FionaFei’s Impostor: reflections on art and heritage in Second Life

The Sim Quarterly: Impostor by FionaFei

Now open at The Sim Quarterly is Impostor, an installation by FionaFei that explores both her art and her heritage – and makes for a thoroughly engaging exploration of self and creativity.

A relative newcomer to Second Life and its art world, Fiona is nevertheless one of the most engaging and visually impressive artists active within the platform, her work being truly unique. I’ve personally had the delight in discovering it and in writing about it on two occasions thus far (see: Captivated by FionaFei’s art in Second Life (May 2019) and FionaFei’s shuǐmò Reflection in Second Life from November 2019), and she was recently featured in one of the Lab’s Made in SL videos, being the first film in a series that will be examining art in Second Life as a part of the Lab’s ongoing work to market and promote Second Life.

The Sim Quarterly: Impostor by FionaFei

Fiona specialises in reproducing shuǐmò ink wash paintings as 3D sculptures. Also called shuǐmòhuà (suiboku-ga in Japanese) shuǐmò, uses different concentrations of black ink to create an image. Found throughout East Asia, it first emerged in Tang dynasty China (618–907), before spreading to Japan (14th century), Korea and to India. Beside the use of black ink in place of colours, it is also marked by the emphasis of the brushwork being on the perceived spirit or essence of the subject, rather than directly imitating its appearance.

Through her installations, Fiona marvellously brings the entire essence of shuǐmò to virtual life. However, as she notes in writing about Impostor, something that causes her a certain amount of introspection about her own heritage, her art and expressionism, and her feelings of  – for want of a better word – displacement.

The inspiration behind this exhibit comes from my cultural background as a Chinese American immigrant and my technical background as an oil painter. While I am Chinese by descent, I have spent the majority of my life in the West. I have a fascination with Chinese history and culture, but I often feel like I’m viewing my ancestry through a filter of Americanized information and experiences. Furthermore, my artistic background has been in charcoal and oil painting mediums, and I’ve had very little experience in actual ink-brush painting. For these reasons, “Impostor” is meant to be a self critique and reflection of my inexperience with the actual ink-brush medium, where I feel like I’m never “good enough,” but I’m embracing it.

The Sim Quarterly: Impostor by FionaFei

Given this, Impostor is a deeply personal piece, offering us insight into Fiona’s world, her feelings and the push-pull she experiences with regards to western upbringing and her Chinese heritage. It is also an installation that again brings forth her innate skill and artistry in presenting a modern-era form of shuǐmò, one that is both evocative and rich in symbolism throughout.

From the landing point, visitors embark on a journey along a set of wooden piers set out as a walkway amidst ink washed mountains, their charcoal outline an echo of Fiona’s artistic background. They lead the way on to a large paint brush – another reminder of her background – that in turn leads naturally into an ascent up through the ink wash mountains to where a pagoda-like temple.

The paint brush forms a physical and symbolic link between Fiona’s background in art and her desire / love of classical Chinese ink-ash art that forms her bridge to her Chinese heritage. More symbols are to be found throughout the installation, several of which Fiona notes herself – the red hands (her own, desperate to reach through her art and physically touch Chinese history and its ancient cultures), the black splashes of paint that splatter the landscape (again bridges between her training in oil and charcoal and the tradition of ink wash she wishes to embrace, red flowers and black trees (the contrasting colours that she uses to emphasise her work), and more.

The Sim Quarterly: Impostor by FionaFei

Most poignantly of all, the red forest of lines and swirls that actually form the Chinese Characters 你是谁 (Ni Shi Shei? – asks “Who are you?”), a question that clearly occupies Fiona’s thoughts – and it is fair to say she is not alone in this; thus the words also touch us as we witness them. They stand as a tangled briar patch, a reflection of how thoughts of who we are can ensnare us. They also stands as a physical reminder of how easy it is to become captive to such thoughts, willingly or otherwise, depending on how our thoughts flow: touch them, and you can be set floating within their midst.  In this, they are one of several sit points that are to be found within the installation, so be sure to mouse around carefully.

