Friday, December 12, 2014

An interview with Cutea Benelli and Blotto Epsilon


Cutea Benelli and Blotto Epsilon

     I remember seeing the Bogon Flux at Burning Life years ago and thinking how wonderful it was, how it really used the unique properties of a virtual space successfully.  Then they created the Petrovsky Flux (essentially an updated version of the Bogon) which is still one of my favorite creations which you can see here http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Spencer%20Art%20Museum/57/36/21
     Cutea and Blotto are two playful minds and their personalities, in themselves, perhaps explain how their quirky artworks were ever devised in the first place. The idea for these interviews are for the reader to see who some of my favorite artists are as people, their attitudes, beliefs, interests and hopefully some unexpected revelations.  Hope you enjoy it.
Bryn Oh: Where are you from?  And who are the most renowned artists (not necessarily best) from your country in your opinion?

Cutea Benelli: I’m from Germany, but to be honest I’ve never really looked at where an artist comes from. If you ask specifically for German artists...i like a lot of earlier 20th century things.
Gerhard Richter

If you’re asking for more recent stuff...hm... I suppose Gerhard Richter is among the best-known, internationally. The last show i went to - it’s been a while - was a Sasha Waltz retrospective. It was particularly interesting to me as it seemed to oscillate between installation and performance, with live dancers interacting with and completing the art spaces.

Blotto Epsilon:  from east coast U.S., specifically the state that futurama likes to make fun of. i’m honestly drawing blank on renowned U.S. artists, probably because they’re the ones i mostly ignore...i’m generally oblivious to the nationality of artists i respect.

Sasha Waltz
Bryn Oh:  Often the average person outside SL  is perplexed with virtual worlds in general.  When people unfamiliar with the virtual ask you what you do how do you explain it?

Cutea Benelli: I have never developed a good explanation and always wished i had one. Got one for me, blotto? Bryn? Anyone?

Tardi
Blotto Epsilon: good question, because it’s difficult to answer. i think the key thing is immersion, but immersion is an intangible experience that doesn’t yield easily to explanation. So i generally stop there; people either get it, or they roll their eyes and try to find someone else to talk to. Another obstacle is that the examples of virtual worlds that most people are familiar with are based on fantasy, where emphasis is on gameplay/roleplay, which many will find irrelevant to their lives (including myself). Immersion must be experienced, so we need ways for virtual spaces to be less insular; the membrane separating virtual from carbon-space should be more porous so that people are encouraged to peer inside. And of course, the impact of immersion is greatest when the experience is shared among other humans in the same space.
Carl Barks


Bryn Oh: Who are a few of your favorite artists and why?

Cutea Benelli: With me, that changes very often. I’II go through phases, and i’m not at all sophisticated as an art lover, more a bit of an omnivore. In the past few years, I’ve been photographing for some small modern dance productions. It was interesting  to expose myself to that without prior dance knowledge and to see what looking at dance could do to and with me, and how my brain tried to decode dance as an entirely different level of artistic expression, how dance invaded my emotions. On the “well, that’s easy to get, is it even art” end of the accessibility
Robert Doisneau
spectrum, there are favourite graphic/comic artists such as Tardi, or Carl Barks, people whom i admire for their skills. Generally speaking, I am often drawn towards the courageous, the radical, art that is daring and risks failure. But I’m most charmed by art that doesn’t take itself too seriously. If it’s silly, I’m in. Like, of all the Picasso portraits out there, “les pains de picasso” by Robert Doisneau is the one I like most.

Mark Ryden
Blotto Epsilon: hmm. Mark Ryden is one artist that gets my attention; his paintings are just bizarre enough, and there’s something about his soft color palette that appeals to me (Cutea will probably make fun of me for showing any interest in colors
other than gray or dirt). And I’d be remiss not to mention the SL artists whose work I respect most: Claudia222 Jewell, Djehan Kidd, Aston Leisen, Eupalinos Ugajin, and of course Bryn Oh - it is easiest to remember the people who have directly influenced me.

Bryn Oh:  Whose artwork do you personally dislike the most and why?
giant buttplug
Blotto Epsilon: i generally don’t pay attention to anyone long enough to dislike them, but the douche bag with the ginormous butt plug in Paris got my attention. Doing stuff like that in the name of art rises to the level of dislike. Really, green?

Bryn Oh:  Which of your own works are you most proud of?  Do you feel any failed and if so do you now know why?
Blotto Epsilon: i have only done two, both were so much fun, and the four year run the Petrovsky Flux has had is amazingly gratifying. i’m proud of the collaboration with Cutea that grew throughout the making of the fluxes -- she has become one of my closest friends. i’m sort of disappointed that the petrovsky flux was never really finished (on the other hand i never finish anything, so i’m used to that). We’re also proud of the bond we’ve formed with Steveke Wulluf, our gracious host at Spencer.



Bryn Oh:  Do you have a method when creating? If so how does it often progress?  For example do you sketch or write out ideas first for weeks or do you perhaps just jump directly into the project with little planning and adapt as you go?
Blotto quietly thinking
Cutea Benelli: When  creating in SL, i don’t really know what i am doing - I’m a very inefficient and
rather spontaneous builder. i sometimes refer to what i do as stream of consciousness-building, but really that’s just a friendly way of saying “it gets messy”. It’s associative and playful and there is a lot of trial and error and spontaneity and plywood leftovers - maybe bricolage is a good word for it?
Blotto Epsilon: i will think about things for a long time, interspersed with seemingly aimless hacking and playing to test ideas; the actual creation part tends to be kind of convulsive, but working with Cutea moderated this a bit, as we are trying to adapt to each other’s approach. Then there’s a long period of dissatisfaction and tweaking, as if allergic to closure, which is why i never finish anything. Eventually, apathy dominates.

Blotto and Cutea unique avatars
Bryn Oh:  What are you currently reading, listening to or looking at to inspire your work?
Cutea Benelli:  I just finished re-reading both “Nine Stories” by J. D. Salinger and “le rouge et le noir” by Stendhal. Technically, the last book i finished is the very cute “a hole is to dig”. Currently I’m reading two non-fiction ones: “Smoke gets in your eyes” by Caitlin Doughty and “Being Mortal” by Atul Gawande. Not sure what this combination says about me. Maybe “this person reads stuff”?

Blotto Epsilon: i’m (slowly) reading “The Information” by James Gleick and “Pikhal, a chemical love story” by the late Alexander Shulgin. These may or may not be for inspiration.

Bryn Oh:  Does your work have an overall theme and if so what might that be?  If not please describe how you tend to pick your topics.   

Petrovsky Flux
Cutea Benelli: i suppose what i make in sl is most probably impacted by what happens in my RL in
small and in big ways, but there is no theme i am aware of. Some of my more extravagant wearables have been described as political, and maybe they are. I would love to believe that some of my work is indeed satire, but the truth is i just enjoy a good laugh.

Blotto Epsilon: i don’t think i have a theme, unless selfishness counts. i do things that feel fun, stuff that stirs my imagination.
detail
Bryn Oh:  Have you ever had to deal with negative publicity or a disappointing rejection of your artwork?  How do you deal with it?
Blotto Epsilon: when we were making the Bogon Flux at Burning Life back in ‘08, one of the script police told me the script load of our build was *much* too heavy (it was, we could not have coexisted there). i panicked and threw away most of my code and started over. i’m not sure even Cutea knew how close we came to failing to even begin. Apart from that, i’m neurotic enough to be negative and disappointed on my own.

Cutea Benelli: Ha! I seem to remember that you were trying to tell me but i suspect was too far in “Yay! pipes! Shiny! Rusty!” mode to grasp it. In the end, we were there to fail better.


Bryn Oh:  Would you like to take a stab at explaining what defines virtual art? 
Blotto Epsilon: um. [makes stabbing gesture with a squirrel]. i read the wikipedia page for virtual art and i still can’t answer this.
Cutea Benelli: hey, let go of Rupert!
Blotto Epsilon: i regret picking up a squirrel

Early Bogon Flux at Burning Life (I think Ub Yifu and Am Radio flank the build)
Bryn Oh:  What would you say makes virtual creations unique over other art forms?
Cutea Benelli: immersion is a great factor, and the fact that you basically can ignore gravity (yay!).
apart from that i believe that medium is not as important as content (or maybe i don’t. geesh). What i loved about the original SL in-world building system is that it was so accessible, so easy. “Here’s a wooden cube. now build a world.” In that sense, it was as democratic and inclusive(?) as we once naively thought the Internet would be.

