Saturday, June 14, 2008

Art and Social Responsibility in Second Life: AM Radio

The 3D virtual world of Second Life has quickly become a place of interactive art, where artists can display their creations and visitors can interact with them. The result is a "living museum" or "living gallery" experience that invites the viewer to participate in what could be an updated version of a preceptor model. It is also a method to construct a learning community. Some artists also encourage community in a larger sense and encourage contributions to humanitarian endeavors. AM Radio, an artist working in this environment, has created an immersive, interactive gallery that allows visitors to join a community centered around self-expression and social responsibility, as individuals may donate linden bucks to a rural economic development organization, whose mission resonates with AM Radio's own art.

Podcast: http://www.beyondutopia.net/podcasts/amradio.mp3

While galleries and artists can be found throughout Second Life, getting to galleries can be challenging. In Dreamworld, one seems to have landed squarely in the middle of a dry lake bed or salt plain; something reminiscent of Alkali Flats or some other place where one could test experimental vehicles (cars, motorcycles, planes, dirigibles) or investigate the nature and texture of mirages. In any case, it's a place that reminds you of the big dreams that inventors have had, and that sometimes the outcome of a dream is a device (a plane, a spaceship, even a computer) that changes the way we perceive our world.

The island contains antique airplanes, a desk with antique instruments, and other items. The visitor can sit in the planes, and can sit at the desk. They are not for sale, but they can be used in world as prompts for conversations. One is reminded of surrealists, Joan Miro and Salvador Dali, except that the nature of the artwork also brings realism / superrealism to mind.

The antique telescope allows you to touch it and teleport to Dreamworld North. Once in Dreamworld North, FarAway, one becomes acquainted with some really spectacular artwork / background, created by AM Radio. There is a wheat field, a cluster of outbuildings, and a windmill. Although they were modeled after a wheat field in Elgin, Illinois, they could just as easily be from the "Red Carpet Country" expanse of fertile wheat farms in northern Oklahoma and southern Kansas. There is something sublime about the backdrops. Clearly others have felt the same. They have been purchased and used in photoshoots, as in the case of Soigne (http://secondsoigne.wordpress.com/2008/05/03/106/)



In terms of echoes of art, one can't help but think of Andrew Wyeth's "Christina's World" or Millet's "The Gleaners."

AM Radio's installation, with its wheat field, big big sky, wonderful farmhouse elements, and the old locomotive have inspired many residents to take their pictures and then to post them in their Flickr streams. For example, SL Resident Strawberry Holiday posted her snapshot: http://www.flickr.com/photos/strawberryholiday/2271286513/.

There are other installations, such as a table for two. The vaguely overcast sky gives a magical aura.



Dreamworld North in FarAway is AM Radio's first interactive, immersive gallery in SL, and it has inspired many residents to not only take snapshots, but also to donate Linden dollars to a charity that AM Radio selected to feature there. The Resident can "Support the Heifer" http://www.heifer.org by donating linden dollars. The funds are then used to purchase a cow as a part of an economic development project run by the not-for-profit humanitarian aid organization, Heifer International. You can donate lindens toward the cause -- receive your selection of plots of wheat with prims.



For those who would like to get started with creating their own objects, the NMC (New Media Consortium) offers very helpful tutorials and learning objects in the educator-friendly NMC Orientation Island in SL. Display opportunities also exist at Ars Simulacra, an NMC-sponsored space that allows artists to display their items. Further, the NMC's 2008 Summer Conference, hosted by Princeton University, offers numerous opportunities to learn about how to create art and share it in virtual worlds (http://www.nmc.org).

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