No Spectators 2: a return to SAAM in Sansar

No Spectators 2: The Temple by David Best

In July, I wrote about the opening of a Sansar experience celebrating No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man, an exhibition of art created for the annual Burning Man experiment in community and art held in the Black Rock Desert of north-west Nevada. The experience is a reproduction of a physical world exhibition of the same name, hosted by the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM) at their Renwick Gallery in Washington DC between (effectively) April 2018 and January 2019 as a part of an overall effort by Intel and SAAM to digitise many of the museum’s 157 million objects and present them through the virtual medium as transformative and engaging educational / cultural experiences.

After the publishing of that review, Jason Gholston, Head of Sansar Studios, indicated to me via Twitter that the experience would be expanded over time, and on Monday, September 24th, the official Sansar Twitter account announced the Second Floor of the No spectators experience has now opened to public visits.

No Spectators 2: The Temple by David Best

The centrepiece of the new exhibition is a reproduction of the interior of the 2018 Temple, as designed from laser cut wood by artists David Best. It is an intricate, beautiful design, the original – as are all Temple builds at Burning Man – put to the torch at the 2018 Burning Man event.

David Best is actually responsible for the designs of around half the Temple built at Burning Man, having created the very first in 2000, working with Jack Haye. At the time, Best had been attending Burning Man for about three years, and wanted to present a piece of art. He was also working with a group of young artists who would be attending that same year. One of these young artists was Michael Hefflin, a 28-year-old motorbike enthusiast who was killed not long before the event, and that first temple became something of a memorial to him and to others.

We built this thing and it became obvious that we were building a tribute to Michael. And as we were making it 100 people came by and added the names of people they’d lost. Then we put some diesel on it and burned it.

– David Best, speaking to The Guardian, February 2015

In 2001, Best was asked by the event’s organisers to build another Temple, and given the Black Rock “city” of the festival had just about everything else except a place of meditation, and he took up the offer, and built upon the what had happened in 2000.

I thought, ‘What would I dedicate a temple to?’ Not having any religion – and not being very fond of religion – I thought how in some faiths you can’t be buried in a cemetery if you’ve committed suicide. So since Burning Man welcomes so many things, the most sacred place, in the centre of the temple, should be in honour of those who’ve lost someone to suicide. By the end of the week 500 people had put names in the centre and 10,000 had put names elsewhere in the temple, the names of people they’d lost.

– David Best, speaking to The Guardian, February 2015

In keeping with this, the interior of the piece in No Spectators faithfully reproduces the names and messages left during the 2018 Burning Man festival. Even when visiting the experience in third person desktop mode, these notes, left on Post It sheet, postcards, scrawled on the wood, give an almost tangible emotional depth to the design. So much so that I had another of those rare (for me) moments when I wished I had a VR headset of my own to experience the full immersiveness of the setting while reading them.

No Spectators 2: Hybycozo by Yelena Filipchuk and Serge Beaulieu

Also in the new exhibit area are reproductions of Hyperspace Bypass Construction Zone (Hybycozo for short) models from Burning Man 2014 and 2015. Designed by Yelena Filipchuk and  Serge Beaulieu. Rather than having something to do with Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy, Vogons or the destruction of the Earth, these large structures are, in the artists’ words:

A series of large-scale polyhedral installations and artworks that investigate geometry through light, shadow, and perception. The project is inspired by the intersection of math, science, technology, geometry, material, and light.

– Yelena Flipchu and Serge Beaulieu on Hybycozo

However, it’s hard not to escape the feeling that Adams and his classic radio series and books / records (and the spin-off TV series and film) didn’t have some influence the project’s title…

Next to the Hybycozo display is a hall featuring four Gamelatron Bidadari. Again seen at the 2018 Burning Man, these were actually a recreation of  2013 set of instruments created by Aron Taylor Kuffner. Each features 10 Trompong kettle gongs, 12 Reyong kettle gongs, Klentong, Kempli, 4 hanging gongs, 2 ceng-ceng and 4 Kopyak from Bali and Java, all fitted with mechanical mallets on 4 powder-coated and hand-gilded steel mounts. They are genuine musical instruments, designed to be played, and the versions in Sansar are animated, producing a range of chimes in keeping with their physical world counterparts.