Blotto Epsilon: my favorite aspect is not being limited by physics and other constraints of nature, in particular making things that take on a life of their own. There are few other mediums that allow this kind of meta-creation, where the ultimate result can be surprising even to the creator. Of course, generative art is nothing new, but combining this quality with immersion, allowing one to get inside a living structure, seems relatively unique.

Marcel Duchamp
Bryn Oh:  Centuries ago there was no such thing as an "artist" just craftsmen, as time progressed superior technical ability and creativity created the elite "Master" artist whose work stood recognized above all others.  In 1917 Marcel Duchamp submitted a work entitled "Fountain" to the Society of Independent artists.            He stated "... He (the artist) CHOSE it. He took an article of life, placed it so that its useful significance disappeared under the new title and point of view – created a new thought for that object"  He wanted to shift the focus away from technical craft to more of an aesthetic intellectual interpretation.  Some say that because of him almost everything is considered art today.  From an elephant painting with its trunk, a Banksy, a child's drawing to someone vomiting paint onto a canvas.  What is your perspective on this?

Cutea Benelli: i think that sense of humor is the greatest subversive force. Also i think i may be captain obvious.

Blotto Epsilon
Blotto Epsilon: my art education ended in 4th grade, so i don’t know the right answer, but i unequivocally prefer the interpretation involving craft. i’ll gladly acknowledge the aesthetic beauty of other stuff (which does not include urinals without plumbing), but i don’t think it adds anything useful to call it art. This is probably an old-fashioned view, but i am old.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Occulus Rift thoughts

actually kids shouldn't use it
-Image by Jacki Morie
     As I mentioned a little while ago, I received an Occulus Rift HMD (head mounted display) to much fanfare in my own head.  Oh it's a party in there.  So far I have tested it with a few demos, they are interesting if mostly just novelty right now.  And I have also tested it at my build the Singularity of Kumiko with the headlamp on in the dark.  That was pretty interesting and immersive, but had to remove my ao and duckwalk around.  Also I could not interact with anything properly, clicking and so on.  Perhaps the biggest issue is that  I can use it for perhaps 15 minutes before I start to feel a bit ill.  Apparently they will be able to fix that with software updates over time.  There was an update a week ago and it seems to have messed up my settings so I have to figure out how to fix that now.  Oh the joys of beta testing.  I think the Occulus has great potential.. in the future.  Right now, as expected, it needs more testing.  Like for example, I read a while ago that children shouldn't use the Occulus rift since their stereoscopic vision is not fully evolved yet.  Someone else sent me a kickstarter page of a guy who wants to live his life, for a month, with the Occulus on 24/7.  Too early buddy, you might seriously mess yourself up by doing that.  But then I guess there is always someone wanting to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel or some other form of attention / validation process.  Wait a bit, make sure it's safe but don't rush to be the first "living" in the Occulus only to have part of your brain fall our your ear on day 23.
"There is a rat in this trench!"
     One of the coolest things so far with the Occulus is looking down and seeing the body of my
avatar where my physical one should be.  You can imagine the types of things this can be used for, like say,  suppose they made a educational model showing the storming of the beaches of Normandy  and they used a variety of things like the stem system, kinect and the Occulus to let students be there to storm it.   Reading an account of the horrors of this event would not be nearly as immediate as experiencing them oneself.  Then combine some sort of consequence if you were to actually (virtually) die in the environment, I am thinking -20% off your test at the end automatically? Yes I would make a rotten teacher.  Imagine if someone shot you in the leg or something equally nasty, and you looked down to see it.  Then you had to properly dress the wound or stitch it up.  The shock of this type of education would, I think, dispel the glorification of war and let people understand to a greater degree what it was really like.  Imagine rushing to a bunker and finding a 14 year old German boy terrified and very human... and having to make a decision in seconds what to do.  It is easier to brush off death when it is just a faceless statistic, but the world would be a better place if they weren't.  The future in education could remove the abstraction and detachment from History class, hmm maybe it is good I do not create curriculum for schools.  Anyway, this is just one small idea for the Occulus or another HMD use, but there are so many options.  Haha actually I just thought of something.  You know how Second Life was
No offense but I changed you into a person from work
depicted exclusively as a sex game by lazy journalists?  I think the Occulus might have to be worried about that same stereotype if they are not careful.  Hmmm Facebook owns them now, ok so they will probably actively promote the potential sex aspects then.  I don't get this picture.. why does he wear it when he is with her?  I am pretty certain she wouldn't find a black box in her face sexy.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

