Tag Archives: art

An hour in Sansar

When I read about a historic roleplaying sim moving from Second Life to Sansar, my reaction was surprise that it was still a thing. I know, I know; while I was away from SL, I didn’t frequent the virtual world blogs either. I had an hour and a decent desktop computer, so I took a Sansar trip.

The software installed while I picked up some free clothing in the store and read help articles to learn basic functionality. A little customization and voila: Sansar me. My avatar won’t win any beauty contests and I was surprisingly annoyed that I couldn’t change eye color — live 40+ years with an unusual eye color in RL and it starts to become part of your identity — but I love what can be done with Marvelous Designer clothing.


I visited Sky Naturae Virtualis by Alex and the Lost Art of Star Wars by Hollywood Art Museum, but it was No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man by Smithsonian American Art that made me start to feel impressed. Sure, my avatar was clumping awkwardly through the rooms, but the displays were gorgeous. I’m a virtual art aficionado and the detail, lighting, moving elements, and sound integration had me gobsmacked. The camera controls or lack thereof were frustrating; I’m not sure if that was my newness or limitations in the Windows version of the app.




There were a few people here and there, but I didn’t stop to chat. I still had a little time and decided to see what creating an experience of my own would be like. The easiest way seems to be to choose a starting layout and then play with the tools. I… well, I learned how to throw things.


They’re planning to put Sansar on Steam by the end of the year, and I can see going back as a virtual tourist again. I think it was a little easier to get started in Sansar than SL, though I had to restart on my first try. It was very pretty. Does that sound like faint praise? I suppose it is. With all that Linden Lab should have learned in the past 15 years, I thought that at this point in Project Sansar, the effort would either be dead or far further along.

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Posted by on November 29, 2018 in Art in SL, Culture


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Practical effects used for gorgeous Lumino City video game

I love CGI and some of my dear friends are digital graphic artists, but effects made with physical objects can be so delightful. The Verge has a nice piece about Lumino City, the sequel to the game Lume, which takes place in a 10 foot tall miniature city that was built in a studio. The article has screenshots and behind-the-scenes construction photos. It looks lovely and warm and reminds me a bit of a paper Monument Valley.

Lumino City – Official Trailer from State of Play on Vimeo.

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Posted by on November 30, 2014 in Gaming, Video


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“Shakespeare By Request Auction” to benefit live theater group in Second Life

The Avatar Repertory Theater has a unique auction going on in Second Life and they were kind to send me a press release. This blog is intentionally not devoted to SL news, but I am always happy to share information about things that I plan to attend/visit or would if I could. In the case of the ART, it was their performance of Alice in WonderSLand back in 2010 that first opened my eyes to the possibilities of immersive virtual world productions. I still have my souvenirs from the show! Their note is posted in full below, as the details of the Shakespeare By Request Auction are a bit complex.


Company Puts Actors up for Auction to Keep Theater Live in (c)Second Life

Since its founding in 2008, Avatar Repertory Theater has presented live theater productions and presentations featuring live voice acting in (c) Second Life.  As they move into their seventh year on the grid, bids are open on their first ever Shakespeare By Request Auction.  From now until November 7th, visitors to the Company’s theater on Cookie can place bids on different members of the acting company for the chance to choose a command performance by that performer from the works of William Shakespeare. These performances will be presented at the Company’s popular “Plays Around” scheduled for Friday, November 21st at 5:00 pm slt.

Panels adorn the patio outside the Avatar Repertory Theater, with the image of each actor or actress whose performance skills are up for bid.  Once the auction closes, the winning bidders will have less than a week to choose their selection from the Shakespearean theatrical canon for that specific player to present.  Winners can be as specific or general as they wish in their request:

  • Simply indicating the play they want, and let the actor find something from it.
  • Choosing a specific scene from a specific play
  • Requesting a favorite monologue that they’ve always wanted to hear this actor perform.

The setting will be simple, featuring Avatar Repertory Theater’s Shakespearean style performance space, which is often obscured by a variety of sets and settings for their biweekly ART Plays Around performances.

Bidding is open to all Second Life Residents.  Those who are less familiar with the company’s players can sample the company’s work at Plays Around performances scheduled for Friday, October 21st and November 7th, also at 5:00 pm slt.

Among the oldest artistic organizations of their kind, Avatar Repertory Theater’s mission is to bring diverse, live theater to a widening range of people through virtual performances, and to expand and challenge their own talents in the craft of acting using this unique media.  This has brought life to everything from first-time realizations of works by living playwrights, to major immersive productions such as their own adaptations of the classic Greek Drama Oedipus Rex (“Oedipus”) and the works of Lewis Carroll in “Alice in WonderSLand” and “Through the Looking Glass.”

Proceeds from the Auction will help Avatar Repertory Theater continue to keep theater, performed live and in voice, a vital virtual presence.