No Spectators 2: Stymen Lumen by FoldHaus Art Collective

The final hall of the exhibition area features three Strumen Lumen, large-scale Origami mushrooms that morph into different shapes when activated by visitors, designed by the FoldHaus Art Collective. Animating them is achieved by touching or clicking on the circular buttons on the floor by each of the Strumen.

As well as having a dedicated experience URL, the upper floor of No Spectators can be reached from the lower floor by wither touching the teleport sign at the foot of the stairs in the entrance hall, or by just walking up the stairs (which will also activate a transfer between the two experiences. Similarly, a transfer to the lower floor can be activated by touching a sign at the top of the stairs, or by starting to walk down them.

I’d personally like to see a little more thought given to the way this material is presented in order to become fully engaged throughout. Much of the art at Burning Man is both mechanical / interactive and / or carries a story with it – as with the Temple builds. As such, it would add to the sense of engagement being able to hear the story of the Temple build, perhaps in David Best’s own words, or to here a complere loop of music Aron Taylor Kuffner has composed / played on the Gamelatron Bidadari.

That said, there is enough in this extension to make No Spectators worthy of further visits, and I hope the Lab / SAAM will resume tours of the experiences in the future. Certainly, it was enough to encourage me t see how video filming works in Sansar, using both of the main exhibition spaces, and the “outdoors” area.

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Wurfi’s Little Gallery: celebrating SL photography in Sansar

Visiting Wurfi’s little Gallery with Silas Merlin

A while back, Linden Lab offered Sansar users a free, basic gallery building space. It’s not overly complex or particularly big; but it remains a nice freebie to have. At the time I thought it could make a neat little studio gallery for showing off SL photography; all it needed was the right artist.

Step forward Wurfi, virtual worlds explorer, blogger and photographer.

Wurfi has  – entirely independently of my own thoughts on the idea, which were never passed on to anyone – done just that. Wurfi’s Little Gallery is exactly what it says on the label: a little gallery exhibiting some of Wurfi’s SL photography; eight pieces in all (at the time of writing).

Wurfi’s Little Gallery: the bear in his art!

It’s a simple, elegant approach, the gallery sits essentially as a skybox, a spawn point inside, and the four walls adorned with Wurfi’s excellent photographs. It’s fast-loading, fun to visit, and offers a nice reminder of Second Life from within Sansar. It’s also a great little place for those who may not have tried Sansar to try out the client and the basic movement controls without being distracted or confused by Things. Just go, practice walking and admire the photography!

I’m hoping Wurfi expands it with more images from his Flickr stream in the future.

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Drew Struzan Gallery and Studio to open in Sansar

Opening on Friday. March 23rd, 16:00: Drew Struzan Gallery and Studio at the Hollywood Art Museum

Drew Struzan is a giant in the fields of art and film. Over his 40-year career, his talent has graced more than 150 movie posters for some of cinema’s most memorable films – including Indiana Jones, Back to the Future, and Star Wars – and extends to book covers, album covers, and other fine art. And on Friday, March 23rd, his art will be available within Sansar as a part of the The Hollywood Art Museum (HWAM) project, established by Greg Aronowitz.

HWAM’s mission is to encourage artists in the digital medium to find fresh inspiration in the traditional arts of Hollywood’s past, through the preservation and education of art used in entertainment. Its first major exhibition, featuring reproductions of pieces – models, production drawings, props, merchandise from the Star Wars franchise films – which came ahead of the US opening of the latest film in the series Star Wars: The Last Jedi (read more about the Star Wars exhibition here).

Drew Struzan

The Drew Struzan Gallery and Studio marks HWAM’s second gallery space in Sansar, and presents visitors with a unique opportunity to view the work of one of the greatest illustrators of modern times, and to also get a peek inside his private studio.

Born in Oregon City, Oregon in 1947, Drew Struzan fell in love with art and drawing while a boy. “I didn’t go to movies, I didn’t watch TV,” he once recalled. “I didn’t have comic books. The closest I would ever come, is I would go to the library and get out art books and draw from the old masters. So I had an education and background in the masters of the art I liked to paint.”