I don't know why..

     Oh I don't know why I am in love with Mike Tyson Mysteries.  Is it because Mike Tyson pokes
fun at himself so good naturedly?  Maybe because the principal from the show Community is a voice in it or just because Norm Macdonald plays a pigeon.  It is silly, strange, politically incorrect and campy and all together it just makes me laugh.  But then I have a bizarre sense of humour.  You will either go WTF? or giggle the whole time.  They have just made a few episodes so far but I really hope they continue.


Monday, November 17, 2014

Rez article and ISEA 2014

     Jami Mills did a nice article for Rez Magazine on my recent retrospective if you would like to read it below.  Also I would like to congratulate Gerardo Toledo for participating at ISEA 2014 in Dubai.  He presenting a paper mentioning/showing my work, along with another case study from his thesis.  You can download and read his original thesis work here.. it is on Eva and Franco Mattes, Gazira Babeli, Bryn Oh and China Tracy.





Sunday, November 9, 2014

An interview with Glyph Graves

Glyph Graves

purpose of questions..


Bryn Oh: Where are you from?  And who are the most renowned artists from your country in your opinion?
Euen MacLeod
Glyph Graves: Well I live in Australia.  One thing something like SL does is highlight the arbitrariness of national borders, particularly with something like art where ideas wash through borders like a Queensland flood through a Kleenex tissue.
Ok, now the traditional ockerism is out of the way  .. "renown" and best aren’t exactly the same thing though there is often overlap the most renown probably has its own Wikipedia entry.  There are many Australian artists whose work would fit “renown” that I enjoy; Euen MacLeod and Arthur Boyd are two, particularly Boyds later work.
Arthur Boyd
Bryn Oh: Often the average person outside SL  is perplexed with virtual worlds in general.  When people unfamiliar with the  virtual ask you what you do how do you explain it?
Glyph Graves: I find the problem is not so much that they are unfamiliar with SL rather the problem seems to be more that they have a distorted idea of virtual spaces with little idea of the actuality or possibilities of SL.  Certainly Linden Labs marketing strategy <http://nwn.blogs.com/nwn/2014/03/second-life-advertising.html#more>  is totally puzzling making that issue worse.. they seem to want it to have average person appeal like Face Book but they also seem to forget that face book gained the following it has by presenting itself as the cool alternative to Myspace.   One simple way would be that instead of always presenting SL as an escape they could cheaply fund a few small projects to show how SL can be integrated with peoples  lives in the physical world.  At least it would attract a different niche that is currently alienated by the popular view of SL.  The overwhelming feeling I have is the marketing people have no idea of what you can do in virtual spaces and the idea of niche marketing escapes them. More and more I feel Douglas Adams gem referencing marketers is appropriate.    http://hitchhikers.wikia.com/wiki/Sirius_Cybernetics_Corporation >
Bryn Oh:  Who are a few of your favorite artists and why?
Glyph Graves: There are many who’s work I both really enjoy and admire, some from SL (e.g. that Bryn person and Jo Ellesmere and many others)
Caleb Larsen
One of current favorite pieces is a black cube.   Its called "a tool to deceive and slaughter" by Cabel Larsen "http://caleblarsen.com/a-tool-to-deceive-and-slaughter/  (again link into pieces  name) .  It is in the same conceptual area as “Merde de Artist” by Piero Manzoni.  My feeling is they were both not fully realized as art until the first commercial transaction was made. 
Bryn Oh:  Whose artwork do you personally dislike the most and why?
Glyph Graves: Dislike is a bit strong ..hmm not interested in is more accurate ... well, except for that person that seems to do all the art  you find in picture, frame and art supplies shops . Those pieces I truly dislike.  What is it with the paintings in those shops anyway and why are they all uniformly so awful?  As for others what I find incomprehensible is formula art, that is, art that is a generic cut and paste with minor modifications of other works.
 
Bryn Oh:  Which of your own works are you most proud of?  Do you feel any failed and if so do you now know why? 
Older works that I still like 
full sim pieces:- Strangers  also dance http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/UWA%20Winthrop/192/69/22 (read the sign touch it for the notecard and then walk to the big pink crystal on the water and touch it to get to the installation)
                                 Liquidity  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WIOjNOZmgrU , and
Reflections in Diversity < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Phgom8fcBGE > (A mixed virtual / physical world piece that maps the avatars spoken language (e.g.French) to colour ( LEDs in the physical world and to a “painting” in the virtual world as well as the main virtual piece, you can think of this as a triptych or sorts) and their rotation to sound creating a movement/location soundscape)
Reflections in diversity
Reflections in diversity

Glyph Graves: The middle is the main piece in SL. Either side is the physical representation and to the right the ground level reflection.  As the avatar walks though the main the their language (ie French, Spanish etc) is shown by the colour of the closest prims which changes depending on who is there (and what language they have on their computer) In the middle of the main you can see where I streamed the physical part back into SL  so visitors could see how it changed.
If you going to try different things you going to have many that don’t quite convey what you want them to.  Hopefully I’ve managed to keep most of those in my inventory.  I don’t really consider those as failures, more elements on the path to achieving something I want.
I have a greater sense of something has failed when I have an idea that needs to be realized and for one reason or another it hasn’t happened, usually because of terminal procrastination. 

Bryn Oh:  Do you have a method when creating? If so how does it often progress?  For example do you sketch or write out ideas  first for weeks or do you perhaps just jump directly into the project with little planning and adapt as you go?
Glyph Graves: Sketching out a project is excellent advice ... I do it but not on paper, I try to hold the sketch in my head where its usually composed / added to/rearranged when I go for walks in the local park. As a result the sketches are a bit wobbly but I like that, it makes them organic.  The downside is that when you’re working any interruption is pretty painful.
In answer to your question I start out with the overall idea but I’m not afraid to modify it if enhances what I was trying for in the first place.   Different projects seem to have their own life though, some sit and evolve as ideas and others just come and are done in a relatively short period of time. 

Bryn Oh:  What are you currently reading, listening to or looking at to inspire your work? 
 
Glyph Graves: I try and avoid being inspired by others work though of course that doesn’t mean I’m not influenced or find inspiration in things I see or come across, just that I don’t go actively look to be inspired by others work.
 Possibly I’m still in mourning at the loss of my favorite author, Ian Banks so I am rereading a few of those. What I’ve actually been looking at is lots of code, (I totally re wrote the Ghosts < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_hjoKvjAevI > project about 3 time even though it worked the first time ...and its much better for it)., also have been spending time working with/looking at the effects of different materials to get the sort of effects I’m after etc ect.  Inspiration is not so much the problem as the finding the time to sit down and do them.    I have about five good projects that are works in progress.  I’m actually very methodical and efficient in the ways I find to procrastinate but was running out of ideas in that area.  You can imagine that being asked to do this interview was a real godsend.
Bryn Oh:  Does your work have an overall theme and if so what might that be?  If not please describe how you tend to pick your topics.   
Glyph Graves: I think probably best described as have several interwoven threads.  A lot of it you could call transformational, one thing being turned into another, a sort of visual and aural synaesthesia.  There’s obviously a strong element of play around the idea of and boundaries of identity.  The idea of avatars as shadows, of fragments of ourselves we cast into the virtual space and also what limits that we can consider as an avatar. For example there’s the Kinect mediated work :- faceted existence < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1YkABYq4OsA >
and disembodiment< http://lindenarts.blogspot.com.au/2011/12/disembodiment-interview-with-glyph.html > both alternate avatars of myself. Then there are non personal extensions such as  where the real time aspects of a continent is extracted and presented as its avatar in virtual space as in Antarctica:- An Individual Existence. 
Ghosts creates avatars of avatars from another grid (Inworldz) and visa versa.  It is a sort of performance artwork where the performers are the visitors to each of the sim.
In Enfolded, each minute it access satellite data on the earths magnetic field and rotates the its prims  and stretches its texture accordingly so you get a sculpture that takes its form from the blanket that encircles us.

In forest of water http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/The%20Port/40/213/26 (a small subset of the original piece) each tree was the avatar of an individual river its real time physical characteristics transformed into notes and colour which then interact with SL avatars distance (changed the tempo depending on the distance to each tree(tree avatar).  Or "I thought I hated him" where each dancer is the avatar of a stock exchange ( New York and Shanghai Exchanges) and more.  The behavior of each exchange depends on the behavior of millions of individuals so in effect each dancer was a composite avatar of those individuals that bought and sold on those exchanges.

Bryn Oh:  Have you ever had to deal with negative publicity or a disappointing rejection of your artwork?  How do you deal with  it?
Glyph Graves:  To be honest I don’t notice it much.. I’m probably a worse critic and where I have noticed criticism it was to note that it seemed based on little time spent trying to understand the piece or even read the note card.  What really annoys me is when people confuse the technical aspects of the work for the art and don’t bother to look deeper.
Puzzlement is a more common response.  Part of that is my issue of being too poetic/vague about the descriptions. I am spending a little more time spelling things out so perhaps that has concerned me more than I like to think.
Would you like to take a stab at explaining what defines virtual art? 
No, I won’t, or rather, I see as all art as being virtual art. If it has a physical world aspect or not is not an issue for me, what is important is what’s happening in the mind of the artist and the viewer, the actual media is immaterial to art   .. here take literature as an  example:- what is important is the visualization when writer creates it and what happens in the imagination of the reader. The actual physical bits, the ink and paper, is only physical representation is neither here nor there. The same applies to which media used  in the visual arts.
 Consider what most writers use to create their art these days.  A simulation of paper and ink on a computer and the works are also commonly read on simulations of a paper and ink e.g. on a Kindle.  This as virtual as anything that happens in SL but you don’t hear people discussing virtual literature.  Categories and their use by people can often obscure as much as they assist understanding.
  
Bryn Oh:  What would you say makes virtual creations unique over other art forms?
Glyph Graves:  See above, but using the media of computer based simulations does allows a greater amount of flexibility in expression than a lot of other media .. say.... acrylic paint for example, thank god you have the sense to use oils in your quite exquisite paintings.
Bryn Oh:  Centuries ago there was no such thing as an "artist" just craftsmen, as time progressed superior technical ability and creativity created the elite "Master" artist whose work stood recognized above all others.  In 1917 Marcel Duchamp  submitted a work entitled "Fountain" to the Society of Independent artists.    He stated "... He (the artist) CHOSE it.  He took an article of life, placed it so that its useful significance disappeared under the new title and point of view  – created a new thought for that object"  He wanted to shift the focus away from technical craft to more of an  aesthetic intellectual interpretation.  Some say that because of him almost everything is considered art today.  From an elephant painting with its trunk, a Banksy, a child's drawing to someone vomiting paint onto a canvas.  What is your perspective on this? 
 
Glyph Graves:  Hmm, this question about art vs craft always makes me think of the 5 blind men and the elephant parable for some reason.  What I will say is when Dechamp put the urinal in the gallery it was art, a creative act .. the next time someone did it  was just a urinal.
Marcel Duchamp
For me the beauty was conceptual, the way in the placement of the piece interacted with the social constructs both around art at the time and in society in general. Again, the physical part of the art is the least of it (further the virtual art/physical art thing).   In the end for me the distinction is in creativity and its relative originality within the social milieu of the time.  I’m actually kinda amused by the way “Fountain" has attained a sort of quasi religious significance in the art world ..an icon if you like, when it was meant to be iconoclastic. I strongly suspect that if Dechamps was alive today he would resubmit the original piece and this time use it as a urinal and in so doing would be saying exactly the same thing as he did the first time he submitted it.  I was under the impression art was breaking away from its craft origins a long before, though the dadist movement which Dechamps flirted with, certainly played its role.