Saturday, August 3, 2013

Mirror People

Who is in the mirror? This film is inspired by a Borges tale, "The Fauna of Mirrors" in the The Book of Imaginary Beings, which describes how someday the "mirror people" and creatures will break free of having to reflect our lives and go back to their own.

The music is special to me because my student at Berklee College of Music, Isaiah Morfin, wrote and recorded the song "Reflections" after I asked my students if they had any songs with the word reflection in them. I particularly like the song because it explores some of the themes about seeming and being from our course, "What Is Being?"

For University of Western Australia MachinimUWA VI: Reflections.

Mirror People
A Digital Film by Lori Landay/L1Aura Loire

Music: "Reflections"
Composed & performed by Isaiah Morfin

Recorded at Berklee College of Music

Machinima captured in the virtual world Second Life at UWA and Loireland

Reflections set built by Lori Landay with house and furniture from [what next] by Winter Thorn

Inspired by "The Fauna of Mirrors" by Jorge Luis Borges, in The Book of Imaginary Beings. translated by Andrew Hurley (New York: Penguin Classics, 2006).

Art dresses based on Salavdor Dali's "Landscape with Butterflies" (1959) and Joan Miró's "Ciphers and Constellations, in Love with a Woman" (1941) by Thera Taurog

Trapped Wizard Tree by Alexith Destiny

Mocap animations by Abranimations and Henmations

Documentary footage from "Science Nation: Butterflies and Bats Reveal Clues about Spread of Infectious Disease." an interesting kind of reflection involving the symbol of metamorphosis.

For University of Western Australia MachinimUWA VI: Reflections, June 2013, featuring virtual versions of spaces for reflection at UWA:
The Reflection Pond Next to Winthrop Clock Tower
The Sunken Gardens
'Gift from the Gods' by Robin Takinthou, recreated by FreeWee Ling

Mirror People by Lori Landay is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

PATHS TO WISDOM: Reflections on Why I Chose Interactive Video for a Recent Project

Paths to Wisdom is an interactive video exploration that uses some of the features available in YouTube for navigation.  For the past few years, especially in refining and teaching my course Digital Narrative Theory and Practice, I've been experimenting with making different kinds of interactive media--interactive fiction, interactive comics, and slowly delving into Mozilla's Popcorn for interactive video--but YouTube afforded the quickest way to connect the different video segments together for the UWA MachinimUWA V: Seek Wisdom Challenge.

I had a version of the movie that was the first segment, "Paths to Wisdom" and the "last," "Conclusions?" but I had always had the idea of making this entry interactive because I so firmly believe that the path to wisdom is a participatory, interactive one.  That is the bedrock of my educational philosophy as a teacher and a life-long learner.  So I wanted the experience of my "Seek Wisdom" entry to mirror the ideas I expressed explicitly and implicitly in the video.  Most of the footage is of movement through the art installations I chose as companions to the concepts, with repeated motifs of paths in those installations and Hannah Hannya's terrific Ear Labyrinth.  Looking for and filming different paths made me realize once again the spectacular diversity of aesthetic and technical approaches in virtual art.  Having only a laptop and not my usual more powerful desktop machine made me more aware of the limitations faced by my students when they film machinima for assignments, an example of wisdom gained from the experience of being on a path different from the usual, and not completely of one's own choosing.

The labyrinth is the central visual and thematic metaphor.  A labyrinth that people walk for meditation and contemplation is not a maze, where one is lost, or a puzzle that you try to solve.  In a labyrinth, you can see where the end is, but that is not the point.  The point is the winding journey, the reversals, taking the time, taking the indirect route to the center.  My experience in Second Life and virtual worlds really coalesced when I participated in a research study by the Massachusetts General Hospital Neurology Department to see whether people could be taught the Relaxation Response in a virtual environment.  (They conclude yes, and I agree.)   I no longer have access to the 3D virtual labyrinth that was built there, so I searched for other labyrinths and looked around until I found Hannah Hannya's Ear Labyrinth.

The idea for Paths to Wisdom is that you watch the first part (below) and then use the links to click on your next path in any order you want.  At one point I had a branching structure, where you could only choose between two options, but then I opened it up to all the options in keeping with the overall concept of participation and agency.   At the very least, I hope people will watch the first, perhaps one more, and then "Conclusions?"

Click on the links at the end to choose your path -- The Past, Nature, Science, The Future, The Oracle, Art -- in any order you want.  You may want to end with "Conclusions?" -- or not! 

Can't see use the interactive features because you are on a mobile device?  Use the playlist:

The paths to wisdom intersect and circle back; it is the exploration, the journey that is most important, and this interactive video piece uses YouTube annotations to offer you choices about which path to explore next.  Form and interface reflect and shape the paths to wisdom.

