Insights from an Immersivist by Bryn Oh

Lobby Cam

Immersive Integration by Bryn Oh, immersivist

Originally, at the Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto, I did fine art oil painting and sculpture (previously I went to Carleton University for psychology but dropped out to go to art school). Generally, when students leave art school, they are completely unprepared to live in the real world. The first thing they told us when starting in art school was that only 0.1% of us would still be working as artists in ten years. Generally students have to pay rent, so they take jobs not related to art which turns into a career. I left art school and struggled, so decided to go back to school at Seneca College and learn computer animation— Softimage xsi. When I left there, I probably would have gotten into a game studio or something. But as luck had it, I was picked up and represented by a gallery in Toronto. So I remained a painter, but I had lots of ideas that didn’t translate well to the 2d painting medium. So these ideas were shelved for another time— even initially considered failures.

When I discovered Second Life® after reading an article, I realized that I could build in this persistent and user-generated world. It was very unique, as compared to an example like World of Warcraft that supplies the environments, and you can’t really change them. In SL, if you put down a cube on the ground (on land you own) and go on vacation for a month, then it will still be there when you come back. So I realized that all those failed ideas were really just ideas that were not made for the painting medium, but for the virtual world medium, which I had not yet discovered. All the ideas here that people enjoy are really my ‘failed’ ideas from other media!

I have a lot of success in new media, and so decided to focus on the virtual builds over my paintings. It used to be that I would bring in ideas from my real life work to build in SL. Over time, it has changed so that I now conceptualize the work in SL, and might bring back to RL as paintings or sketches, etc. I still paint and sell work, but I know that what I do virtually is on the cusp of a new art movement. There were the Surrealists, the Impressionists, the Cubists, and so on. Each person whom we know from those movements were present at the very beginning. It is so rare to be present when something is born, and I feel that this could be seen as one of those movements some day. We might be known as the ‘Immersivists’ perhaps. This could just be cloud-talk and daydreaming on my part, but I chose to take that chance rather than be one of many painters whose work, essentially, is not breaking any new ground.

Insights from an Immersivist

The out world

As a painter I have one, or possibly two, large art openings a year within a real world gallery. Many months are spent creating eight to ten paintings for a show. Each show lasts a month.

The opening night is where the vast majority of sales, or future sales, come from. A few years ago there was a tornado during an opening of mine— one that I had prepared a year for. Other artists get scheduled during the bitter cold of February and deal with winter storms, etc. The gallery represents thirty artists, and each year, there are hundreds of other artists attempting to take your spot in the gallery, either as recent graduates or veteran artists. While the gallery owners sympathize with a tornado or storm on your opening, in the end it is a business for them. They take 40-50% of your sales. If your sales are poor, for whatever reason, then you may be dropped. Quite a bit really rests on that opening night and you just pray for sunshine and warm weather. The opening reception might get, as a guess, around 300 people over the course of the evening. Then each day, for the rest of the month, there is a trickle of people coming in. Again, I will guess and say around 30 people a day? The vast majority are local residents from Toronto where I live.

With the online work, Singularity of Kumiko, there have been just over 60,000 visitors attending from all over the world since its original opening.*  Some days saw 1,000 guests, and the average was about 350 a day. There is no bad weather or traffic. My works have been exhibited in galleries and museums ranging from the Menage Museum in Moscow to the Judisches museum in Berlin. The curators discovered my work through various ways, but also from SL due to its worldwide accessibility, regardless of location. They didn’t need to take a flight to Toronto to find me. Had my work been only available in a first life gallery space, then it is safe to say that my opportunities for global exposure would be greatly diminished.

Virginia Alone

The in-world

In real life, generally, artists are often trained in traditional methods of color theory, composition and so on. The artists are also fully aware of their chosen medium’s history, and all those who went before from Van Gogh, to Picasso, to Giacometti. Along with this understanding is a formula for creation. In SL, the vast majority of artists are not formally trained, and so have a particular type of freedom. It is a strength in that some might be marine biologists or accountants or programmers who create on a pure level. The top artists in SL don’t mimic what they think art should look like, but rather create work based solely on their desire to express themselves in this medium. They don’t have the weight of the art world and its vast history on their shoulders. You will find galleries in SL that look like real life galleries where painting sit on the walls or a single sculpture stands alone, similar to what you might find in RL. But the best art is that which focuses on what makes this medium unique over other media. There is no gravity; we can fly so we don’t need stairs. It is along the lines of NPIRL or ‘Not possible in real life.’

