02 October 2014

Bryn Oh: A Retrospective 2007 – 2014

Bryn Oh is arguably the most significant visual artist presently working in Second Life. With an oeuvre spanning eight years, she has created numerous sim-wide immersive environments, is a prodigious producer of machinima, and has curated group installations with other artists. Now, prompted by an invitation from the Art & Algorithms Festival, which runs October 3 – 12 in Titusville, Florida, Bryn has staged retrospective of her work at LEA 9, simply entitled A Retrospective 2007 – 2014. (Real life visitors to the festival will be able to use avatars to visit the current build at Immersiva, The Singularity of Kumiko — see here for the schedule — and additional exhibits by other artists await at LEA 8, about which I will write soon.)

The flow of the exhibition is chronological, beginning in 2007 with Bryn's earliest works, a series of robotic insects that hint at the artist's future use of elements — gears, wheels, spidery limbs and long filaments, and a suggestion of something emotionally disturbing, but which lack her forthcoming embrace of narrative, which was manifest in full swing by mid-2008 with the advent of two characters, the Rabbicorn and the Daughter of Gears. What quickly began to follow as her work progressed were large-scale immersive environments that were hosted by invitation on a variety of sims, and that eventually were displayed most often on Bryn's own sim, appropriately named Immersiva. In most cases these were narrative works (even if the narrative might be only partially revealed), and many of the narratives are connected into a large meta-story.

The retrospective itself is staggering in scope, and demands repeated visits to fully explore — and the installation design itself is remarkable. Visitors will appreciate not only the plethora of works, but also the many accompanying texts that shed light on Bryn's artistic process and the general history of her aesthetic development. Bryn has managed to recreate sections of many of the larger installations, including The Rabbicorn Story, Anna's Many Murders, Standby, Virginia Alone, and especially Imogen and the Pigeons. We are also treated to her contributions to group projects such as The Path and The Cube Project (the latter still among my all-time favorite art projects).

Bryn revels in hidden things — hidden spaces, objects hidden within others, hidden interactive elements, and hidden meanings. She enjoys developing what she refers to as "cam builds," in which the only way to see the artwork is to move ones camera inside a restricted space — and you'll find, if you're patient, many opportunities to do so here. You will also find links to many of her machinimas, which serve both as documentation of the builds and as stand-alone works of art. The one major piece not included in the Retrospective is that which currently stands at Immersiva: The Singularity of Kumiko. For that, your trip continues, with the Retrospective serving as an outstanding introduction to Bryn Oh's work.

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