Avatar Repertory Theater is a program of New Media Arts, Inc which has recently released its first Go Fund Me Video in support of their mission to develop graphical, theatrical, literary, educational, library and other fine and practical arts on the internet, in 3D graphical user interfaces, multimedia, new generation computing devices, and other electronic and digital communication media.

New Media Arts, Inc is a registered 501 (c) (3) tax exempt nonprofit organization in the United States, which can be reached at

Learn more about Avatar Repertory Theater at and follow them on Facebook and Google+.

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Posted by on October 15, 2014 in Art in SL


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Roaming through virtual museums

When is the last time you went to a museum? I have a few friends from anthropology studies who are working in museums or preparing to do so. One just got a new position in digital curation and that, combined with the recent article Alone in the Virtual Museum from The New Yorker got me thinking.


The Second Life version of the Motown Museum

I am a museum visitor and I really enjoy them, though lack of mobility has been a problem. Combine that with a dislike of crowds and sometimes browsing a collection online has been an option for me, but rarely has it been a better option. Rather, I use the web to preview a museum or to visit museums I’ll never walk through. For example, the Motown Museum is only about 20 minutes from my home. I’m curious about that part of Detroit history but not much of a fan of the music, so I’ve never visited. Today I explored the museum’s location in Second Life, including an exhibit about Marvin Gaye. Very nice.

There are countless museum project online. Most large museums have some of their collection on the Web. They can’t replicate the feeling of amazement and gratitude I had walking through the British Museum and realizing I was standing inches away from artifacts I had admired and studied, but they can be interesting and useful nonetheless. In the physical world, you can build a glass case, type up some labels, arrange your collection, and ta da!  You’re done. Going back to the Smithsonian museums over the course of 30 years, I knew just where to find some objects because they never changed. Some collections are refreshed and updated more often than others, rotating in objects from what can be vast storage and research areas (I got a behind-the-scenes tour of the Field Museum last year and the anthropology collection never seen by visitors is incredible).

Presenting collections online is an expensive and difficult endeavor, though, beginning with choosing a method. Some do a walk-through tour, some produce complex Flash pieces to present exhibits, others have high resolution photographs. Tours need to be updated and redone for new technology, and as the New Yorker author mentioned, the navigation has been jarring. I tried to look through the Egyptian Antiquities exhibit on the Louvre Museum website but the blank “Chargement en cours” slides that came up whenever I turned a corner gave me a headache. The Flash pieces are fine for special exhibits, though they can be too controlling and movie-like, and they can become little documentaries with far more information than the physical museum presents (for better or worse). High resolution photos allow us to see details closer than ever in real life, but they can give a distorted perspective. Also, part of the art and science of museum curation is in arranging collections – by theme, time, group or artist, etc. Photographs lose that context. Second Life museums avoid a lot of these problems, but because of limitations on prim count (the amount of 3D building blocks permitted in an area) and attempts to reduce lag, they can also feel flat and lifeless. Exploring with an Oculus Rift or similar viewer might be better, but again, someone has to devote the resources to building and maintaining the virtual museum. When budgets are tight, it can be hard for big donors — usually from the local area of the museum — to appreciate the value of online tours. It’s good to read that visits to museums are on the upswing and that digital options are not diminishing that; I’d hate to see physical museums going online-only, at least until we have excellent, rich, immersive virtual reality available to everyone.

The article focuses on the work being done by the Google Cultural Institute, which is quite good. They also offer Google Open Gallery for curators: simple collection and tour-building software that anyone can use (you have to request an invitation with a Google ID, but it is not restricted to “official” museums). That’s a great tool not only for physical museums but for collections that don’t have a display space in the offline world.  Got something to share with the world? Build your own online museum.

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Posted by on September 25, 2014 in Art in SL, Culture


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Talking about loneliness in a virtual world

This will be a somewhat personal post, so if you’re looking for cool robots or my scolding of presumptuous researchers, come back soon. Canary Beck has written a series of thoughtful posts about loneliness in Second Life this week. They’re excellent and are the jumping off point for the rest of this post, so take a few minutes and read them first.  Really.  I’ll wait.

Let me twist the topic a little. One of the big difficulties for people new to SL and even for us oldsters is finding a like-minded group of people and then keeping those relationships connected. That problem is not limited to the virtual world. Consider moving to a new city or even a new country as an adult. You may make some friends through whatever inspired your move — work, school, a relationship, etc — but you’re going to have to be proactive about meeting people beyond that. So, you might go to a gym, join a club, attend a house of worship, introduce yourself to your neighbors, or volunteer. It’s the same in SL: you have to seek out places/groups/activities where the people you want to meet might be, then be willing to make the first step and maybe the second and third (with the vulnerability that Becky mentions in her third post).  If you don’t make meaningful connections that provide the level of care and interaction you need, the most crowded spaces can feel achingly lonely.

