Edited Transcripts

L.E.A.! with Rowan Derryth

Bookworm Hienrichs: Welcome to this special edition of the AEther Salon, and our field trip to this amazing art installation! Just a few bits of housekeeping-: please remove all lag-inducing HUDS, AOs, and other bits of frippery. A tip jar for our speaker will be made available during the Q&A time. Transcripts will be made available on the Salon website at http://aethersalon.blogspot.com/

And now to introduce our esteemed speaker.

Rowan Derryth is the virtual persona of an actual art & design historian based in the UK. She writes regularly on virtual art in Second Life in her column ‘Ekphrasis’, available on the Prim Perfect blog. She is also the Curator for Avalon Arts Community, is a judge for the University of Western Australia (UWA) 3D Art Challenge, and is currently an advisor for the Linden Endowment for the Arts (LEA). She has spoken at the Aether Salon before, regaling us in November of 2010 with a wonderful discussion of Aestheticism.

Welcome, Rowan!

Rowan Derryth: Welcome to all of YOU!

I’d like to thank you all for escaping the relative safety of New Babbage today, to take part on this little field trip adventure to our abandoned city here. I do think our journey should be relatively safe though… I mean, what could possibly go wrong?

Actually, this talk/visit will be a bit different because I’ll be talking about this in a mostly “OOC” manner. While many artists here take on virtual personas, we do consider the art that is made here “real”, even it cannot be touched. So what I thought we could do is I’ll briefly explain a bit about how this exhibit came to be, then we will do a quick whistle-stop tour down to PJ’s lovely underwater gallery where we can pause and I’ll tell you a little bit about the LEA, then have a question-answer session.

Then, if you aren’t TOO exhausted, I’ve arranged for a DJ to play some Steampunk tunes in our most dangerous gallery… protective headgear highly recommended! I know there are other activites, but the Baron assured me some would want to stay to do a little dance, etc…

So, the name of this exhibition, as you probably know, is ‘A Rusted Development’. The idea for this show was sparked by three separate-but-related things:

Upon becoming an Advisor to the LEA just about a year ago, I was offered the opportunity to guest-curate a full-sim installation here on one of the core sims. At the same time, I had been hanging a show of my private collection in Avalon, and realised how much artwork I had, and loved, that had a rusty, even Steampunk look to it. Also at the same time, I was rewatching the entire series of ‘Arrested Development’.

So with opportunity combined with fancy and inspired by humour, I came up with ‘A Rusted Development’. I do not fully participate in the Steampunk communities – although as many of you know I like to ‘dip my boot in’ – but it is an aesthetic I very much enjoy. These themes relate to my academic research interests in 19th century art and design (some of which I’ve talked about at previous Salons and events), alongside those of urban renewal, and dystopic/utopic narratives.

As such, I envisioned an installation where there exists a main build – a “development”- that had fallen into ruin. It is subsequently rescued and repopulated by a selection of artists whose work loosely embraces similar themes. I knew I wanted to curate a group show, and I loved the idea of a kind of abandoned space that could be occupied, populated even, by some of my favourite artists.

The first and perhaps biggest hurdle was, of course, the overall build itself. I knew I had to find someone who could make something that would not only suit this rusty theme, but also have the incredibly rare trait of being an immersive builder who was also open enough to have other artists come in and add their work to theirs. And in that, there was one very clear candidate for me: Haveit Neox. Who is standing here to my left ๐Ÿ˜€

One of the things that impressed me about Haveit’s amazing work ‘Second Libations’ was that not only was it an incredible build with a full, narrative backstory, but he had also solicited stories from others to include in his work. Also, I knew Haveit to be one of the warmest, most down-to-earth (and least fussy!) artists I’ve ever met, in any world. His is a natural collaborative spirit, so I asked him to be my mastermind, and was thrilled when he accepted. I suppose I shouldn’t have been too surprised when, less that two days later, he had come to me with his own story of my idea, taking it far beyond my own imaginings. And that is what you see here.

Haveit Neox: I fainted

Rowan Derryth: Haveit will tell you that story in just a moment. Not of him fainting.. of the exhibit

Rowan Derryth: With Haveit’s vision coming together, it was then up to me to rally the other artists who have contributed. I of course wanted a selection of work that would suit the build, but I was also interested in pushing collaborative boundaries, juxtaposing the work of those you might not normally see together. In particular, I wanted to combine the work of those who traditionally work on their own immersive builds, with the work of some of my favourite virtual photographers. (I have a soft spot for photographers.)

And I must give an extra kudos to all: to the immersive builders – for some it was a huge step out of their comfort zone to contribute to something that they saw as wholly built already; and to the photographers, who each stepped out of the ‘2D’ realm to make their artworks that float, fall, and become part of the environment in a dynamic way. I applaud them all for taking the risk.

It is also a credit to Haveit that some of the very finest jumped at the chance to be part of this work. Our ‘Rusted Artists’ are an impressive list: Rose Borchovski, Artistide Despres, Claudia222 Jewell, Bryn Oh, Scottius Polke, Ziki Questi, PJ Trenton, Blue Tsuki, Stephen Venkman, Eliza Wierwight, and Trill Zapatero.

I hope you’ll take the time – if you haven’t before – to wander around and see some all their work, as we won’t have a chance to tour it all away. Some of it is rather hidden, you must look high and down low.

Haveit Neox: When you showed me that list, that’s when I fainted

Rowan Derryth: I should also mention that shortly after we opened the talented machinimatographer Chic Aeon made a film which is playing on the media screens to your right. It was so lovely I added it to the exhibit.

This was such a fun and inspiring project. I love collaborations, and everyone really worked hard. In addition to Haveit, my friend Ziki Questi, in many ways has acted as a co-curator, investigating technical aspects of the build that are beyond my skill, and was as always generally fun. And Mister PJ Trenton, my ever wonderful accomplice, let me (again) rope him into a project as designer extraordinaire (the gorgeous poster and this catalogue are his handiwork) and co-conspirator. He truly is the best partner in crime an art nerd could hope for.

And now I’d like to introduce my good friend Haveit Neox, who built this amazing floating city!

Haveit Neox: Thank you Rowan.

Rowan Derryth truly surprised me with an invitation to build a sim for an exhibit. Her idea was to present a rusted environment that spoke of an abandoned city: a place where artists would come to revitalize it. I was immediately hooked by the idea and very excited because a passion of mine is constructing cities. Expanding on Rowan’s premise, I wrote a background story to give it a history.

The fabled merchant city that rode atop the back of a gigantic whale met with a calamity that ended its existence abruptly. In the middle of the ocean, a horrific storm caused two huge ships carrying toxic chemicals to collide into the swimming whale city. The whale and all the populace died in the flood of chemicals that saturated the waves.
The whale turned to bones, and the city to rust, it was nearly half a century before this city adrift was discovered.

An expedition of artists, searching for land to build an art colony, came upon the decomposing city. With the intent to regenerate the place, they set to work by first towing to safe harbor the floating mass. Each artist then undertook their vision. The empty shell of the city suddenly filled in and expanded as each artist found their niche in the Rusted Development. No longer at the mercy of invisibility, the city humbles its rusted facade to the highlights of the art within.

I’d like to add, that Rowan made this so easy on all of us. She was the conductor. I had the easy joy of building, but Rowan organized all of us. It was the first time I’d participated in a group build of this size, and it was the best experience I could hope for.

Rowan Derryth: As you can see, he did an amazing job. Thank you Haveit!

Is everyone ready for a short little tour? Great! This will be interesting I think, lol… keeping us all together

So basically all the artists were given the theme idea, then left to make whatever they like. When Haveit had the build largely done, they came over and scouted for spots to put their work. It was definitely a challenge, but they group worked beautifully together. I think the result is a bit chaotic, but in a way that really works for our idea. We are standing in front of Scottius Polke’s ‘Eden Oxide’, and you can come back later to take a ride on his ‘Boxyphant’.

We’ll cross the bridge on the right and walk over to Eliza Wierwight’s work, but do be careful not to fall off! As we walk, make sure not to miss Blue Tsuki’s massive clocktower on the right! If you get lost, look for the umbrella hat!

Eliza’s contribution to this exhibit, A Fractured Fairytale, represents a bold new direction as she depicts the darker aspects of beauty, love, and pain in a series of visceral and at times shocking tableau. If you haven’t ever been to her store/sim Patron, you really should as it is simply gorgeous. This work is much darker than much of what you will find there, and I was pleased to give her the space to be able to push her artistic boundaries.

While we are standing here, if you look in the direction I am facing, you will see a sphere hanging in the air. That is by Rose Borchovski, and you can explore that on your own, it is well worth it – but I also wanted to mention her as that work relates to the current installation on her sim ‘Two Fish’ called ‘The Inevitability of Fate’… and Rose is also one of our current AIRS, and her work ‘The Arrival’ just opened on LEA 23 last weekend ๐Ÿ™‚

PJ has lovely pictures here: http://virtuallypj.wordpress.com/2013/01/12/the-arrival-by-rose-borchovski/

Let’s wander around then towards a more precarious part of the exhibit.

If you look up to the top of the tower, you will see Trill Zapatero’s wondeful chalice – her pieces are spaced around the exhibit so keep your eyes peeled.

Now, I need a volunteer – someone rather brave – to lead the way into the next gallery. It’s just across the bridge. Perhaps Master Jimmy?


Ziki Questi’s work really makes an impact! And if you are brave, this is where we will have our dance party!

Let’s make a run for it down to the underwater gallery… we’ll come back here to dodge – er – dance – later!

You’ll see as we go down there is a LOT more amazing work to explore here, which I hope you will do on your own. This exhibit will be here til the end of February.

We just want to keep going down these stairs here until we reach the bottom.

Every artist here is a ‘favourite’ for different reasons. But I know many of you are fans of PJ’s beautiful work. I’m so pleased with this because not only is it his beautiful photography, but he really too a leap in make a scripted piece too. PJ do you want to say something about this?

PJ Trenton: I would be honoured ๐Ÿ™‚

Welcome everyone to what I call Sunken Treasure. When I was invited to participate with all of these great artists, my challenge was what could I, as a photographer, contribute to this rusted, abandoned city. I thought, what better than images of places that are no longer around…lost as the inhabitants of the city were.

Rowan and I talked a bit more about it, and as a result, and with the scripting genius of Glyph Graves…the works have floated off the walls in this unfortunately flooded gallery

Rowan Derryth: The artist community here is incredibly generous

PJ Trenton: I was very pleased with the effect…lost sims floating forever on the currents. The backs of each one have been marked with what sim they were…

Rowan Derryth: I thought this would be a nice place to pause and tell you a bit more about the LEA in general. So here is the ‘official’ LEA mission, which I’d be happy to expand on in questions ๐Ÿ™‚

The Linden Endowment for the Arts (LEA) was established to help create a center of arts activity in Second Life. The LEA is run and organized by users of Second Life, with resources generously donated by Linden Lab, and is committed to providing access to engaging experiences in the arts for the Second Life community. Through its exhibitions, programs, and events, the LEA fosters awareness of artists’ contributions to our virtual world and encourages others to get involved and be inspired.

So in more practical terms, and a bit of history, Linden Labs originally set up nine regions to be used for art, and put out a call for committee members to run them. My understanding is that they also encouraged some key members of the art community to apply, such as Bryn Oh, who is still on the committee.

The committee was established, but not really given any direction from the Lab – which as you can imagine was both a good and a challenging thing. Good in that they had the freedom to be totally autonomous and not be under LL’s thumb… challenging in establishing their goals.

Like any new organisation, there have been growing pains, but in my view they original group did a great job getting things going. I’ve heard criticism that they ‘spun their wheels’ for a while, however I think that getting any new project launched is challenging enough – and doing it in this environment? Even moreso.

In any case, based on their early projects and ability to show clear progress, they were able to negotiate 20 more regions (!!) from Linden Lab, for the purpose of providing them to artists for 6 months at a time – free! This the LEA AIRS – Artists-in-Residence – were born. Anyone is welcome to apply to be an AIR, and applications are reviewed and selected by the committee.

Now that we have a couple rounds done, we have a pretty good system in place. We reconfigured the sims (if you look on your maps you will see 5 groups of islands), and 5 of us – myself included – act as liaisons to support a group of four AIRS.

We are currently just over halfway through this round, and we set aside the first 4 months as a ‘build period’ – although most exhibits are already open. The absolute deadline though is the end of this month… and then we have a new exciting plan!

On February 2nd, we’ll be having a big arts festival! All the exhibits will be open, and we will have events, talks, performances, etc. We are looking forward to it! I’ll be interviewing many of the artists that weekend too, so do come out.

We are currently on one of the original 9 sims. We use these for different purposes such as large-scale exhibits by guest curators like this one… Education projects… the very fun Avatar Games is run on one sim (it was on hiatus but will be re-launched soon by Honour Macmillan and team)…

And we’ve just started a new grant programme for performance-based work. It has always been our intention to make sure we recognise the ‘s’ in Arts, and we are pleased to finally have that going!

SO that’s the LEA! I’d be pleased to answer any questions you might have! You can learn more about the LEA at: http://www.lea-sl.org/ And keep up on the latest LEA exhibits and events at our blog: http://lindenarts.blogspot.co.uk/

Actually I think Sred is playing some tunes, shall I tp you all back above and you can ask questions there? Those who want to stay for a bit

Bookworm Hienrichs: Does anyone have any questions about L.E.A. for Rowan? Or about the ‘A Rusted Development’ installation? Or is everyone completely gobsmacked by the amazingness around us?

Rowan Derryth: I’m going to tp back up and send tp’s to you

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