April 3, 2007

Second Life Sculpture - Beauty and Harmony

- by Magellan Egoyan

I believe I encountered Pandora Wake on my second day in Second Life. Although her work does not seem to fit within my purist's idea of « Second Life Sculpture », that is, sculpture unique to the world of SL, there are a number of facets to it that make it relevant to this discussion. Pandora’s work evokes a questioning, a dialogue, a relationship between art in RL and art in SL. This dialogue is also part of what makes art in SL so interesting. I recently went to an art launching in SL consisting of New York City artists whose work was reproduced in SL (visit the GHava Center for the Arts at Haenim (11,114,550)). I was interested by the fact that the work came in all sizes. I asked one of the organizers of the show what the size relationship to the original work was. Well, the answer I got was that the relative sizes of the work were preserved, but all the work had been scaled up by a factor of three. This is a fascinating fact in itself. A given piece of work is created at a given size for all sorts of reasons, and this forms part of the work itself. In what sense is a work of art, scaled to a different size, the « same » work of art? Likewise, in what sense is a work of art « copied » into SL, the same?

Pandora’s work in SL reflects a dialogue about this question. I don’t know if this is done consciously, but I find it fascinating. Her art in RL is stained glass, that is, small pieces of coloured glass that are organized together in a frame. In SL, her stained glass pieces are low prim, that is, they are images of the stained glass pieces from RL, but they have an inherent luminosity one finds absent in RL stained glass unless one puts a light behind them. The images have the slightly « rounded » look of stained glass images. In RL this « rounded » look feels different than in SL. When RL objects are copied in SL, they often have such a « rounded » look – this follows from the way objects are built in SL. So the relationship between observer and art is different in SL for this work, than it would be in RL.

Likewise, stained glass does not serve the same relationship to the observer in SL as in RL. In SL, we occupy houses and land in ways that are quite different than in RL, despite the sometimes disconcerting similarities between homes in SL and in RL. One of the innovations in Pandora’s work I found most appealing is the development of what she calls her "drumming stools". Now, in RL I assume these are stools that African style drummers sit on when they work. Her stools are four-prim objects, again a plus in my books. But the tops of these stools have been converted into gorgeous stained glass pieces. I suspect this is different than what is done in RL – sitting on a stained glass sculpture makes little sense there. But in SL, these make gorgeous objects that are highly useful.

One of the interesting things about Pandora’s work, and her gallery, is what happens at her gazebo next door. Out of all the wonders of Second Life I have seen, I find Pandora’s gazebo and its surroundings to be one of the most beautiful spots I have seen. It changes all the time, and is filled with unusual and visually beautiful elements that work together in a harmonious whole. Some of the objects are works of art produced by friends of hers. One could say Pandora has an eye (and an ear) for beauty in Second Life. This sensitivity towards beauty is reflected in her transpositions of her RL world into SL.

Her work also has a spiritual dimension which is worth mentioning. Much of her stained glass work is inspired by spiritual images and ideas from the American Southwest, including Hopi and Anasazi images. SL needs more in the way of an opening towards a spiritual sensitivity, and Pandora brings this into her work also. Although if you ask her about energy and spirit, she'll start talking about quantum physics!

Another characteristic of much of Pandora's more recent work is that she is focussed on small and intricate things that also have a certain utilitarian role. One can already see this in the drumming stools, but she has also been developing a series of candle holders. I find this interest in the intricate small in SL refreshing, and relatively rare. Most of the time we are drawn to the fact that we can build "big" things in SL - certainly in my own work I'm drawn to the big. I recently encountered Pandora while she was working on a "music box" with a tiny ballerina inside who dances to the music. I think Pandora is exploring a niche inside SL that we could use more of... more of a focus on bringing art into utilitarian objects, more subtle recognition of the spiritual and more of a focus on the small dimensions of SL.

Visit The New Wake Gallery at Theretra (171, 248, 96).


Jackie! said...

on the subject of pieces of artwork being scaled to different sizes, or perhaps copied or recreated: this reminds me of the Duchamp controversy, or of when fine art photography first came into being, or the eternal "fine art vs. design" argument. is a urinal turned on its side to be considered art? is a picture of an item the same as the item itself? are "utilitarian" things such as toilets, chairs, and beds in Second Life to be considered fine art, since none of them have any practical use? my initial response to these queries is that there is *no* answer, or that the answers to these questions are merely opinions ("client-based" answers, as it were)... regardless of my initial reaction, however, i am still inspired to reflect upon these questions further, because Second Life is slowly becoming a medium for an expression, not just a place to hang out.... ow, my brain! :]

these first two articles of yours are excellent contributions to the blog! i can't wait to read more in the future!

Lerner said...

Thank you for your interest in GHava{SL} Center for the Arts. I'd like to offer a bit more insight into our thinking regarding scaling of the works on exhibition. Due to the unfortunate fact that a large majority of SL residents do not know or understand how to use Alt-Camera Controls, we felt that it was important to scale up the "3D representations" (i.e. variable media) of the artists' works for ease of viewing. The original RL art objects were not modified and the SL art objects are unique to SL as variable media works. We draw a distinction between the RL works and their recreations in SL so we do not see the work as the << same >>. Along with exhibiting works that are recreations of RL works, GHava{SL} also exhibits works solely created in SL. No work was << copied >>, for the "your are here" exhibition, the 3D art objects are virtual art recreations and all of the artists exhibiting their works in the show gave prior consent to presenting their work in the way it was displayed.

Kind Regards,
Rhizome Szydlowska

Magellan Egoyan said...

Thank you for your thoughtful response, Rhizome. I wasn't actually criticizing (at least, I don't think I was), but rather commenting on how transformations may occur when moving art from one medium of expression to another. I think these are interesting and useful questions to explore and discuss.

I also find your comment, Jackie, about the "artistic focus" of many SL things, an interesting echo to my own ideas. Indeed, there are many parts of SL that provide one with an experience that is fundamentally aesthetic before it is anything else. It is one of the features of SL I find so attractive.