Tuesday, September 19, 2006

funhaus Stilman

[Images Redacted]

With the 2006 Burning Man Project marking its first steps into 3pointD territory via Google Earth, Second Life's annual homage to the event is already well established and has enjoyed an exceptional amount of coverage this year thanks to GavinLeigh Wake's Burninglife.com. And yet while the glowing embers of the festival fade to black perhaps we might take one last opportunity to work the bellows. The theme this year was 'The Future: Hope and Fear'. At the time of the event it wasn't going to be 'the future' until the event was over, so it seems appropriate to discuss it now-er, yeah. A few builders may have also mistook the theme to read 'Ambivalence: Ban Lines and Plywood', however that's not to say the festival was devoid of compelling experiences. Far from it.

At its best Burning Life, like any time-certain event in Second Life, is intensified by its ephemerality and the knowledge that hundreds of person hours of avatar effort will at some point implode to inventory or scatter throughout the grid. What sets it apart is its subject matter, where residents have the potential to be not merely amused but also confronted by deeper and more personal visions on the part of the creators. For a brief time the playa is a condenser, saturated with inspiration and perspiration, where boundaries are drawn on the endless asymmetric expanse of the mind, creating a momentary compound from which to contemplate the world and our place within it.

These qualities were exemplified, even amplified, in funhaus Stilman.

Located on the Tianci sim, funhaus Stilman featured 2D artwork by the avatar of the same name, however far from being just another art space seeking to gently fade into the background as a value-neutral container for its wares, the funhaus proved a twitchy high-strung agonist, a work of art in and of itself, propelling a singular, seamless, phenomenal collage on the hardpan of the playa.

As with any tractor trailer unfurled at the county fair and worth its weight in stuffed animals, the funhaus experience was metered out in small doses, and while forced to follow a preset path visitors were denied the comfort of being able to conceptualize the whole thing at once. A series of circuitous and tenuous catwalks occasionally enveloped by mesh and tactile membranes thus seemed to create an elusive and not entirely uncomfortable slippage with the surroundings, to which like a dissected worm the build was delicately pinned via a network of metal twigs and concrete piers.

Proportionally, the spaces unfolded as a combination of dark compressed corridors and open platforms, the former providing a frame for artworks mounted onto protruding light boxes, the latter affording moments of relative respite with views across a central courtyard. Within this central courtyard a dome structure and attached blobby duodenum functioned as one of the few consistent landmarks for navigation, however color was carefully used to provide depth of field and subtle wayfinding cues throughout.

The dome might have also been considered the physical and emotional climax of the journey. Nowhere was the connection between the artwork and the build more apparent than from the viewpoint from inside, where the combination of opaque printed panels and transparent vision panels blended to create a singular apparition of art and architecture, of media and manifestation. One might imagine standing in the pinhole of a camera obscura, or Plato as a carny.

As with Tyg Jarrico's build from last year, hopefully the funhaus will find a permanent home, that is to say as permanent as anything in SL ever turns out to be. And yet one suspects it just wouldn't be the same be able to not only visit the funhaus at anytime but also to put off visiting it at any time as well. As I tire of blowing hot air perhaps the intent here was not only to heap praise and sincere gratitude on funhaus Stilman (and indeed all of the Burning Life builders) but also to make my time there last just a little bit longer, keeping it firmly rooted in the place from whence it came.


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