Fiona views herself as an inexperienced “impostor” when it comes to ink wash painting. I beg to differ; her work both richly embraces this most ancient form of art and also lifts in to a new and evocative form of expression and storytelling, with Imposter itself a captivating installation that will remain at The Sim Quarterly until the end of May.

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Marketing Second Life: Brett Linden’s insights

via and © Linden Lab

As both the Lab and I have blogged, members of the Second Life Marketing Team will be sitting down on Friday, March 6th in the 16th edition of Lab Gab to discuss their work and respond to submitted questions (see either Lab Gab Episode 16 Streams this Friday at 11am PT/SLT – Linden Lab Marketing Team! – official blog post) or Previewing Lab Gab 16: meet the Marketing team – this blog).

Marketing work is both an art and a science – and with Second Life, the fact the such is the breadth of potential audience and the rich diversity of opportunities within the platform, it can be something of a an arcane combination of activities that, were truth be told, the majority of Second Life users likely wouldn’t be able to fathom as being part of the ongoing work to attract potential new users, were they to be asked.

So, to help shed some light on matters – and to lay the path towards the Lab Gab session he’ll be attending along with Darcy and Strawberry Linden, Brett Linden has prepared a special blog post, The Heart & Science of Second Life Marketing, that offers considerable insight into the Marketing Team’s work when it comes to promoting Second Life, reaching a audience, and bringing new users into the platform and hopefully engaging them as retained residents. As such, it makes for a worthwhile read.

In particular the post examines a number of channels the Lab users for new user acquisition, some of which active SL users may not be aware of, or may not actually associate with trying to bring-in new users. Take video series like those covering destinations in SL or aspects of SL creativity. While we tend to see them by way of the Lab’s blog, we’re actually not the primary target audience.

Running to around 90 seconds in length, these bite-sized looks inside SL are ideal marketing tools that can be used through the medium of paid advertising campaigns, which are and have been enjoying success such that LL is currently in the process of expanding them, both in terms of the numbers of videos and the channels through which they can be used.

Alongside of this, Brett writes about the concept on performance marketing  – one of the mainstays of SL marketing campaigns. Perhaps two of the most visible elements  of this approach of marketing are the SL ads we me see served by Google, or the themed landing pages I’ve written about five years ago (see Landing pages: marketing Second Life and which have continued to be refined and enhanced since then), while the Marketing Team has continued to build on early experience with performance advertising, also refining and improving their approach and the technologies they use, a Brett notes:

We modernised our acquisition efforts last year by putting into place the use of new technologies that allow us to more precisely target new users across numerous themes, communities and genres. As part of this effort, we’ve identified a few dozen strategically-relevant, high-impact community segments and themes — all of which now have new related display, search and video ad content served against specific matched keyword inquiries and sites. Some ads are also served across social media to those with social profiles that express an interest in some or all of our targeted themes. That means that you might see new sci-fi roleplaying ads appearing on some sci-fi fan sites, social media pages, or new romance ads on long-distance relationship forums – the list goes on…  

Encompassing the extensive testing that goes on around these ads and their associated campaigns, more organic forms of advertising, use of social media, outreach to SL users, a read of Brett’s blog post should – one would hope – dispel the notions that either LL “don’t promote” Second Life or that they “don’t know how” to go about promoting it.

The fact is rather the reverse: the Marketing Team pour considerable thought and action into marketing SL and do so by revealing the incredible depth and breadth of the platform’s potential. Which is also not to say they’re not open to ideas or feedback from users – hence the Lab Gab session the post helps to promote, and the links to feedback forms within the post.

So do take time out to read Brett’s post, and don’t forget to listen-in to the Lab Gab session at 11:00am SLT on Friday, March 6th, 2020.