your experience – including trying SL Go (Bryn has no affiliation with the service, but recognises it as a means by which those on lower-end systems can perhaps better enjoy the installation). These notes can be read directly in-world at the HUD dispenser, or obtained via note card by clicking the information board above the HUD dispenser, or via Bryn’s blog, which includes the introductory trailer video I recommend you watch, if you haven’t already.
Lobby Cam offers-up another intriguing piece from Bryn, which as noted at the top of this article may initially appear less complex than some of her other work, but which is actually beautifully layered.