Meeting Jay Jay

If one thing has meant more to me in Second Life than anything else, it has been the art. The Open Art Challenge at the University of Western Australia’s virtual campus introduced me to many excellent SL artists.

I’m neither an artist nor particularly well-educated in RL art. I’m the kind of person who bums along to art galleries as part of the cultural scenery of any town she happens to be visiting with an air of polite distraction. My SL self has discovered a hunger for art, and feels as if a huge visual switch was clicked on in her head because of it. Where better to feed the addiction than at the UWA Open Art Challenge, where you have a veritable smorgasbord of work from both established artists and new? I have greatly enjoyed “judging” the pieces submitted, and was so proud of myself when I was a runner-up in a competition to rank the winning pieces. (The letter from the university meant far more to me than the prize money which I no doubt squandered immediately on my virtual wardrobe.)

The best thing to me about SL art (as someone who nearly got thrown out of a Singapore gallery a short time back for taking a photo) is that nowhere is there a Don’t Touch sign and you can flying into, pose with, jump around on, and yes, photograph the pieces. (Some of my own pieces are here.)

On one of my first visits to the UWA gallery I bumped into Jay Jay Jegatheva Jegathesan in his Second Life incarnation (Jayjay Zinfawe). He looked like some sort of alien being: his metallic avatar skin shimmered with ever changing colours. But as we got talking we discovered (and what are the chances of this? ) that we had a whole lot of real life friends in common, and I had even once seen him in a play he was in (though I don’t have very clear memories of his two lines!). I’m British and came to teach in Malaysia almost three decades ago, while Jay Jay moved from Malaysia to Western Australia to study and then to work.

It was a total thrill the other day to meet the real world Jay Jay for the first time at the Digital Education Show Asia where he was giving a public talk on education in 3D virtual worlds.

In a very slick presentation, Jay Jay took us through the work that the university does in SL, we toured the virtual campus which looks uncannily like the real life one that it represents (including those damn peacocks that just wouldn’t stay still in the grounds when I tried to snap them for a photography competition!), we toured the different faculties and we saw students attending lectures. My own mind-blowing moment was seeing – a whole table of academics from Universities around the world attending a high-level meeting in the same virtual space, because as Jay Jay said, it was easier to set up than Skype.

He also showed the audience some of the Machinima and the art work. It was lovely to meet Hypatia Pickens, Dianne Eaton and FreeWee Ling (who curates the art) on screen. Hypatatia and Dianne talked about their own involvement in Second Life. And Jay Jay was there of course, a real cool dude in his leather jacket and not too dissimilar this time to the other self who was in the seminar room.

Sometimes when I’m logged into SL Jay Jay asks the members of the UWA 3D Art Challenge group to shout out where they are from because he wants to prove to a group he’s making a presentation to that we are a very diverse and far-flung bunch. Sometimes he invites us over the SL campus of UWA to show our avatar selves in all our glory (provided that we are decently dressed and not parading round in our virtual underwear) and wave at the folks on the other side of the screen. Now, sitting in the audience I was a bit frustrated that I couldn’t be in both realities at the same time! Loquacia Loon (my SL self) would have loved this.

I’ve been very frustrated that Malaysia seems very slow to move into virtual worlds for teaching and digital art. (I ran a workshop once for a design college here whose lecturers needed their students to use SL for an art project as part of their assessment with a British University – but there was no real enthusiasm or interest in the virtual world beyond that, I was sad to see.) I hope Jay Jay’s two talks at the fair have inspired Malaysian academics to make the leap into virtual worlds. I’m happy to share any knowledge I have if they do.

Thanks Jay Jay for a copy of the beautiful book 100 Treasures from UWA. The coffee stain proves that we met on the real world side of the computer screen.

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At The Dock

Scottius Polke’s The Dock.

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Radio Days

Last night, I visited the Radio Days exhibition, a homage to the work of AM Radio. (Not “an homage” as the poster says ‘cos i don’t speak English that way. I’m Lollygagger Lane born and bred, remember?  The self behind the self is no better, neither.)

It saddens me deeply that AM Radio’s sims at IDIA are going to be closed within 6 months.  When I was a very lost avatar wondering what SL was for and where I should go, a friend called Smiling Sands took me on a tour to see all the most fantastical art of SL.  Our first stop was IDIA, and there was this wheat field landscape with a blooming great locomotive inside it – now how the hell did that get there?  Something shifted inside my pixelated heart and I knew began to see why I  wanted to stay in this world : someone had to try to solve mysteries like these.

AM’s landscapes hold many poignant SL memories for me:  Bettina Tizzy calling the Not Possible in Second Life group over to The Far Away because AM Radio was there handing out a free roadsters ; ceremonially setting fire to those same fields with the Hot Stilt Bitches when the installation as due to be dismantled; taking a group of RL multimedia students in a Malaysian classroom through the computer screen and into the atmospheric snowy landscape of The Quiet; spraying graffiti on the side of a freight train.

This exhibition at RoHaus Art Gallery is an excellent celebration of the work of this incredible artist and I was most impressed interpretations of the landscapes by photographers Raven Haalan, PJ Trenton, and Stephen Venkman and Rowan Derryth.   My favourite picture of all was Venkman’s witty spin on  the classic American Gothic.

Quite apart from the art, this gallery space is a lovely place to relax, and there’s even a balcony where you can sip a glass of good red wine while admiring the view.

There’s more of AM Radio’s work beyond the gallery.  A door underneath the windmill takes you up to a wheat field in the sky – and yes, there’s the train.  The Refuge house next door houses some of the artists own pictures and artifacts, co-curated by Derryth & Trenton.

You can read more about the exhibition on the Prim Perfect blog here and here.

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Hello Big World

I swore that I wouldn’t blog about Second Life.  There was a real life blog (on books, on writing) that I was neglecting, as well as other stuff I should be writing, and I didn’t want to have something else eating my time.  (Oh what a juggling trick this SL thing invariably is!)

But I’ve been inworld for almost four years now,  and have fallen deeply in love, not only with Second Life but with the possibilities that virtual worlds offer.  I’ve fallen in love with beautiful sims, great building, and the art … especially the three-dimensional interactive stuff.  I’ve learned how to create pictures from my screenshots which gives me a lot of pleasure and stretches a visual aspect of my brain I didn’t know I had; and even though I have no art training whatsoever, I sometimes end up with images that please other people and I’ve even won one or two prizes in contests.

Above all though, I’ve made friends across the world with some very special people and I’m completely aware that these friendships would not have been possible in any other way.

I reckon it’s time to give something back and the best way I can do that (in lieu of being a great builder, content creator, event organiser, or teacher) to use words and images to share my favourite places and important experiences with the wider world so that others can find their way to them and enjoy them as much as I have.  At one time I thought it would be nice to open a virtual travel agency, conducting tours to all of the most amazing places in the metaverse, and I may still do so.  But in the mean time, I hope on this blog to point the way to some of my favourite places and show you just what makes SL so special.

Blogs always evolve over time, and it will be interesting to see where this one goes and whether it gets any readers over time.   But I’m going to be laid back about it.

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