25 October 2014

Jo Ellsmere and Daniel Mounsey/Pyewacket Kazanenko at LEA8

On display at LEA8, in conjunction with the Art & Algorithms Digital Arts Festival, are a number of works by various artists, and several are significant enough that it seems most appropriate to consider them individually rather than attempting to write about the entire sim in one blog post. Among them is Interstellar Princess (top three images), a collaborative work by Jo Ellsmere and Daniel Mounsey (or Pyewacket Kazanenko in Second Life). The work is set in a dark room, in the center of which are thirteen identical female avatars busily displaying a dizzying array of motion — running, walking, hopping, circling head over heels, crouching, flying with arms spinning, crawling, and so on — and three concentric rings of twenty-six television sets, all showing a Superman cartoon. (Be sure to have media turned on.) We're also treated to sound clips of scifi-ish news.

The scene, from the avatars' attire to the televisions to Superman and the audio, hearkens back to the 1950s or 60s. We're informed by clicking on the sign at the landing point, "With a nod to Stephen Hawking the artists note: 'Our goal is simple. It is a complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all.'" Whether or not they succeed in this regard is difficult to say (quite a goal!), but the work is absolutely mesmerizing — it's difficult to stop watching, and it's amazing to follow the movements of individual avatars. These still images don't come close to conveying the chaotic and delightfully crazy atmosphere of the work.

Also at LEA8 is a restaging of Jo's monumental work Biomechanical (lower two images), which was displayed earlier this year at The Golden Age of the Russian Avant-Garde (read here for more information). Here, five avatars present something of a dance work, and I'll quote what I wrote in April: "By carefully scripting five avatars in elegant synchronized movement, she has not only explored biomechanics — a system of actor training introduced in the early 1920s by Russian actor, director and teacher, Vsevolod Meyerhold — she has created a stunning display of technical virtuosity with profound implications for dance, performance art and choreography in virtual spaces. Her human forms are at times one — although the overlapping textures remind us of the multiplicity within — and then unfold into five forms, whether slowly rippling apart or simply diverging, with breathtaking attention to detail and timing."

Because these and other installations were presented as part of a real life festival, the sim was designed to permit those unfamiliar with Second Life to gain some basic mastery. So, as you arrive, you can probably bypass the inner-most sets of signs, which explain things such as how to move your avatar, and can instead move toward the outer circle, which indicate where the various works are located. For Interstellar Princess you'll need to find its platform and then teleport up; Biomechanical is more easily visible from the landing point. Clicking on the exhibitions signs will provide some background information on the artists and works, and I'll cover the other installations in subsequent posts. Kudos to Jo and Daniel/Pyewacket for creating this fabulous material.


  1. Did you notice the names of the bots in Interstellar Princess? *grin* I found myself having to explain to Makkie who Ron Jeremy was...

  2. Yes — I almost listed all the names of the bots!