A school Counsellor asked him about his interest in art and told him he had a choice between fine art or illustration, saying that as a fine artist he could paint what he wanted, but as an illustrator he could paint for money.

Struzan opted for the latter, later saying, “I was poor and hungry, and illustration was the shortest path to a slice of bread, as compared to a gallery showing.”

The 1977 Star Wars “Circus” poster, featuring Drew Struzan’s oil painting portraits of the film’s characters (1977)

From college, Struzan started his career not in film, but in music, creating the album covers art for artists like  Tony Orlando and Dawn, The Beach Boys, Bee Gees, Roy Orbison, Black Sabbath, Earth, Wind and Fire, Liberace and Alice Cooper.

In 1977 he was contacted by fellow artist Charles White III, who had been hired to produce a poster for the upcoming 1978 re-release of the original Star Wars film. Uncomfortable with portraiture, White asked Struzan for help, and between them they came up with a distinctive poster design, which became known as the “Circus” poster, depicting what appears to be a torn posted bill on a plywood construction site wall.

It was the start of an enduring relationship with top-flight movies. For the next 30+ years, Struzan would create some of the most iconic and memorable one-sheets for some of Hollywood’s biggest and highest grossing films and film franchises, including the Indiana Jones franchise, the Star Wars franchise, Blade Runner, the Police Academy series, Back to the Future, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Hellboy, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and many, many more.

For the Sansar exhibition, Greg Aronowitz work closely with Struzan and members of Linden Lab’s Sansar Studios team led by Jason Gholston, to carefully and painstakingly reproduce Struzan’s art – including the “Circus” poster – within an immersive virtual setting. Many of the pieces have interactive elements associated with them: wall-mounted buttons can be pressed to hear audio relating to the pieces.

Also involved in the work is Kevin Cain, CEO of Insight Digital. This is the company that, working with the Lab’s Sansar Studios team, brought three real-world sites of antiquity in Egypt into Sansar, allowing people to visit and appreciate them in ways which cannot be shared in the physical world because the sites in question are not open to the public (read more about this project here).

A poster celebrating George Lucas and his filmmatic legacy, by Drew Struzan

For this project, Kevin Cain brought the same techniques used by Insight Digital to map ancient Egyptian tombs and monuments – laser scanning and photogrammetry to accurately reproduce Struzan’s own private studio and then upload it into Sansar as a place for people to visit.

The result is a stunning environment – gallery and Studio together – in which Struzan’s art and artistry can be fully appreciated, as a sneak previewed via livestream video by Deviant Art on Thursday, March 22nd revealed.

From left to right: Jason Gholston, Drew Struzan, Greg Aronowitz discuss the Drew Struzan Gallery in Sansar during a Deviant Art livestream event with host Matthew Holt. Credit: Deviant Art

The grand opening of the Drew Struzan Art Gallery and Studio in Sansar will take place between 16:00 and 20:00 PDT on Friday, March 23rd, and will comprise the following events:

  • 16:00-17:00: Greg Aronowitz and Drew Struzan reflect on their careers in film and Hollywood, and on Drew’s artistic legacy.
  • 17:00-18:00: an exclusive walk-through of Drew’s never-before-seen private studio, 3D-scanned into Sansar, and find out how the space came together from Insight Digital’s Kevin Cain and Jason Gholston, Head of Sansar Studios.
  • 18:00-20:00 the grand opening party and a chance to tour the entire experience on your own or with friends.

To attend the gallery opening, go to the Drew Struzan Gallery & Studio – Grand Opening in the Events section of the Sansar client or on the web 15 minutes before the event is due to start and click the Join option.

And for those who want to know a little more about Drew Struzan, here’s the trailer for the 2013 documentary, Drew: The Man Behind The Poster.

 

Two quirky stops in Sansar for the holidays

Sansar: The Violin Tree

As it is the holidays and a time for fun and games, I thought I’d blog about two quirky experiences in Sansar which are easy to hop into and enjoy.

