Thursday, February 6, 2014

What dreams may come: FrancoGrid

         Pixel for pixel, Francogrid is probably the most beautiful grid in the metaverse. If you enjoy art or are involved in education, or heck, just want to be somewhere with a gallic flavor as deliciously diverse as baguettes, Chanel number 5 and Veuve Clicquot, then this may be the grid for you.
          Praline Barjowski is an artist, researcher and curator. She works with African artists, getting them involved in digital creativity, and was based in Dakar when she first learned about SL via an artist she met at a conference in Marseilles. That was in 2009. The jump from SL to Francogrid was a natural one... for a researcher.
Praline B: I realized that the most resources were in English and I'm in a French zone, and my students are French speaking, and also I'm involved in open source system, so I did a research and I found OpenSimulator and FrancoGrid. I came here for the first time in 2010 and at the same time I discovered hypergrid. Open simulator is a very different way to move but very interesting. I feel me more free here to create, it's also more experimental and that adds something more pepsy !  and yes, I feel more at home too. And I have this mad dream, lolol, that Linden Labs decides to go to open source, to liberate their code and to be a part of the huge metaverse.
         Dream on.
         It's very attractive, this businesslike approach to art.  Everything above board, designed for low levels of pointless drama and high levels of real world exposure, with a strong sense of respect for creator's rights. The goal, one guesses instantly, is to be taken seriously in a world where playing about online is still often viewed with derision and suspicion. The whole grid is that way, and it came as no surprise to find that Praline is a bit of a tech person, as well as an art person.
 Praline B: Well, here I'm studying code, I'm learning how to manage a Linux server. It's funny but not so easy for someone who is always dreaming! The first time i got a pc, I de-constructed it immediately. I think I'm very curious, I love to know how things are inside, so naturally now I want to know how is the backstage of a virtual world. For now here, I don't have artwork, I have an archipelago of regions.
        The regions are going to be home to a number of virtual artists, principally coming from West Africa, via her MetaTrame project. Diversity, and a different 'look' are the hallmarks of Francogrid, and that's obvious from your first arrival at Accueil sim, seen above, recently re-worked by Cherry Manga and the wonderful, beautiful DJ Phil who you can see in the last picture as a very adorable white bunny!
         The the big blue blob is a cave that contains TP machines and a 'Guide to the regions' that owners can update  with their latest developments. It also shows if a region is offline, which in opensim, is a handy tool, since teleporting is a little bit hit and miss.
         So, which is better, SL or FG?
Praline B: I think both are good. Diversity is a very great thing  disadvantage is definitely the closed side. Its like a frontier. Also the fact that your art , your objects are not yours. that is a mistake from LL. You have to let people improve new system, new territories and they will learn how to be nice and ethic. I always think that we have to be trusty there will be always bad people but SL is always a very amazing place for artists, creators, because they can have a feedback quickly they have a public in opensim, this is the disadvantage, population is less you may feel sometimes alone but you may experiment more things here, you may push the limits Here at FrancoGrid, this is a community very newcomer friendly and people help participate to your projects you don't have to be good in script or all the stuff.
This is monsieur le president, ssm2017 Binder (no, I'm too shy. You ask him!)  He was on his way to the weekly grid get-together on LeVillage sim, which if you're planning on coming to check out the lie of the land, would be a good thing to attend. It's every Wednesday evening, French time - that's 9 pm in Europe and midday in California - I leave you to do your own math. And it's village life, but not a grey concrete arena or hopelessly huge theater that dwarfs rather than embraces the group. It's another Cherry Manga build.
          OK it is grey, and it is huge. But in good ways. No rows of samey cinema seats. No stale poses.  That alien is the lovely Gill. Wave! No, not the giant figure below, on the box, which is actually a building. LeVillage in its various incarnations has inspired machinima by people you've heard of like Morlita Quan and WizardOz Chrome. Sounds like a cleaning product, actually a film maker.  Which raises the question - where does Francogrid stand in relation to the SLuggernaut?