Although I am an artist in both worlds, I choose to be anonymous in SL. When my real life name is connected to my artwork, then it comes with baggage which influences how I create. My friends and family read RL reviews. When I create something that sells well during a show, I am pressured to create work which will maintain such positive reviews. I want to see my family and friends proud of me. It gets addicting to have work praised, and so I don’t always take chances for fear of losing that stature or social comfort. I question whether this holds me back and prevents me from completely experimenting, with the possibility of failure.

My family and friends don’t know what I do in virtual worlds… pretty much nobody in my first life does, and that allows me to be pure in my choices of topics to pursue and things to say. If I get a good review of my work as Bryn Oh, it does not affect my choices moving forward. When I go for dinner with my family or friends, a good or bad virtual review means absolutely nothing in my first life. It might be financially wise to connect my RL and SL, but then it would influence what I create. In the end, I just want to know that what I choose to create is coming from a completely artistic desire to understand and advance the medium.

Immersing for the future

SL is is a giant psychology experiment, with few people paying attention to the results. There are so many interesting interactions going on! People meet others and talk in text only to fall in love and, in some cases, marry in real life. They begin though by falling in love with a mind rather than with the aesthetics of a body, whereas often in real life, its the reverse where people are attracted to someone, then begin to talk.

The virtual plays with perceptions. People can climb to the top of a building and feel vertigo due to their mind not quite being in sync with what they know to be true. There are those who fashion themselves into an image of who they wish they were and lead lives they are happy with. There are the elderly or disabled, for whom it is hard to develop social companions, but find true friendships in what detractors would call a ‘pretend’ world. As a teaching tool, imagine leading a class during history lessons to a replica of the invasion of Normandy where they can better understand the horrors of war by having to rush the gun emplacements or act as a medic. Reading about war is impersonal and perhaps glorifies it, but being immersed would leave a far deeper, and possibly more beneficial, impression. These are just off the top of my head, but there are so many interactions going on emotionally and socially that are quite remarkable and powerful, both positive and negative. There is both addiction and beauty, constantly playing out all around the virtual space. A lot could be learned from observing it clinically. The fact that it is user-generated and not composed by a company suggests that what we see around us, both good and bad, is a more true representation of the community that uses it.

*The installation for The Singularity of Kumiko is current at my sim, Immersiva, while creating a Machinima.
—Bryn Oh

– – – – – – – – – – – – –  Please see the review:

Becoming Bryn: Pivotal Works of Bryn Oh” review by Eleanor Medier

And the in-world edition of Sim Street Journal continues with:

“Developing Depth: An Aesthetic Approach,” by Bryn Oh

“Pivotal Perspectives: The World According to Bryn Oh,” review by Eleanor Medier

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Please see the in-world edition of Sim Street Journal #18 with comparative and critical articles that add to this online content. Available in kiosks and at the Sim Street Journal SL Office (Innu 40, 36,1649) or download PDF Sim Street Journal #18.
— The in-world magazine has topics that relate to those who understand the virtual context, including photographs, parallel articles. It has tabs for information landmarks, and web links.
— The online magazine expresses what the virtual world offers the real one. It is a mirror that reflects parallel articles, hot topics, and provides more links.Contributions are encouraged if covering topics relevant to real world readers.

Please see the INDEX for all contributors and articles.
(Back issues are available on MARKETPLACE).

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Eleanor Medier (avatar of Liane Sebastian)

BLOG: http://www.eleanormedier.wordpress.com

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EMAIL: eleanormedier@gmail.com

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Liane Sebastian FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/liane.sebastian

Sim Street Journal explores the relevance of second to first life.
© 2016 by Liane Sebastian/Eleanor Medier, Sim Street Journal.
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