The first is the Violin Tree, by Mikki Miles, which offers a fun little trip into the world of music in an abstract kind of way – and one easily missed if not careful. The setting is simple enough: a square, hilly island rising from open waters, a circular lake at its centre. To one side, a down the slope from the spawn point, a wooden jetty points towards a raft floating on the water. A walk out along the jetty will reveal several things: the first is that half of it is a xylophone, which is playing randomly. The second is that a voice is singing over on the raft – but don’t try to walk to it over the water! The singing comes from a megaphone sitting on the raft alongside a wooden frame containing Sandro Botticelli’s Venus from The Birth of Venus (circa 1480-1490), with a granite sculpture sitting on the other side of the frame (if you want to get close use F4 + the movement keys to freecam over the water).

Sansar: The Violin Tree

Atop the island, each flanking a central body of water, sit a tree – the titular violin tree – and the 40,000 year-old bone flute of the experience description. On the lake, a little rubber duck scoots around, attracting attention; walk towards it and as you reach the edge of the lake, the duck vanishes as a gigantic piano rises from the water, the fall board and main lid opening before the piano starts to play Handel’s Water Music – albeit it slightly tinny. Similarly, approach the tree and / or bone flute, and they will also impart a music excerpt, while the brass “piping” rising from the outer slopes of the island are revealed to be the tubing of trumpet, horn or trombone.

But that’s not all. To one side of the island there sits what appears to be the entrance to a mine.  Visitors can enter it and follow the tunnel down into the island, where a little more musical fun is to be had, including a nice tip-of-the-hat to the Rolling Stones.

The Violin Tree isn’t a hugely ambitious experience – but it is one cleverly considered, which makes good use of ambient sounds and trigger volumes to offer an eclectic little musical / art / historical  visit.

Sansar: The Violin Tree

Back in September I visited the Reverse Perspective Art gallery by JackTheRipper, which offers a fascinating tour into the world of reverspective art, as conceived by Patrick Hughes (see here for more).  This is actually one of two art / optical illusion focused experiences created by JackTheRipper, and I for my second little recommendation, I offer the second: his Optical Illusions Arena.

Exceedingly simple in presentation – to the point where it might initially seem to be just a random space where someone has been playing – the Optical Illusions Arena again has more to it than may at first appear to be the case. As the name suggests, it is a space containing images and items designed to trick the eye through the use of set observation points, forced perspective and so on. What’s more, it works in either VR or Desktop mode.

Sansar: Optical Illusions Arena – from one vantages point, an odd painting on the floor (l); from another, a ladder against a wall (r)

Scattered around the single-room arena are a number of elements, some in 3D – such as what at first appears to be a collection of sticks hanging in the air – through to seemingly random paintings on the floor. Also appearing on the floor are a series of red dots with arrows indicating a direction in which to look. When standing on one of these and looking in the direction indicated either in VR mode or first-person (F3) view in Desktop mode, will reveal the secret of one of these random collections or paintings. Thus, the group of coloured sticks becomes as set of painted wooden chairs, the odd splodge of white-and-grey on the ground becomes an opening in the floor, and so on.

If visiting with a couple of friends, the reproduction of an Ames room can offer the most interesting effect. When viewed from the observation point outside of the room, two avatars entering it through the doors on either side will appear to be very differently sized, one to the other, and interesting effects – from the observer’s perspective – can then be had as they move around the room.

Sansar: Optical illusions Arena – the Ames room will make two avatars appear to be different sizes when they are apparently the same distance from the observer (note: the disjointed element of the image is due to my attempt to demonstrate the effect with one avatar and two photos, not a reflection of the build)

Neither the Violin Tree nor Optical Illusions Arena are going to set the world on fire in terms of being major attractions – but that’s not the intend of either. They’re about having a little bit of fun while experimenting in 3D and with Sansar’s tools. As such, if you find yourself with ten or fifteen minutes on your hands, why pay them both a visit?

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The art of Jay Salton in Sansar

Sansar: Jay Salton Art Gallery

Jay Salton is an Australian digital artist with a remarkable eye for creating stunning images which encompass fantasy, surreal and abstract elements and which are rich in colour and depth. He’s long held a desire to see his art evolve into a virtual space which people can explore and experience with their own senses. As Renegade Rabbit, he has taken a step along the road towards this evolution within Sansar, where he presents the Jay Salton Art Gallery.