ssm2017 Binder: in FrancoGrid, there are some people from the art, from education, from research etc... actual FrancoGrid residents are in a sharing point of view instead of mercantile.
         Which is the sexiest way ever of saying they're not in it for the moolah.
         Now, you may be thinking, sheesh Cherry Manga is all over that grid like a rash. Is there room there of other artists? Or has she kind of bagged the big stuff? Well, she knows you might think that, so - let's ask her - " Hey Cherry, is there room for other voices on Francogrid?"
Cherry Manga: Of course there is, see, I just gave the opportunity to JadeYu Fhang to try opensim by giving her my region, childhood, and there are other projects like Praline's, Metatrame which will involve African artists. I personally think that artists bring something important to any grids- candies for the eyes. They make us think about how combine visual effect with ideas. I am not here to be THE ONE Thirza, you know, if I was looking for art lovers recognition, I would stay in SL. Here most people don't care about my art :)
         So there. Speaking of other art, Praline was keen for Katia from Parc des Arts to show her stuff, and immensely impressive it is too. The organization is based in real life Bordeaux, France, and it is all about real working artists showing their stuff both in virtual and physical environments. Katia is a stunner in palest blue. 
         This is their clubhouse and the photos behind her are the founding members. They have that whole 'this is serious stuff' down at the Parc des Arts (unlike artsparks, yeah yeah) and these two sims are just stuffed with things to see and spaces for performance and exhibition. 
         Don't be alarmed if your French isn't up to much. This is an International grid, and they are very accommodating; Katia's good at Italian as well as French, and of course many others like Praline and Cherry are perfectly fluent in English (and typonese).
          Again, everything is designed with panache. Here in this beach-grunge outdoor hangout, last year, they had an evening with a two-handed performance piece called La Planque (watch it here on youtube) by Arlette F├ętat with Myriam Douhi. The playwright came into Francogrid to talk to the audience, how cool is that. 
          Katia also showed us the work of engraver and painter Julien Schuster whose March 2014 art show in Honfleur Normandy will be echoed by a parallel exhibition in Francogrid. 
         There's a neat little news stand on Parc des Arts where you can pick up more info about all the events here, and tp to regions in different parts of the metaverse where art rules supreme.
         Praline is right, it's this kind of organization with room for diversity that makes the difference. Katia actively encourages independent artists on the grid, and they make a point of showing up to see exhibitions, and offering landmark links to shows and installations, wherever they may be in opensim.
Praline B: What I love here is this mix between reality and new creative territories. Also, its very important , to feel you are not alone, to feel friends around you. You may stay alone and work and you may have them around you for all discussions around your doubts! I really enjoy the spirit around Frangogrid, people here knows what they want, be happy in their projects and share this happiness and in the build, you have always people to help you, to push you more further.
         Another aspect of Parc Des Arts is the big AIDS memorial. It's a reminder, as Katia said, of the people who haven't made it, love ones lost... but also a celebration of the ones still fighting, still fighting in elegant clouds of red. Extremely effective. On the other side, the 'protected' obelisk that reminds us all that this is a very French grid. I totally love it.
         Terra Mater is Cherry's home sim, scroll through in this blog and you'll find a post about it ages back. It's another great feature of Francogrid, well of open sim in general. You've got the space to keep up builds that in SL would have to come down for reasons of space. 
          Here, Cherry can maintain a big install like Red Riding Hood (built for SL in collaboration with soror Nishi and Fragile Fanou, as well as her Collection, and still have room for more. Cherry's latest venture is learning anough Blender to make all her own mesh and leave the full perm sculpties and mesh of the past behind her. But art breeds art, doesn't it? Perhaps more installs, and photography, or machinima?
Cherry Manga: I think la collection is one old work I like still thinking it's like wine, goes good with time lol.  I don't want to inspire art, but creativity, I want people imagine they can be free from reality here, physics, imagination, there's no limit. I wish people creative and dreamy, not specially arty.
Praline B: Cherry Manga absolutely has a great impact on the grid. She is very strong and her artwork talks for her.  think that opensim and Francogrid  gave Cherry a new boost. Here she has the time to learn more technical stuff and with her talent is amazing. 
omg DJ Phil he is such a hot bunny
         So, what is the future for Francogrid? More art, more fun, more family! They also encourage all to make an avatar here, so you can enjoy Voice in all its splendor. There are some things hypergridding doesn't quite do right. 
Praline B: I think that is the magic side of this grid if someone is a true one a real creator, all the grid is under the charme. That gives to the community the desire to put the level more high and that is a very good thing, that is what i was expected here.  I think we will see the same phenomena in opensim now because of LL politic for one part and in another part because open simulator is now more efficient. ssm our President confirms that he would love that we have here at Francogrid one region for permanent exhibits and one devoted to the artist in residency; a season for exhibits and artists in residency here.
         So might that be you, the 'artist in residence?' Might be worth a thought.... and in the meantime, drop in on this exquisite grid and its happy denizens.   