Written, filmed in Second Life, narrated, and edited by Lori Landay.  Music by Moby.  Featuring selected art at LEA (Linden Endowment for the Arts) regions and Treasures of University of Western Australia in Second Life.  Full credits at the end of the last video, "Conclusions?"

Is Paths of Wisdom interactive?

When “interactive” refers to human-machine communication, we get into the idea of a communication loop.  Interactive architecture systems designer Usman Haque explains, “At its fundamental, interaction concerns transactions of information between two systems (for example between two people, between two machines, or between a person and a machine). The key however is that these transactions should be in some sense circular otherwise it is merely ‘reaction’ “ ("Architecture, Interaction, Systems," by Usman Haque, 2006 , p. 1).  However, and perhaps more applicable to art experiences, motion-tracking and biosensor performer and researcher Robert Wechsler elucidates, “we must think of interaction primarily as a psychological phenomenon, rather than a technical one” ("Artistic Considerations in the Use of Motion Tracking with Live Performers: A Practical Guide," in
Performance and Technology: Practices of Virtual Embodiment and Interactivity, Susan Broadhurst & Josephine Machon, eds. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006, p.62), and adds, “interaction in a feeling you an achieve in a performance setting.  It relates to spontaneity, openness and communication” (64). 

New media theorist Lev Manovich distinguishes between "open" and "closed" interactivity:

In the case of branching interactivity, the user plays an active role in determining the order in which the already generated elements are accessed. This is the simplest kind of interactivity; more complex kinds are also possible where both the elements and the structure of the whole object are either modified or generated on the fly in response to user's interaction with a program. We can refer to such implementations as open interactivity to distinguish them from the closed interactivity which uses fixed elements arranged in a fixed branching structure. Open interactivity can be implemented using a variety of approaches, including procedural and object- oriented computer programming, AI, AL, and neural networks. (Manovich, The Language of New Media, (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2002, p. 59).

Although there is not the loop that Haque describes (the videos do not change based on the order, or your input), Paths to Wisdom might fulfill Wechsler's emphasis on interaction as a feeling, and definitely is an example of branching interactivity, a curiously and deliberately open instance of "closed" interactivity.  Either way, it employs "interactive video" how it is used and understood right now, with popularly available tools like YouTube.  I am working on a more extensive interactive video project, part of which is web-based and uses a branching structure with changing outcomes depending on your choices.  The issue with interactive video, like interactive fiction, is creating a satisfying narrative experience that is also interactive, without disrupting the pleasures of reading and watching with unnecessary doing, or rather by augmenting the pleasures of reading or watching with meaningful choices that do not burst the "suspension of disbelief" but create an engagement of belief and co-creation in the text.   As interactive media develops with more sophisticated circular information transactions and, simultaneously, easier interfaces through which to experience the loops, or the feeling of a loop, it should be interesting to see what kind of content suits the emerging forms.  The only thing I know for sure is that the path to discovering it will be winding, challenging, and fun.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Breaking Barriers: "Transformation: Virtual Art on the Brink" Wins Awards & Other UWA News


Several people have asked me for the written transcript of the voice over, and at last I've edited the script I wrote so it matches what ended up in the film:

It is not surprising that much of the virtual world is modeled on what we know--physical spaces like art museums, or that art in it draws on what's come before--each new medium does that. but the best virtual art is a new kind of new media, using the particular properties of the virtual world to make metaphors manifest.

The avatar, the visual representation of the spectator, separates or connects our point of view to the avatar's position with the mobile camera, the virtual kino-eye.

When the avatar approaches Misprint Thursday's video art and music installation "Digital Glove," we only see and hear when we enter the space and turn on the media stream. This is kind of like augmented reality.

Virtual art has to stand on its own, as this piece does, but it also gives us a glimpse of augmented reality, not either virtual or physical, but layers of visual, kinetic, and haptic, interfaces overlayed on the actual world. The physical world becomes part of the interface, or vice versa, recasting the material world as another level of data to be combined with what can be seen only with some kind of device.

"The matter of ideas" by Gleman Jun uses a script to put the visitor's name in the piece, as if you were the person on the bench. It reminds us that matter in a virtual world is data. The ideas which can be realized, the metaphors manifested, are manipulated in a different way than when gravity, scarcity, and other physical limitations are involved. When we use an avatar, we position ourselves both in front of and within the virtual art, and toggle between them literally and metaphorically. Seeing the person with your name on it generate an image of itself, calls our attention to the work of art in the age of virtual reproduction.

In "Here Comes the Sun," Sledge Roffo makes a piece the spectator can not only see, but change, choosing colors, setting off sunbursts, triggering sounds. It raises the questions of whether pieces like this are interactive or reactive, and maybe that depends on whether you experience it from in front of or within it. When we play the piece, we perform it, and enter into a new relationship to the artwork, and the environment in which we experience it, as a performer.