Set within a walled meadow, the gallery building is fronted by a small garden with a lean towards Japanese influences. The spawn point is at the end of a footpath that leads beneath a Torii gate and over a water feature from which rise two small islands, each topped by a tree – one of which has something of a Bonsai-like topiary around it. A young lady sits on a rock before the water feature, while Jay’s love of the surreal is catered for by the presence of two gigantic mushrooms flanking the gallery building in the meadow.

Sansar: Jay Salton Art Gallery

The gallery, wrapped in the greenery of young birch-like trees, is of modern design, with clean lines with the interior finished in soft tones – an ideal backdrop for Jay’s stunning art. At the time of my visit, fourteen pieces of Jay’s work were on display, eight in individual alcoves or mounted on their own on walls, the remaining four grouped together along the rearmost of the gallery’s walls.

These are all visually stunning pieces, presenting marvellous scenes that range from might Saturn (at least I assume it is Saturn) rising over one of Titan’s hydrocarbon lakes, to images of fabulous islands one can easily picture in the South Seas, to studies of fantasy settings and images hinting at mysticism and magic. All are fabulously evocative, carrying rich narratives that speak to us as we look at them – and which perhaps reveal something of the artist himself, and his love of the digital medium.

Sansar: Jay Salton Art Gallery

“My artistic pursuit started at a young age when I dreamed of creating worlds and realities of my own,” Jay notes, before going on to reveal his life took a darker road. Drugs, a diagnosis of schizophrenia at 18, and a decent into hopelessness from which he escaped through glass blowing after his uncle stepped in and gave him a job at his glass studio. And thus his delight in creativity and art was renewed.

He goes on to note, “When I discovered digital art I was given the tools to turn my childhood dreams into a reality.” With a gift for working with Photoshop, 3Ds Max and Bryce, Jay now offers his worlds and his imagination for all of us to enjoy – and having visited his work in Sansar, I’m looking forward to see how else he might use the platform where he might further realise his dream of evolving his art as a virtual space.

Sansar: Jay Salton Art Gallery

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Sansar: the art of Silas Merlin

Felsenmeer – Silas Merlin

I’ve been an admirer of the art of Silas Merlin since first coming across his pastel art in Second Life. A Maître Pastelliste of the Société des Pastellistes de France, his painting are remarkable, and I urge anyone who has not seen them in-world to do so. Over the last two years, Silas has also been branching out into 3D art, developing his skills as a sculptor – something I’ve been at times been privileged to witness.

For the last several months Silas has been working in Sansar, creating an experience to showcase his work. Called Felsenmeer, Silas describes it thus:

A sea of rock, peopled by creatures frozen in time. When you encounter the more detailed rocks, observe them from different angles, sometimes they reveal figures that want to be carved in more detail.

Felsenmeer – Silas Merlin

It’s a perfect description for the setting, in which sits a large house and smaller cottage, surrounded by a field of boulders  – genuine felsenmeer, together with larger rock formations, in turn surrounded by hills.  Look closely enough at some of the rocks, and you just might see sculptures waiting to be found: one formation, for example, suggests it might become a dancing couple, or perhaps a grandfather sitting his grandson on his knee…

Other stones and boulders have already had the sculptures within them released. Finely crafted, several sit close to the house. Others, further away, have the look of being cast in bronze – as do the trees, which add a certain alien feel to the landscape.

Felsenmeer – Silas Merlin

The ground floor of the main house is occupied by many of Silas’ circus characters, complete with one of his pastel pieces – a jester, appropriately enough. The house is also the home of a modern sculpture  – and find this, and you’ll find a ramp leading up to the upper floors (you may need to SHIFT-teleport to get onto one floor from the ramp), where more of Silas’ expressive pastels reside, together with some more sculptures; these are not to be missed, so do make sure you explore the house.

The rest of this intriguing landscape should also be explored; the landscape is all boulders and rock formations. Follow the paths outward from the house and you’ll find there are surprises to be found tucked away here and there. So don’t limit your explorations to just the vicinity of the house and cottage.

Felsenmeer – Silas Merlin

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