23 May 2015


Now open at LEA1 is Obedience by Bryn Oh and Jo Ellsmere, the immersive virtual counterpart to an exhibition of the same name now on display at the Jüdisches Museum Berlin (Jewish Museum) created by Saskia Boddeke (Rose Borchovski in Second Life) and Peter Greenaway that continues through September 13. As Bryn notes on her blog, "It's a high profile use of Second Life as an artistic medium." Museum-goers are able to visit the virtual installation via computers on site, and may explore the build using two avatars, isaak001 and ishmael001. (If you see these avatars walking about the space, they're being controlled by someone in the Jewish Museum in Berlin.) Machinima created by Bryn is here; a video created by Iono Allen is here.

Obedience explores the Biblical story of the Binding of Isaac, in which God tests Abraham by commanding him to sacrifice his son, Isaac, on Mount Moriah, only to withdraw that instruction at the last moment. Bryn spells the story out in substantially more detail at the landing point, and in the installation we witness a more contemporary version of the tale largely constructed by Bryn: we first see Abraham watching television (through which, apparently, God speaks), Isaac playing with a toy ram (which in the Bible is sacrificed in Issac's stead), and Mount Moriah as an apartment building. "The story in the Bible is fairly abstract: we don't associate with the characters really," Bryn explained to me. "So the idea was to put Abraham with his son as a baby spending time together, showing the bond...then to show the moments after God stops Abraham, when God is satisfied and fades away to look elsewhere, and Abraham is left with his son to walk home, to continue."

Visitors to the exhibition are asked to configure some settings in their viewers to optimize the experience, and it's all fairly easy to do. The result is a world in which the only illumination one sees is that which emanates from local lights in the installation itself, giving the artist a very controlled environment that's similar to that used in her 2014 work The Singularity of Kumiko "For this, the light is more static in some ways, so I designed the scenes differently," Bryn said. "They are more like paintings. The lamp shade was a new idea though — shooting light through the lampshade hole to have it project on one the walls and objects as it turned." (Visitors should also enable local sounds.)

Midway through the installation, we encounter the Throne of God, surrounded, as described in Revelations, by four living beings or creatures. Bryn remarked, "They are all covered from the inside and out with eyes, which I changed to cameras." Nearby is Jo's amazing contribution to Obedience — the 24 elders, also mentioned in Revelations, dressed in white with gold crowns, who sit in two rows against a wall — some restless, some reading, but always with movement (third image). Occasionally one rises, walks to the throne, bows before God (fourth image) and returns. (There are also two "colubrum" avatars, or serpents, who seem to have special roles.) The movements and attitudes of Jo's avatars are absolutely mesmerizing, and represent the best of time-based media art in Second Life. Obedience is an installation not to be missed.

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