My piece, “One and Four Timeboards” takes an imaginary prop from a film I shot in Second Life and installs it like Joseph Kosuth’s 1965 piece One and Three Chairs: the object itself, a photograph of the object where it is installed, and a definition of the word. But this is a virtual piece, so it is clickable, and yields, to the user, an unknown and unpredictable result: being teleported to a sphere above the gallery which mimics the timetravel sequences in the movie. It is meant as a moment of disruption, of instability in one’s perceptual field, and to suggest that in virtual art, there is a fourth aspect of meaning to consider: transformation.

I could click on it because nothing's gonna happen--WAIT! What? No!

Ohh, no and spinning, where is this? So familiar . . . it can't be . . . this is the time lab, but that's not a real place, it's the set I built for making machinima. and those are the other time boards, those are my avatars, my characters! OHHHHHHH!

Misprint Thursday's "Digital Glove"

One of the installations featured in the film, Misprint Thursday's "Digital Glove," took the top prize in the entire Year-long UWA 3D Open Art Challenge. Misprint is one of the artists in the exhibition I'm currently curating at LEA4, InterACT! (and she shared 5th prize with another InterACT! artist Glyph Graves), and her work is continually connecting video, music, 3D virtual art, computer mediated communication, and traditional art technique. I'm delighted "Digital Glove" was recognized because the piece is works so well on many levels--as an installation, as a video installation, as multimedia combining virtual installation, an original song with lyrics and music that make connections to the virtual and digital medium in which they were created and in which they are experienced, as a piece that uses the specific affordances and properties of the virtual world. When I was editing the footage I filmed of "Digital Glove" for "Transformation," I loved being with the piece so much that I cut a video for the entire song, and here it is:

Iono Allen's "Virtual Love" Also Wins a Machinima Prize at UWA

Virtual love also won one of the top prizes. This is an inspired film about an artwork, because of the way it both shows it and also transforms it, making a film that enters into dialogue--or dance--with the piece, rather than only documenting it. It is in that way an original piece of film art, standing (or dancing, or plunging) on its own.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

InterACT! with Mixed Reality at LEA4: 11/26/11

Tonight you can see for yourself the mixed reality performance/participatory environment that is Senses Places at InterACT! on LEA4. I've been experimenting with two of the ways of interacting with my avatar from outside of the Second Life interface: the webcam interface and the wii mote. These are not really spectator sports, but something you do and experience, but I think that when we do them together at the event on Saturday night, it might be really fun and interesting. For the wii mote, you need a mac computer (that is the platform the program you download was written for), but for the webcam, all you need is the webcam, and the HUD available at Senses Places. Instructions are at the environment, too.


WEBCAM INTERFACE --this is what it looks like in your web browser when you use the HUD in Second Life and the web interface with webcam. Only you see this on your computer, but your avatar responds to what you do.


5-7pm (PST/GMT-8)
AT InterACT! on LEA4

InterACT! art exhibition entrance SLURL: (There is a teleporter there to go up to Senses Places environment or go directly to:

Mixed Reality Participatory Performance Environment

With livestream video of performers in Portugal and Japan who will also be in SL, as well as the opportunity for you to participate in SL, with or without a mixed reality component of your own with webcam or wii mote. If you have either of those, you can manipulate your avatar from outside SL. Come over and experiment with other people who are doing that, too, and see what it's like.

Instructions and a HUD are available at the Senses Places environment,

See the LEA blog for more details.

By Butler2 Evelyn/Isabel Valverde & Toddles Lightworker/Todd Cochrane
with Anisabel/Ana Moura, Lux Nix/Clara Gomes, In Yan/Keiji Mitsubuchi, Island Habana/Yukihiko Yoshida, Jun Makime, Yumi Sagara and others

A Linden Endowment for the Arts exhibition showcasing interactive virtual art

Virtual art can invite, or even insist, that you interact with it. The artists in this exhibition cleverly and creatively make art out of interactions between data, objects, actions, and people within and beyond the virtual world in a stunning array of installations and experiences that stretch the possibilities of virtual art. Expect the unexpected, and click whenever you can. #interactLEA

Installations by:

Eupalinos Ugajin

Glyph Graves

Lorin Tone

Maya Paris

Misprint Thursday

PinkPink Sorbet

Selavy Oh

Interactive environment for audience participation & interactive mixed reality cross-cultural performances by: Butler2 Evelyn/Senses Places

With: Mesh by Sage Duncan, Machinima Mutoscope Viewers by FreeWee Ling, Twitter Garden by Frans Charming, Inner Tube Ride of Your Life by UzzU Artful

Curated by L1Aura Loire/Lori Landay, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Visual Culture & Interactive Media, Berklee College of Music

Monday, October 3, 2011

LEA 1-4 Art Shows Open Mid-October

The Linden Endowment of the Arts is an official Linden Community Partnership program whose purpose is to help new artists, cultivate art in SL, and foster creativity, innovation, and collaboration within the art community.

