Bryn Oh’s Brittle Epoch in Second Life

Bryn Oh: The Brittle Epoch

Opening on November 1st at her arts region Immersiva, is Bryn Oh’s latest work, entitled The Brittle Epoch, an installation that has been several months in development.

Whilst it can be viewed as an installation in its own right, The Brittle Epoch forms the second part of Bryn’s Hand trilogy, and so a degree of context with that story is extremely beneficial for visitors. In addition, the Hand trilogy are themselves contained within a universe and timeline that frames and encompasses all of Bryn’s core works, a point those who are not so familiar with her work may unaware. To this end, the landing point for The Brittle Epoch includes a number of reference resources, as do the notes for the installation; for convenience, I’ve gathered the core of these at the end of this article.

However, if you have not previously visited Hand, I would strongly urge you to do so before entering The Brittle Epoch -you can find it on Bryn’s adjoining region courtesy of a grant Bryn received from the Ontario Arts Council.

Hand is the story of a time when society transitioned to living and working in the virtual space. In this society people housed their bodies in inexpensive pods hooked up to food cannisters. They discarded their houses and furniture as they were no longer needed. They evolved past their physical bodies and lived digitally as the person they wanted to be. Overseeing all of this is a singularity AI named Milkdrop, first seen in the Singularity of Kumiko, though only now revealed to be an AI.

– Bryn Oh on Hand

Bryn Oh: The Brittle Epoch

To help understand the overall context / chronology of the narrative flow of Bryn’s installations, the landing point at The Brittle Epoch offers a timeline of core events, together with the various installations and pieces Bryn has created over the course of the last decade or so. For those of us who are admitted “Brynists” (so to speak), it is worthwhile pausing to consider this before moving on to the start point proper.

As an experiential installation, The Brittle Epoch is interactive, as with Hand and other elements of Bryn’s work. Once within the installation itself, be sure to mouse over and touch items, as many can either provide additional information or offer an object. It is also essential you have local sounds enabled, as sounds are used both immersively and narratively. Finally, in terms of general set-up, the installation is also best experienced under its default environmental settings (World → Environments → Use Shared Environment) and with Shadows enabled (Preferences → Graphics make sure Advanced Lighting Model is checked, and then select Sun + Moon or Sun + Moon / Projectors from the Shadows drop-down  – both will give the required lighting).

Bryn Oh: The Brittle Epoch

Again, as with many of Bryn’s pieces, a HUD forms a central element. If you are not a member of the Bryn Oh Experience, you’ll be asked to join in order to receive it. When attached to your screen (this happens as you pass through / touch the doorway to be teleported to the first scene in the story), the HUD will provide an unfolding narrative as you progress through the installation – instructions on its use will be displayed in local chat.

The focus of this installation is the character of Flutter, the girl first introduced to audience in Hand and one of the children left out of the VR “nirvana” entered into by adults, leaving them forced to fend for themselves. She, together with her friends, will lead you through the installation as they embark on a journey from the heart of the city featured in Hand to the suburbs – a place very, very, different in nature, being caught in the midst of a hard winter suggestive of a new ice age that is befalling the world. As such, we follow them into an airship for the trip out to the ‘burbs, and then through the deserted homes that lie there – and beyond.

Bryn Oh: The Brittle Epoch

Here you need to keep an eye on the butterfly icon / listen for the tones so you witness the unfolding story – and be sure to touch the green button when you get to the Medusa, to follow a story-within-the story (and click the black balls before the glowing doors to progress on through this story, which on its conclusion will return you to the snowbound suburbs, allowing you to continue your journey through the story.

I do not wish to give too much of the story away here to avoid spoiling it as it unfolds through its sixteen scenes, so that you might follow and experience it for yourself. What I will say is, that as The Brittle Epoch is bringing Bryn’s larger, decade-spanning story to its conclusion, so too does it reacquaint us with a number of Bryn’s characters from previous works, including Lady Carmagnolle, Rabbicorn and the Daughter of Gears, and others, There is also a lot that might be extracted in terms of familiar mythologies and tales, and enough discrete elements that can also engage our own imaginations, allowing us to add our own twists to the story – a habit I’ve tended to have with several of Bryn’s installations!

Bryn Oh: The Brittle Epoch

The concluding part of the story will be unveiled in due course. However, in the meantime, I would note that Bryn’s work – in particular The Singularity of Kumiko, Hand, and The Brittle Epoch, form part of a course being taught by Carolyn Steele of York University, Toronto, and I hope to cover more of this in the near future with both Dr. Steele and Bryn.

SLurl and Additional Links

As noted, Bryn’s installations all take place within the same over-arching universe, and thus share degrees of connectedness. As such, for those possibly unfamiliar with her work, or who wish to re-acquaint themselves with her themes and idea, I recommend the following resources: