I Derryth

Rowan Derryth's Virtual Adventures

Ekphrasis: The Conservation of Virtual Art

Detail of The Rabbicorn Story by Bryn Oh. Photo by PJ Trenton.

I’ve been stewing on this one a while, and had planned to make a lengthy, hopefully thought-provoking post, but lack of time and recent developments have prompted to make this short and sweet (which might be to the readers’ benefit).

Linden Lab needs to do more to support and preserve virtual art.

Detail of The Rabbicorn Story by Bryn Oh. Photo by PJ Trenton.

Now, before I explain, let me make the disclaimer that these are my views and not necessarily those of Prim Perfect’s. My views not as a writer about a virtual world some see as a game, but as a ‘real life’ (whatever that is) art historian, curator, and arts administrator.

I think the Lab has made an excellent start on this through the foundation of the Linden Endowment for the Arts (LEA), whereby they have turned over 20 sims to a community board for the purpose of art. This is great.

Detail of The Rabbicorn Story by Bryn Oh. Photo by PJ Trenton.

But I don’t think this is enough. We are losing some amazing work. We all know this. Bettina Tizzy wrote about this well before my time at her NPIRL blog. And I have for a very long time felt strongly that it would be in the best interest of everyone if Linden Lab created some kind of programme – a Foundation or something – to try and archive some of this work.

Don’t ask me exactly how this would work, though I have some ideas. Obviously it would be limited; should be decided by committee (like the LEA); and there should be some grant application process for getting in. It should NOT be for commercial sims, as lovely as some builds are. I wouldn’t exclude artists who sell work to try to support themselves; but rather businesses whose primary function is commercial. So, for example, NEMO would have been the kind of place eligible.

Detail of The Rabbicorn Story by Bryn Oh. Photo by PJ Trenton.

So I’ve been thinking about this, chatting about it with friends and colleagues, and thought I’d ultimately put together some more concrete ideas. But just this week, Bryn Oh made a post related to the recent closing of Immersiva, in which she announced that she and sim partner Kiana Writer (of Madpea) wrote a sponsorship request to Linden Lab after their patron, Dusan Writer vanished from the grid (my choice of words). I haven’t asked Bryn directly about this, but word on the virtual street is they logged in to find the sim gone, and their things returned. And this while Bryn was in the midst of crafting her machinima project on the Rabbicorn Cycle (I’ve posted pictures of one of the installations throughout this piece). What a panicked night that must have been! (And Bryn, please correct me if the rumourmill has this wrong).

The request for sponsorship was declined by Linden Lab… and this may surprise some, but I think that was the right decision. As Bryn herself said, it would have set a problematic precedent, and as well, I think it would have been unfair to the many other talented artists who pay for their studios and galleries.

Detail of The Rabbicorn Story by Bryn Oh. Photo by PJ Trenton.

Yet if Linden Lab had a programme like I suggest, artist could apply when unfortunate circumstances like these arise; or even be nominated by the community. I said as much in a comment on Bryn’s blog, to which she replied:

You are right Rowan and I think LL should give a lifetime achievement region each year to a deserving person with the first one being given to AM Radio. Considering that their own collect the crystals game thing uses a dozen sims that alone would be 12 years of awards. What I would be happy with is a public statement by Linden Labs saying that should Second Life ever need to close, they will allow residents to leave with our inventories so that we may go settle on another grid. I think just the peace of mind that would create for residents would spur both the economy and creativity.

Extremely crucial points, and part of why I am so concerned about the conservation of this work. Yes, I realise that a good and viable solution is to simply go to another grid. But there are two problems with that: there is still a very active arts community in Second Life (and I mean more than artists, but collectors and good ol’ fashioned art-lovers too); and moving to another grid doesn’t help the work that has already been crafted in SL.

Detail of The Rabbicorn Story by Bryn Oh. Photo by PJ Trenton.

Now, I would very much be in favour, as a temporary solution, of Bryn making use of one of those 20 LEA sims. However, those have already been promised to artists who made project proposals for them. And lest anyone think Bryn feels she is somehow outside of that, let me quote another comment: ‘Unfortunately I am part of the LEA committee so it would look pretty shady for me to get any LEA land.’

She is a fair and humble person, and I don’t think her asking the Lindens for support makes her any less so. It is what artists have to do in this day and age–ask, sometimes beg, for patronage. Especially the great ones. And I think Bryn’s work is tops, and I know I’m not alone in saying that. And I’m glad she made the request, even if I think having it granted would have been unfair, because it opens up this conversation in a way that is vital to so many.

Detail of The Rabbicorn Story by Bryn Oh. Photo by PJ Trenton.

What do you think? Should Linden Lab do more to not just support, but preserve art in Second Life? Should they work to create a foundation for it, make ‘gifts-in-kind’ grants to artists (a tax write off for them!) Should they create a ‘National Gallery’ of Second Life.

I mean, it’s just disc space, isn’t it?

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3 comments on “Ekphrasis: The Conservation of Virtual Art

  1. livansaathoff
    January 15, 2012

    Thank you for this article, it was very exciting to read it. 🙂

  2. As I have suggested previously, if 30 people joined a support group (the Immersionists?) and donated tier to keep Immersiva open, it would cost US$10/month each. Even less if more than 30 people joined. It’s doable and I would be happy to help.

    • Rowan Derryth
      January 15, 2012

      It’s a good idea, and I would suggest that you ‘watch this space’ or others for an upcoming announcement.

      However, that is not a viable option for many artists (Bryn has a pretty big following), and it doesn’t really solve things in the larger sense. I said the same thing about the crowdsourcing for the mesh deformer: it is pretty shameful that the community has to pay for things that Linden Labs should be supporting.

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This entry was posted on January 15, 2012 by in Art, Derryth-Ekphrasis, Virtual Art.

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