There seems to be a notion that people transform completely when they go online; that they put aside whatever was holding them back or engage in wish fulfillment behavior. The wallflower becomes the powerful, glamorous diva; the nerd is the sneering leader of a virtual motorcycle gang. I think it’s very rare that we abandon our offline selves, even if we’d like to. We may drop some inhibitions and exaggerate parts of our personalities, but the baggage we carry in the offline world comes into the virtual no matter what roles we’re playing. We bring our loneliness, neediness, insecurities, and fears as well as our creativity, excitement, compassion, joy, and love. If we’re willing to confront the baggage we can make it lighter, but if we expect it to vanish we’ll be sorely disappointed.

I’m a solitary person by nature, so I couldn’t relate to some of the comments on Becky’s posts. I don’t care if nobody on my Friends list says hello when I’m online and, bad friend that I am, I never greet them. When I teleport to a sim I want to explore and find that it’s empty, my shoulders relax and I breathe a sigh of relief: I can wander in peace. This isn’t because I don’t like people — I practice anthropology, after all! — but because I’ve always been introspective, introverted, and a bit shy. Those are not negative traits from my perspective. Social and gregarious people would have a hard time working alone or traveling by themselves, things I love, whereas I find it uncomfortable to be in crowds or to make small talk.  Not all people who are awkward or shy in the offline world transform into social butterflies online. For me it’s same caterpillar, different leaf.

When it comes to deep relationships, what we crave is to be understood and loved for who we are inside. Building online lives that are facades can contribute to loneliness. I keep thinking of the photo below. Photographer Richard Avedon said, “For hours she danced and sang and flirted and did this thing that’s—she did Marilyn Monroe. And then there was the inevitable drop. And when the night was over and the white wine was over and the dancing was over, she sat in the corner like a child, with everything gone.” [via vintage everyday] Reading her letters and diaries reveals a terribly lonely soul, always striving to be good enough, and very aware that people adored Marilyn and not Norma Jean.

Marilyn Monroe photographed by Richard Avedon, 1957


A tangent before I go: I began this post by referencing Canary Beck.  She’s a co-creator of and performer in Paradise Lost, which I am excited to finally see tomorrow. As of now, it looks like there are still tickets available for June 14th and 21st. After seeing the trailers below, how can you resist?

Update May 14: It was fantastic. If you haven’t gone yet and can still get a ticket, go go go!  I won’t write a full review because others have already done thorough and excellent work of that (I recommend this essay from Mona Eberhardt), but the friends who were with me were impressed too.


Posted by on May 9, 2014 in Embodied Experience, Relationships


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Artistic anarchy

German artist Karen Eliot ran a recent experiment in Second Life: she paid for a sim and opened it to everyone.  By joining the free landowning group, anyone could build or rez there, nothing was disallowed, and at times even terraforming and other land control rights were unrestricted.  Sometimes it looked like this:


and at other times like this:

tumblr_mz298yGPDo1t5bj79o1_r1_1280Karen documented the project on her Anarchotopia blog, which is the source of the photos above. To read the story of the project in chronological order, scroll to the bottom of the page and start at Day 1, then work your way up to the conclusion.

I stumbled upon the project in December when my partner was without access to SL for a while, so I signed on with an alt and jumped around to random places to see what I would find. I joined the Free Land group and visited a number of times. Unlike some who criticized Karen for letting griefers run free, I think she accomplished what she intended and it was certainly interesting.

My experience of the island was much different than Karen’s. I recognized a lot of the old freebies that she may have mistaken for unique creations and I wasn’t enamored of the core anarchist artist group that she seemed to prefer. My goal was never to become part of a community there, though, but just to stop in as a tourist. I had conversations with friendly people twice, if I don’t count the time a giant wasp considered implanting eggs inside me.  Usually my avatar was killed or ejected within a few minutes of arrival.  Once I built a home there.  I dropped some L$ into the donation box to keep the experiment going after the initial month.  I set up little displays — like an oversized antique diving helmet with a fish swimming inside it — on the island and waited to see how long it would take for someone to remove them.  I started wearing a shield and carrying weapons so I had a chance of circumnavigating the area before being murdered. Then, my partner got his computer back and I stopped visiting.

Karen’s blog is worth a look and read. I’m using the experience to contrast what I’m seeing as I poke around the hypergrid a little. More on that in the future.


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Posted by on April 18, 2014 in Art in SL


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Visiting Rust

I finally got around to visiting the much-lauded Rust in Second Life.  The corroded environment was surprisingly whimsical and worth the trip. My photos are dark because I didn’t adjust the atmosphere setting; it was a disturbing twilight and I didn’t want to ruin that effect.

Atop a Rust elephant Elephants at Rust Visit to Rust

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Posted by on May 12, 2013 in Art in SL


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