The Linden Endowment for the Arts is proud to announce four art shows opening in mid-October:

On LEA1: The 2011 Survey of Hyperformalists in Second Life, curated by DC Spensley AKA DanCoyote

Opening October 15

The Museum of Hyperformalism, founded in 2006, to promote the unique genre of metasculptural abstraction in simulated space.

featuring the metasculptural artwork of:

Josina Burgess

Oberon Onmura

Ray FX

Sabine Stonebender

Selavy Oh

Suzanne Graves

Velasquez Bonetto

On LEA2: The Path, curated by Bryn Oh

Opening October 14

Based off the Surrealists exquisite corpse concept, each artist was randomly given a scene to compose. A narrative is begun by artist one who then passes it on to artist number two. Artist two adds to the story and passes it on to three and so on until the narrative reaches its conclusion at artist number eight.

Artists in order by scene

1-Bryn Oh

2-Colin Fizgig

3-Marcus Inkpen

4-Desdemona Enfield / Douglas Story

5-Maya Paris

6-Claudia222 Jewell

7-Scottius Polke

8-Rose Borchovski

On LEA3: FAST ART: Competitive Build Improvisation In The Virtual World, hosted by Solo Mornington

A series of speed build competitions, until the sim is full.

Twice-weekly events, with a number of options for artists in all time zones.

On LEA4: Interact!, curated by L1Aura Loire/Lori Landay

Opening October 15

Virtual art can invite, or even insist, that you interact with it. The artists in this exhibition cleverly and creatively make art out of interactions between data, objects, actions, and people within and beyond the virtual world in a stunning array of installations and experiences that stretch the possibilities of virtual art. Expect the unexpected, and click whenever you can. #interactLEA

Installations by:

Eupalinos Ugajin

Glyph Graves

Lorin Tone

Maya Paris

Misprint Thursday

PinkPink Sorbet

Selavy Oh

Interactive environment for audience participation & interactive mixed reality cross-cultural performances by: Butler2 Evelyn/Senses Places

With: Mesh by Sage Duncan, Machinima Mutoscope Viewers by FreeWee Ling, Twitter Garden by Frans Charming, Inner Tube Ride of Your Life by UzzU Artful

All four art shows will run for three months.

Also, on LEA6, ongoing, monthly, the LEA Full Sim Art Series

and the first Wednesday of each month, 7 pm SLT, at the LEA Theater, the Month of Machinima Screening Event, with conversations about the films with L1Aura Loire & the filmmakers

Check back here for more information about opening events, schedules for LEA3 speed builds, performances, and more . . . including some big news from the LEA.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Thinking about Virtual Art: One and Four Ways

I've been thinking a lot about virtual art, about art in virtual worlds, between teaching about it, making it, being a member of the Linden Endowment for the Arts Committee, and working on a paper and presentation for the Media in Transition 7 Unstable Platforms: The Promise and Peril of Transition conference at MIT. The paper ended up growing beyond a conference paper, the seed of a major project for me, and I focused on virtual art for the presentation. (Presentation I gave at the conference is here, the part of the paper about art is here, and the bigger paper is here. Both papers are PDF files and take a little while to load.)

As I often do, I made something while I thought about my ideas, or maybe I thought about the concepts while I made something: "One and Four Timeboards."

This piece, offered tongue in cheek, takes an imaginary object, a prop from my machinima "Time Journey," and installs it according to the instructions for Joseph Kosuth's "One and Three Chairs." Kosuth certainly was not the first one, in 1965, to destabilize the meaning of the object in the gallery, but his piece was part of the crystallization around Conceptual Art that called those categories into question, and emphasized process and transition, in both art-making and meaning-making.

Plus, because we are in a virtual world, there is more. Click on the timeboard. Your experience suggests a fourth aspect to add to the object, image, and word to which Kosuth called attention in 1965.

The piece is one of the ideas I have for installations that connect "art" and machinima in virtual worlds. More of these from me in the future, especially around the time travel idea.

Slurl to teleport to the piece at UWA in Second Life:

AND, when I went over to Cyland to install "One and Four Timeboards" in the virtual FutureFluxus exhibit, where I'll add an audio dimension (the piece should evolve each time, I think), I got completely sidetracked by the Carrot teeter-totter Man Michinaga has there. But the timeboards will be there soon. For more on FutureFluxus, see: