I went to the "Kiss the Sky" opening at the New Media Consortium on Saturday, as I had planned to do. I had hoped that I would have some questions answered, some new doors opened, and a few new friends as a result. But instead I found myself dramatically conflicted over the idea of participating in this kind of artwork, with more questions than ever about how I as an artist can fit into and express myself in SL, with a stronger commitment to my interest in blurring and breaking through boundaries rather than setting up new ones, and with some degree of disappointment about the unfortunate similarities between the SL art world and the RL art world.
Let's start with the work in "Kiss the Sky." It's impressive. The attention to details of color and movement and sound and form, the audacity of it in terms of scale and maleability, and the interactive nature of many of the pieces was really extraordinary. The entire presentation was thrilling, from the free added boost in flying power (make sure you take advantage of that if you go, you will need it) to the "art tour chairs" that automatically carried visitors from one work to the next. This truly is work that is possible ONLY in SL, both in terms of the work and the presentation of it. And while I don't really have any quibbles with that, I don't think it is for me.
The opening reception itself, however, was a painful reminder of the RL art world. The artists were definitely all there, I could see their little name tags floating over their heads. And there was a lot of chatting going on, as well as dancing and DJ'ing. But there were so many "in jokes" flying around that I didn't feel comfortable trying to jump into a conversation with anyone there, and the folks in the crowd didn't seem inspired to chat up anyone hanging around the edges of their "party." So I left the reception having spoken to no artists, nor anyone else, although I later picked up an IM and made a friend of someone who had also been there and was feeling similarly shut out.
I took the pictures included here to give you a little taste of what was on display, with the final two being of my personal favorite piece. The presentation sim itself is a work of art and very specifically structured to support the artwork, so certain things like your camera and movement controls may not work as you expect them to. If you don't avail yourself of the free flying boost and try to get around that way, you may spend a lot of time falling instead of flying--I did, but the good news is I fall rather well and generally found something to land on. DO use the automatic chairs, and DO take all of the notes offered on the work, as much of that information is not posted near the works themselves. And do take risks, touch things, fly through things, interact, play, and do all the things you generally would be encouraged not to do in a RL art gallery. By the way, the last picture in the series shows the kind of scale we're talking about; that tiny dot on the platform at the lower right is me.
In summary, although I enjoyed the show and want to go back for another look soon, I am not convinced that these people or this work is from my tribe, if you know what I mean. The friend I made there, who freely says he is NOT an artist (although he does own a box of Crayola 64), seems closer to my tribe than the artists who are part of "Kiss the Sky," but then on the other hand I don't know for sure, since I didn't get a chance to talk to any of them. If you want to read a very thorough Art Forum style review of the show, check out SLArt Magazine. Some of you will no doubt find it intellectually stimulating, others of you may hear the nagging sound of Charlie Brown's teacher honking somewhere in the background.
If you want to check out "Kiss the Sky," you should be able to use this link to teleport to the NMC Arts Lab (43, 135, 706).
Still looking for my tribe.