Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Adam Ramona's Seventeen Unsung Songs

Second life is primarily a visual treat, and so art in SL tends toward the fantastic, the improbable and the impossible. On the island of East of Odyssey, however, Adam Ramona--known in real life as Adam Nash, a 3D artist, performer, composer and programmer who uses online space (and sound) as a realtime performance medium--has taken the visual and integrated it organically with the aural and even the emotional in a sim-wide installation he calls Seventeen Unsung Songs.

Nash's installations use a combination of color, prim transparency, and scripting to make interactive art such as this complex piece: " Unsung Song #4: Mitosis." The central piece is an plant with a central shaft that responds to touch. Touch it enough and it ejaculates pollen which, if it falls into the cupped petals below, may turn into red eggs. The eggs hatch pink larvae which turn into blue bugs. Touch a blue bug and it falls to the ground as a blue transparent prim which begins to grow into a music tree, each square blue branch sounding a different chime when touched.

Another of Nash's complex pieces is "Unsung Song #16: Blue Sound Ground" a roadway made up of transparent blue prims, each of which sounds a different note when walked on by an avatar.

The notes range from percussive sounds to voices to melodious chimes. Multiple avatars walking on this road thus literally make a unique song of surprisingly harmonious tones.

The most amazing and perhaps disturbing of Nash's pieces is "Unsong Song #7: The Moaning Columns of Longing." Dr. Lisa Dethridge (Lisa Dapto) says in her paper on Nash's work:

The artist leaves less room for us to negotiate space around his highly interactive work, the Moaning Columns of Longing. This is perhaps the most mysterious and emotive of the works. Here artist toys deliberately with the “hot buttons” of love and pain that drive us all, especially those enmeshed in virtual affairs . . . In response to an avatar’s touch, tall, white columns spawn instantly with a phallic upward thrust. These gently swaying prims define themselves as artificial life forms that exist only in relation to a single, specific Avatar. They are exclusive and faithful to a fault.
The columns sway and ooze particles for joy or shrink and pine desperately when rejected. They communicate directly, challenging each owner/lover/user to prove their love and loyalty. In this giggly theatre of cruelty, the Avatar may choose to support and “love”, to ignore or even to abuse the artificial life form that is now virtually “theirs.” Like real life lovers however, the Moaning Columns make heavy demands on the avatar, challenging us to differentiate between real love and merely dizzy infatuation. Thus we earn what Nash wryly calls “an endless amount of chances to practice emotional responsibility.”

I have to admit that after three days of my "Column" moaning at me I couldn't stand it anymore and I let it die--if nothing else, Nash has reminded me in a very concrete object lesson about the dangers of emotional entanglement in SL. A lesson many of us need to learn. The Unsung Songs of Adam Ramona/Adam Nash are not your typical artistic builds, they are a multimedia treat and a closer look at in our own mirrors, and at our own obsessions, all rolled into one. Go visit East of Odessey and see for yourself.

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