Monday, August 22, 2011

Rowan's Reflections: Not Just Virtual But Variable Art (by Guest Blogger Rowan Derryth)

Glyph Graves' 'Enfolded'

First, an apology and a disclaimer. Jayjay invited me to blog for the UWA at the start of this year’s challenge, and I was honoured and excited about it. Since then my world has been increasingly busy, and I simply haven’t had the time to write like I wished to. But this was also somewhat exacerbated by my own hesitance to pick and choose which art to write about, what with being on the final judging panel.

But I’ve come to the realisation that I can write about art here with a clear conscience, as I have no idea who will end up in the finals; and if last year’s results were any indication, my own tastes are far from mainstream anyway. So for these last three months of this challenge, I’ve decided to throw that hesitation out the window and write just a bit about some of the works that have received top marks from me in the monthly people’s choice (but by no means are these mentions comprehensive of my top votes!). With that…

I’m sure by now most UWA patrons will have at least read about, if not actually seen, Glyph Graves new artwork/performance piece ‘Composition in Realities’ in which he interfaces (literally, with his face) with SL via a Kinect. I wrote about it, as did Dividni Shostakovich, Colemarie Soleil (who first filmed it), and even NWN picked it up after Hamlet got a fantastic film of the ‘behind the scenes’ of it in the ‘real’ world. I’m not going to talk more about the awesomeness of this pioneering work again here, but rather I’m going to talk about a few pieces which I think are similarly pioneering in their embrace of Variable Reality at the UWA this month.

I suppose I should start, then, with Glyph’s entry which is a portion of the aforementioned installation, ‘Excerpts from Reality’, which includes two of his new beautiful sculptures, ‘Forests of Water’, and ‘Enfolded’(image above), which are driven by real-time data. In this latter case, the algorithmic information rather spectacularly comes from beyond our world – space in fact – as the data is solar wind measurements taken from the ACE Satellite. Glyph’s art that is truly out of this world! (I couldn’t help myself.)

Betty Tureaud's 'QR Code v.05'

For anyone aware of the SL art world, Betty Tureaud should by now be a familiar name. She is an artist in both the physical and virtual realms, but she is vehement that her work in SL is made entirely in world. This isn’t to say it isn’t about ‘reality’, however – she tackles incredibly difficult and thought-provoking political and social subject in fantastically impactive ways.

That said, I was somewhat surprised by the austere silver cube that was entered by her this month, a far cry from her usual colourful and immersive work. I walked through the phantom wall, expecting to encounter such a display, but was again surprised to find nothing more than what looked like a poseball (and wasn’t, but I think it gave me a notecard), and a small replica iPhone on the ground. Hmm. Then I looked up, and saw another cube textured in a strange (but aesthetically pleasing) black and white pattern. Aha!

I’ve been hearing of QR Code for a little while now, but exploring this bit of tech hasn’t yet squeezed into my hectic schedule, so I was very excited to have the chance. Clicking the iPhone sent me to a free App for a QR Code reader, which I eagerly downloaded (this tech is also available to non-Appleheads, more is at the wiki link above). Once installed, I scanned away (an aside – I LOVE scan technology on smart phones; I’ve scanned my entire bookshelf which put my in PhD bibliography heaven!). Now, I’m going to pause in my description of Betty's work here, because I want YOU to go to see the work, and interact, and think about the messages therein, because they are every bit as thoughtful as the rest of her art (if perhaps more direct). But for using this bit of technology alone, and for a fantastic example of Variable Reality, Betty gets top marks from me. From here, I'd like to see her push it a bit, and start incorporating the codes with her colourful immersive work.

Betty also has a collaborative work with Thoth Jantzen, a walk-through kaleidoscope which, while not necessarily a unique concept in SL, is rather beautiful and worth a pause.

Eliza Wierwight's 'The Abandoned Daughter'
It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Eliza Wierwight (and not just because she doesn’t give a crap if I’m her fan, and teaches me how to make cool stuff anyway). Friendship aside, she is simply a brilliant artist, and one of the most hard-working I know. Her entry this month is born from her interest in Surrealism (she’s recently been exploring appropriations of Frida Kahlo in her virtual photomontages), and as well her love of contemporary fashion (in this case Vivienne Westwood). Like her fantastic ‘Three Dresses Triptych’, ‘The Abandoned Daughter’ explores issues of beauty, femininity and the body via a sculpture that is part couture window display and part readymade assemblage. While this might not seem like the kind of pioneering embrace of technology as the aforementioned pieces, it has earned a place here because, like Betty and Glyph, she is dedicated to making her work inworld, while moving between the physical and the virtual to achieve her desired affect. For example, weaving textures on prims, photographing them, and then reimporting them as whole new textures. She works back and forth in this manner, really using SL as an artistic tool.

'The Abandoned Daughter', detail.
Furthermore, what I really love about Eliza’s work is that she is current and relevant in the contemporary art sense; she’s got her finger on the pulse of something without even knowing it, or trying. 'The Abandoned Daughter' is an 18th century gown modeled from these virtually woven textures, and adorned (garnished?) with Dalí-esque lobsters textured with human hair (yes, Dalí would have loved that indeed). When she explained her inspiration to me (Dalí and Westwood), I asked if she knew the work of Yinka Shonibare. I was pretty sure she didn’t – I always pull out my elite art history crap on her and am surprised and delighted when she has no idea about artists who work in the same vein. But this piece very much reminds me of his fantastic installations, which combine 18th century fashion with Dutch Wax textiles to comment on European Imperial history and it’s socio-political legacies. In her own unaffected and unpretentious manner, she is making work which is completely in line with some of (in my opinion) the greatest contemporary artists, but in a virtual realm, making it more radical. Move to Britain, Miss Eliza, so we can give you the Turner Prize.

1 comment:

  1. ~buys tickets, laughs~

    See me fronting up at Heathrow with the laptop under my arm yelling "where's my prize dammit" .

    Not a good look ~smiles~

    Thanks for the stunning yet positive comments about this piece Rowan.

    Even more so for the introduction to Yinka's work, I adore the man and his work the more I discover. I just scootch back in my chair and drink it all in. It's Heaven to me.