A Surreal Cube lands in Second Life

Surreal Cube - Molly Bloom
Surreal Cube – Molly Bloom

Surreal Cube is a complex art installation conceived by art archivist Art Blue, known for his celebrations of virtual world art and artists, including The Surreal Tower (of which Surreal Cube could be considered a direct descendent), Art Walk on the Moon (which you can read about here) and A Room for Ferrisquito (which you can read about here).

As with many of Art’s installations, Surreal Cube is enmeshed within a lengthy narrative (provided in note card form at the landing point), involving an attempt to save Earth’s art heritage (in this case, works by Molly Bloom) by building a gigantic space ship – the Surreal Cube – in which the art should be preserved. Those familiar with science-fiction and / or Art’s previous works and activities elsewhere may recognise some of the references within the story, such as Vulcanicus and the passing mention of billionaire SR Hadden – who featured in the late Carl Sagan’s seminal (and only) science-fiction novel, Contact.

Surreal Cube - Mistero Hifeng (with the Cube by Gem Preiz as the backdrop)
Surreal Cube – Mistero Hifeng (with the Cube by Gem Preiz as the backdrop)

While the central focus of the exhibit is Moll’s work, the installation includes contributions by Juliette SurrealDreaming (who is also the exhibit curator), Hyde Hackl, Mistero Hifeng, Gem Preiz, and Moewe Winkler., some of which are placed one inside the next, matryoshka doll style. Mistero’s  sculptures are to be found around the perimeter of the region – perhaps those who came together to witness the landing of the great cube ship before it was frozen in time by Dr. Kawoom, who can be found in one corner of the sculpture parade.

The ship itself sits slightly canted over the dark waters of the region, caught in the moment of landing by Dr. Kawoom when it was realised it was too big for it’s intended landing space. The surface of this vehicle, designed by Gem Preiz, features his trademark fractal designs, which periodically change across the cube’s faces.

Surrel Cube - The Cube: Gem Preiz
Surreal Cube – The Cube: Gem Preiz

Within the vessel lies an aquatic environment designed by Moewe Winkler, occupied by alien life forms and over which a ghostly pirate ship stands-to. Here, also, is a short story by Juliette SurrealDreaming, and an LM giver to visit the Second Life Surreal Tower exhibit. At the very centre of the cube lies an enormous egg designed by Hyde Hackl, within which lies a garden and the gallery of some two dozen pieces of Molly’s art (part of which can be seen in the banner image at the top of this article).

If all this sounds a little confusing, visitors are offered a choice of ways to find their way around. The first is to take the Meta Harper chair, available at the landing point. This takes control of your camera, carrying you a visual tour through the exhibit. The second is to use the network of teleport discs found throughout the installation and which offers the best way to examine each element of the exhibit in turn. In addition, there are various interactive elements – poses, a ridable flying horse – to be found and enjoyed.

Surreal Cube - The Egg: Hyde Hackl (with ghost ship in the foreground, added by Juliette SurrealDreaming)
Surreal Cube – The Egg: Hyde Hackl (with ghost ship in the foreground, added by Juliette SurrealDreaming)

The Surreal Cube has a twin available in OpenSim, and the installation will also feature at the Santorini Biennale, running from September 1st through to October 15th, through a video of the exhibit filmed by Wizardoz Chrome. After October 15th, the core of the Surreal Cube will be cleared away, remaining only in OpenSim, and the cube in Second Life used to house further installations curated by Juliette SurrealDreaming.

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Lab releases Second Life starter avatars with a “fantasy” theme

Petrol Sue, Jasper, Leah, Emrys and Dmitri - five of the new "fantasy" starter avatars
Petrol Sue, Jasper, Leah, Emrys and Dmitri – five of the new “fantasy” starter avatars. Credit: Linden Lab

On Thursday, September 1st, Linden Lab announced the release of a further set of ten new starter avatars.

Referred to as a set of “fantasy” inspired avatars, the new collection features five male and five female avatars based on the system avatar, but include mesh accessories. Two of the avatars are vampires, providing newcomers with the option to have such characters without having to opt for the fully mesh starter avies.

The ten avatars are paired off into five genres: the aforementioned vampire, plus magic (with an unabashed Harry Potter element to the male character of “Emrys”); cyber / sci-fi; post-apocalyptic (regulars at TPVD meetings may recognise “Petrol Sue”, as worn by Grumpity Linden at the meetings); and steampunk. All come with pets (or in the case of Leah and Jaxon, from the cyber / sci-fi theme, drones).

The Morgan avatar, one of the two "magic" themed avatars, and her familiar, Theo
The Morgan avatar, one of the two “magic” themed avatars, and her familiar, Theo

Commenting on the new avatars, the blog post reads in part:

Over the years, we’ve continued to apply what we’ve learned about building techniques to our starter avatars, improving their aesthetics and optimizing them to load quickly. Our latest Fantasy starter avatars are vibrant examples of what we consider “balanced content” that is both performance-optimized and looks beautiful — they can save you time getting immersed in one of our many role-playing communities without unnecessarily lagging yourself or others. We know that content creators want to create optimized content for their customers, and we encourage creators to study these new avatars as examples of balanced content.

The blog post goes on to state that the avatars have been designed with Avatar Rendering Complexity in mind, and have been fine-tuned for “low ARC” scores. When testing on my system (i5 4590 with a GTx 970 GPU, the female avatars reported at between 8980 (“Leah”), through to 18,352 for “Petrol Sue”. The male avatars fell between 9,837 (“Emrys”) and 14,981 (“Jaxon”).

As with the last set of “system” (or “classic”) avatars (see here), these all use attached AOs, some of which continue to appear a little jerky during transitions (or lack thereof), suddenly flicking from one animation / pose to the next.

The new avatars can be accessed by going to Me (/Avatar) > Choose an Avatar > New Avatars (tab should be open by default). Once an avatar is selected, it is transferred to your inventory and worn.

To mark the release of the new avatars, the Lab also issued a promotional video: