2014 and the Virtual Art Initiative

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Gary Zabel brought us the art of virtual worlds in 2014. That interaction with visitors in the digital arts galleries of 2014, as they played in other worlds and digital arts programs created by artists from across the country, gave evidence that touching and exploring the art is a key part of Art & Algorithms. 

Zabel and his colleagues create interactive art in places like Second Life, interacting with each other through avatars. Zabel is bringing work from artists who work and live all over the world.

DR. GARY ZABEL: holds a B.A. from Yale University and a Ph.D. from Boston University. He will bring digital works from the Virtual Art Initiative http://www.virtual-art-initiative.org/TTVLG/Home.html. Dr. Zabel will be attending the first half of the festival.




Andrew Burrell is a contemporary arts practitioner with a long history in real time 3d and interactive audio installation. He is exploring notions of self and narrative and the implications of virtual worlds, networked environments and artificial life systems upon identity. His networked projects in virtual environments have received international recognition. He holds a PhD from the University of Sydney. miscellanea.com

Chris Rodley is a writer for new and old media whose work is exploring emerging frontiers for the literary in networked spaces. He is currently focused on writing for new media installations, while past projects include writing for web, television and live performance. Chris is a PhD candidate in Digital Cultures at the University of Sydney, where he is exploring the impact of Big Data on poetics. chrisrodley.com

For over two years, Andrew and Chris’s collaborative practice has focused on live storytelling using big data in a series of media art collaborations. They include the public art installation Enquire Within Upon Everybody, presented simultaneously in Sydney and Darwin as part of ISEA2013; the real-time Twitter play Everything Is Going To Be OK :), a large-scale installation presented at Underbelly Arts Festival (Sydney), Carriageworks (Sydney), and the Electronic Literature Organization Media Arts Show (Milwaukee, USA); Data Fiction v0.1, presented at Electrofringe (Newcastle, NSW); and B.E.T.T.Y., presented at Electroscape: the here and now of digital art, 107 Projects, Art Gallery of NSW Society/Contempo (Sydney).

Every day on social media, scenes of intense emotion that were once voiced only in private are played out in front of a Screen shot 2014-06-01 at 2.44.22 PMglobal audience. 1,244 Broken Hearts examines this ongoing phenomenon of context collapse and its implications for how we read emotions. The latest 1,244 messages of heartbreak from the Internet hive-mind are scraped in real time and sent flickering across the screen within a speed-reading interface. In a world saturated by expressive information — when the line between suicidal angst, quotidian frustration, and wry humour is increasingly blurred — is it still possible to comprehend the emotional valence of others? 1,244 Broken Hearts builds on a series of text art collaborations between Andrew and Chris which have explored the storytelling possibilities of big data. The installation was initially presented at Oxford Act Factory in October 2013 as part of the City of Sydney’s Art and About festival.

BRYN OH (Toronto, Canada)

Bryn Oh is the ghost artist of a Toronto oil painter. Her interest in virtual worlds began with an attempt to create an artist unaligned with a real-life identity. The idea was to see if a character made of pixels could become successful and accepted as an artist in “real life” alongside flesh and blood ones. According to Bryn: “I see what I do in virtual worlds as the frontier of a new medium with the capability to create unique forms of immersive art.” Since the project began in 2007, Bryn’s work has been shown at Nuit Blanche, the World Expo in Shanghai (Madrid Pavilion), at IBM, in movies such as “My avatar and me,” and in collaborative projects with people such as the director Peter Greenaway (Big Bang), and the internationally famous artists, Stelarc and Cao Fei. Bryn the avatar exhibits in various universities and galleries worldwide, and is on the syllabi of many institutions of higher learning. She is the subject of three Master’s thesis works, and has twice received a New Media Grant from the Canadian Government. Bryn has exhibited at a museum in Rome, at the Santa Fe New Media Festival, and the 17th Biennale de Cerveira in Portugal. Bryn has collaborated with European director, Peter Greenaway and Saskia Boddeke on Dance of Death, an installation in Basil Switzerland, and contributed to an exhibition on the art of the Russian avant-garde at the Manege Museum in Moscow. She was Web3D Conference presenter in Paris, as well as being profiled on RAI TV in Italy and Art 21 in the United States, and covered by Vogue magazine (Italy). All this as the anonymous entity known as Bryn Oh. It has been interesting. For information on her various projects, visit her blog www.brynoh.blogspot.com.

The Singularity of Kumiko is a prequel to Imogen and the pigeons.

The Singularity of Kumiko: This is an interactive installation running in real time in Second Life. An avatar (or two or three) would be created for gallery goers to use exploring the multiuser, interactive environment.

The Singularity of Kumiko: This is an interactive installation running in real time in Second Life. An avatar (or two or three) would be created for gallery goers to use exploring the multiuser, interactive environment.

The back drop to the narrative is the technological singularity. This is the idea that at some point in the future, computer artificial intelligence will surpass that possessed by the human race. The consensus seems to be that this will happen around 2045 or so. The idea is that humans would create a computer mind that grows or evolves independently. The initial AI would develop means to enhance itself, and so would then be constantly improving on its original design, possibly exponentially. Imogen and the pigeons and The Singularity of Kumiko are stories told during that time period. In The Singularity of Kumiko, life is essentially about playing. Remarkable inventions are reported each day in their media, but soon forgotten as newer and more impressive ones appear. Each story focuses on an invention that allows people to record and store their memories digitally on a machine, with the possibility of reinstalling them in a new organic host after the death of their hosts: in other words, immortality. The moral question each story asks, from different perspectives, is once a memory is turned into data, will people not learn how to edit them? Add or delete memories? Also, does happiness exist only because of the presence of sadness? The human race becomes children of this machine, who doesn’t fully comprehend the fickle nature of its creators. It begins by developing inventions for humanity, yet with each new iteration of itself, it becomes more and more distanced from the wants and desires of people. In the end it determines that the presence of the human race is destructive of all other life forms on earth, and removes it. Imogen and the pigeons begins with a desolate landscape, with the shell of the Rebirth store which recorded human memories. All the machines have filled with sand and stopped working over the course of time. All but one, that contains the life of Imogen. The entirety of each story is explained in a series of posts starting with Imogen and the pigeons here:
and The Singularity of Kumiko here: http://brynoh.blogspot.ca/2014/04/the-singularity-of-kumiko-initial.html

GARY ZABEL (Boston, Massachusetts)

Gary Zabel is director of the Virtual Art Initiative. His virtual art installations have been exhibited GaryZabelWorkin Italy, Canada, and the United States. He is the editor of Art and Society: Lectures and Essays by William Morris (Boston: George’s Hill, 1993), the author of numerous journal articles on the philosophy of music and the visual arts, and author of “Through the Looking Glass: Philosophical Reflections on the Art of Virtual Worlds,” a chapter of The Oxford Handbook of Virtuality (Mark Grimshaw, ed., Oxford University Press, 2014). He curated the Through the Virtual Looking Glass mixed-reality exhibition at the Harbor Gallery in Boston in 2010, and is curating the virtual art component of this year’s Art & Algorithms digital arts festival. He holds a BA from Yale University, a PhD from Boston University, and teaches in the Philosophy Department at the University of Massachusetts at Boston.

Ninety-seven virtual images concerning the nature of photographic representation at a time when digital technology makes it impossible to accept the idea that the photograph is a straightforward representation of the real world. This work explores the convoluted relationship between realistic depiction and inventive construction in the context of computer-mediated photographic expression.

A machinima video shot in the virtual world, Open Sim, about mourning the death of Zabel’s father, a World War II veteran afflicted with Alzheimers who passed away in 2008. The video is a sequel to Saturn’s Elegy, a virtual art installation exhibited at the Festival of Creativity in Florence, Italy in 2009.

A collaborative work in the virtual world, Second Life, about the creation of artificial organisms. Zabel was the videographer and editor of a project involving the virtual life creations of the Australian artist, Glyph Graves, and the micro-tonal music of the American composer, Richard Boulanger.

PIXELS SIDEWAYS (Southern California)

Pixels Sideways (avatar name in Second Life) is, in her words, “an enigma wrapped inside a mystery stuffed inside a conundrum – a virtual cosmic Turducken.” Since 2007, Pixels has been in Second Life and other virtual worlds “flinging prims and textures and code and sounds and animations against the virtual wall to see what sticks.” Both an artist and curator, she has been involved with several large multi-artist exhibitions in the virtual world of Second Life, where she has also been the recipient of four Linden Endowment of the Arts resident artist grants. She routinely collaborates, in virtual media, with artists from Canada, Europe, Asia, Latin America, and Australia, as well as the United States. Pixels is currently co-curating, with Dr. Gary Zabel (Georg Janick in Second Life), the virtual-world side of the Virtual Art Initiative’s exhibition for Art & Algorithms. In addition to pixelating in virtual worlds, Pixels is a graphic artist, writer, musical mayhem generator, and cat herder.

Pixels created the simulation space layout including the navigation and visitor information Pixels Sidewaysapplications for the virtual Art & Algorithms exhibition in Second Life.

“Deep Space Sphere” is a totally immersive environment that overclocks the senses with brightly colored shapes made from particles, animated textured objects and other virtual flotsam and jetsam suggesting flashbacks to the psychedelic 60’s, or flash-forwards to a rave your tweenagers may soon be sneaking out of the house to attend.

PHILIPPE MOROUX (The Hague, Netherlands)

Philippe Moroux (Second Life avatar name: Artee Despres) is a French artist teaching in the Philippe MorouxNetherlands. He has been interested in 3D and interaction since 1985 when he first experimented with early ray-tracers and 3D programs and began to learn how to write code. Philippe discovered the virtual world of Second Life in 2007, and has been working with the Caerleon Artist Collective (Virtual Art Initiative) since 2008. His work in virtual worlds treats social and political issues by using subtle, yet powerful, imagery and sounds along with scripting and data manipulation to create immersive and interactive installations. The resulting pieces convey a deeply felt point-of-view without being obvious or propagandistic. Philippe’s work has been exhibited in many venues throughout Second Life and other virtual worlds, as well as in real-life galleries in Holland and the United States.

In 2011, Philippe had a dream….
Like most people, he was deeply moved by the tsunami, earthquake, and nuclear meltdown in Japan. In the dream, he met a strange man, a kind of scientist, who was able to neutralize the radioactivity by transforming the energy into music, which is the theme of his virtual installation. On the foundations of an old reactor, Philippe has created virtual musical instruments that play a kind of musique concrete, reacting to avatar presence, making the random movements of visitors an active part of the concert. The real radioactivity in the city of Yokohama also plays an important role in the concert by determining the speed and musical tone of the white atoms circulating around the building, as well as the rhythm of the well at the center of the edifice. The radiation measurements can be read in the interior of the reactor.

LOLLITO LARKHAM (Avignon, France)

Lollito Larkham is the Second Life name of a artist living in Avignon, who works in Blender, an Lollito Larkhamopen source 3D modeling program. Though his early work was dominated by jovial, over-sized insects, his more recent virtual installations depict haunting, lonely spaces inhabited by lost or dark or yearning beings. Lollito has exhibited his work in several exhibitions in Second Life and other virtual worlds. He will soon be moving to Paris to further his study of 3D animation.


The Story of Petit-Gris

This is the story of one Petit-Gris (Little Grey), who lives on Pluto, a small planet afflicted LollitoLarkhamwith chaos, misery, poverty, pollution, war, and violence.

He is convinced that what he hears about Earthlings on the media is false. The media reports that Earthlings are evil and destructive, and that they know neither peace nor justice on their planet. It warns that they plan on invading Pluto in order to enslave its inhabitants.

For Petit-Gris, all of this is false, the result of lies or ignorance. According to him, the Earthlings live in a civilization without exclusion, racism, poverty, or the exploitation of man by man. Earth is a civilization where people are free and live in harmony with their environment.

Every day, Petit-Gris gazes at the sky, hoping for the Earthlings’ arrival. He reads the newspaper, while yearning to leave Pluto someday in order the meet the humans, inhabitants of the blue planet.

JO ELLSMERE (Upstate New York)

Jo Ellsmere (Second Life avatar name) utilizes SL as a pure medium for performance, mixed realityJo Ellsmere - Biomechanical projects, and machinima videos. She considers her work to be “small and personal,” and her interests lie mainly in the interactions between people in virtual worlds, and the fundamental drives that motivate them (often a profound mystery to her). She explores these ideas through performances with “avatar bots” that use programming code and animations to enact mesmerizing looped interactions that can be viewed 24/7. In addition to her work in virtual worlds, Jo works with graphics, fiber, glass, wood (and food!) in various ways. She has also collaborated on a number of projects with the Australian performance artist, Stelarc.

“Biomechanical” was conceived as an homage to Vsevolod Meyerhold, Russian choreographer, theater director and producer of the early 20th Century and part of the Russian Avant-garde art movement. The piece was one part of a collaborative Second Life work which was part of a larger exhibition held in Moscow’s Manege Museum. This multi-media exhibition was conceived by Peter Greenaway (UK) and Saskia Boddeke (NL) and consisted of a variety of visual forms including virtual world art created by a group of Second Life artists.

“Interstellar Princess” is the multimedia virtual collaborative work of New York artist Jo Ellsmere Jo Ellsmere and Daniel Mounsey - Interstellar Princessand Melbourne, Australia artist Daniel Mounsey (Pyewacket Kazyanenko in Second Life). With a nod to Stephen Hawking, the artists’ note: “Our goal is simple. It is a complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all.”

DANIEL MOUNSEY (Melbourne, Australia)

Daniel Mounsey (Pyewacket Kazanenko in Second Life) is a performance artist who has been experimenting with virtual art since 2007. Daniel has collaborated with the well-known Australian artist, Stelarc, performing virtual art works in major galleries around the world, such as the Tate Modern in London and the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. Daniel is also a gardener and science fiction enthusiast.

”Interstellar Princess” is the multimedia virtual collaborative work of New York artist Jo Ellsmere and Melbourne, Australia artist Daniel Mounsey. With a nod to Stephen Hawking the artists note: “Our goal is simple. It is a complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all.”

UB YIFU (Lyon, France)

Ub Yifu (Second Life avatar name) has been working in Second Life since May 2007. His first worksUb Yifu were 3D reproductions of famous paintings and sculptures (Matisse, Magritte, Picasso, Dali, Degas, etc). The meticulous and sensitive quality of his reproductions earned him a huge following, and many private commissions. He has since created his own large-scale immersive and interactive installations, as well as individual works of art, for exhibitions in Second Life and other virtual worlds. When he’s not engaged in creating art in virtual reality, Ub applies his creative skills to graphic arts and web design.

Ub Yifu’s “The Tree People” is an absorbing immersive environment, which is at the same time a tribute to Nature and its many gifts, the mysterious duality of life, and the creative people who explore virtual worlds in search of their holy grail.


GLYPH GRAVES (Sydney, Australia)

Glyph Graves

Glyph Graves

Glyph Graves (SL avatar name) is a multimedia artist currently living in Sydney Australia. His work in Second Life and other virtual worlds is focused on the interplay between form, structure, texture, and transformation. As his chisel and paintbrush, Glyph uses the digital tools of graphic and 3D modeling programs, as well as the Linden Scripting Language programming vehicle. Glyph is best known for work in which the measurable characteristics of the physical world are turned into virtual world objects caught up in synaethesia-like transformations. His work also involves the use of slow animated textures in complex sculpted 3D shapes, interactive sound, and evolving forms of artificial life. Glyph views Second Life and other virtual worlds as “liquid media” and notes, “I am often pleasantly surprised at the depth and the dimensionality that is available for art in Second Life and in virtual media per se.” Glyph’s work has been presented in dozens of exhibitions throughout Gylph GravesSecond Life and other virtual world environments. He has been the recipient of numerous “inworld” awards for his highly original works.

“The Forest of Water” is a captivating interactive installation of “water trees” that produce a visual and aural symphony composed of musical notes and changing colors generated by the rise and fall of river levels, and changes in the temperature of the water. Three Florida rivers are among those driving the symphony. Each tree is a river. That is, each tree uses real-time or near real-time data from an individual river and maps it to a set of notes. River height data is mapped to the musical notes and, where available, temperature data is mapped to the changes in color. The tempo of the musical and color changes is determined by the distance of the closest avatar. The name of the river and its current state can be seen in the name of each tree.

“Breeze” is an evolving sculpture driven by the invisible – the solar wind – a flux of particles streaming from the sun that bathe the earth. Using real time data from the ACE satellite, the wind appears as shape and color in the virtual world. In the physical world, the solar wind is invisible, but in the virtual world it becomes available to the senses. In “Breeze” Glyph use three variables of solar wind: proton density, wind speed, and ion temperature, collecting this data from the ACE satellite at one-minute intervals. The sculpture represents satellite readings over approximately the last 105 minutes. At the end of this time it reforms, creating a new sculpture.

Surrounding the central entrance area of the virtual exhibition, Glyph Graves’ “Ghost Flora” float on water, their form and colors continuously changing and creating endless variations.


Kristine Schomaker (Gracie Kendal in SL) is a new media and performance artist, painter, and art Kristine Schomakerhistorian living and working at the Brewery artist complex in Los Angeles, California. She works with various interdisciplinary art forms, including online virtual worlds, to explore notions of online identity and the hybridization of digital media with the physical world. Whether physical or virtual, the object-based work Kristine creates combines elements of color-based gestural abstraction, animation, pattern and design, neo-Baroque and Populence. Using installation, text, photography, mixed media, video and performance for her ongoing conceptual project, My Life as an Avatar, she makes visible a narrative/dialogue with her virtual persona, Gracie Kendal. Kristine documents her performances, her work with physical avatars, and her experiences as a virtual avatar on her blog (http://www.kristineschomaker.net/blog/), and has published four books on her new media work. She received her BA in Art History and her MA in Studio Art from California State University at Northridge. Kris has an active life in the arts, previously teaching art history at Antelope Valley College and Pasadena City College, forming an artist collective in the Los Angeles area, and organizing and curating numerous art exhibitions. She is a member of the Los Angeles Art Association, Southern California Women’s Caucus for Art, College Art Association, and Siggraph.

“A Comfortable Skin” is an ongoing multimedia project that documents how Kristine Schomaker uses virtual and physical avatars to bring attention to the obsession society has with physical appearance, and to explore “identity” as a vehicle for self-reflection and acceptance.

MARY LINLEY (Seattle, Washington)

At the age of 19, Mary Linley started her art career in Second Life in 2007, by making interactive “canvasses” and sculpturesPhasmatis Ex-Machina that transform in various ways when avatar-observers come near. Although they are sometimes whimsical, her creations more often explore themes of passion, loss, and oppression in the lives of young women. The uniqueness and quality of her work won her a large following in the virtual dimension. But, when the director of a video-game creation team visited Second Life, Mary’s virtual work resulted in the real-life job she has held for the past six years as a designer of characters for video games. She has worked in this capacity in Asia and Europe as well as the United States.


Mary Linley’s work is showcased in a gallery-like installation of 23 of her interactive pieces, created over a period of 5 years. In the gallery, the avatar-visitor, operated by the real-life gallery goer, will enjoy an experience currently impossible in the real world: as the visitor approaches, the flat canvasses project outward into the 3rd dimension. However, the innovative technical character of the artist’s work should not blind the visitor to its deeper, and often quite profound, meaning.