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Artz and Mindz : Visions of InWorldz

O Canada

        If you like visions of flight, then you should get over to  InWorldz  soon to see the latest edition of the Dreamz & Visionz Art Festival. This time the theme is 'Wings' and there are some diverse, beautiful and thoughtful installations. This delicious mind game is called 'Cloud's Gate' by Ub Yifu
The 'Wings' in this case bring to mind a Du maurian anxiety; should the avatar take the plunge, and where, beyond the swirling dark security of the little house, will that cloudy leap take him? Is there anywhere to go? Like so much of Ub's art, which continues to bring enduring pleasure in Second Life too, of course, you're going to want to experience it for yourself to get the full inner effect. Videos and photos are great, but nothing beats being there. 
         And 'there' in this case are the four exhibition sims where Jeri Rahja, with help from curator quadrapop tree has been holding Dreamz & Visionz shows since late 2011. At first it seems the idea was to hold a once-a-year event, but it was so popular now they do them three or four times a year, this being the third Fantasy Festival. 
quadrapop tree: The D&V Art Exhibitions started out as judged shows with 3 residents being asked to review all the work and so we had winning entries as well as participation awards. There were also people's choice awards for one year. We are now doing only participation awards which are a share of the total tips received. All moneys for the awards comes from tips made by visitors and some sponsors (most of whom wish to remain anonymous but who want to truly support the arts in IW)
        So everyone's a winner, which is nice. Quadrapop, seen here in Male mode, is of course an artist too, and has a big gallery complex called Dolphin Bay, which is full of treasures, both home-made and belonging to other artists, including an Arcadia Asylum collection and a space for Tuna. Quad also does lectures from time to time on textures and windlight and that kind of thing. A vibrant mass of color greets the visitor, and with 14 tps to choose from at the landing spot alone, there is no reason to get bored on Dolphin Bay
        Coming back to the Festival, though, it was interesting to hear how quadrapop came to choose InWorldz after leaving Second Life.
quadrapop tree: In 2010 Linden labs sacked the 1/3 of their workforce who actually cared about the residents, many Lindens who I knew or who had championed things I cared about were gone and so was their voice within the company. This along with continued lack of effective communication between Linden Lab and SL residents prompted me to look for alternatives. I decided that LL would not get any more of my IP. IW came up as the best option for me of the OS Grids available at the time.
        Next to Ub Yifu's install, there's another engaging sculpture, this time by Maximillian Svarovski. Tiles narrate an ascent, a sort of hard-scrabble progression through stages of flight, undercut by the enveloping cage. One wonders if the figure knows it's closed in, or if it minds. 
        With four sims and a whole sky full of stuff, you will enjoy a visit to the exhibition, but I'm going to say it: a couple of the builds were too scary for me to take pictures of. Go over there and see if you can see which ones...
        Any builder or artist moving out of one world and into another has to face the challenges of rebuilding Inventory, sourcing extras like mesh, animation and sound components, and the dreaded Script Gap, in which scripts that worked just fine in Second Life give all kinds of horrible errors in other worlds. How had that been for quadrapop? (this is q in lady mode.) Not too bad, on the whole.
quadrapop tree: The odd script might not work (mostly because the SL script engine forces scripters to use workarounds that are not necessary here) and occasionally you might meet a scripting function that is not fully implemented - however unlike SL if that happens here you can file a support ticket or speak up about your problem in the IW Scripting Forum and have the grid devs either implement the function or explain how or why they can't, usually a case of yet rather than never). However all the scripts I am likely to use work fine - in fact since Phlox (the IW script engine Tranq rewrote from scratch) was introduced scripts run so much faster that this removed yet another lag issue which has plagued SL for as long as it existed. When I moved to IW I decided to start from scratch - the only thing i brought with me was textures. I've not attempted to import anything from SL and my work does not rely heavily on scripting. So for me the move to IW has been painless. I know there have been hiccoughs for some over the years but in all cases the issues were resolved as quickly as the small team can manage - often within days. Some things like vehicle physics got held up by higher priority issues and it is the concentration on the basics and string foundations by Tranq and the team of devs that inspired me to choose this grid over any other.
         Across the water from Ub and Maximillian's builds is Mira Karu's off-the-page feathery fantasy. Pegasus presides over the leaves of books, as light and illuminating as the ideas they spawn in the mind of the great wire man. Also there is a very nice umbrella, but you're going to have to figure that part out for yourself. 
        Coming back into InWorldz after many months elsewhere did feel a bit odd. This Thirza is fourth or fifth eldest out of 14 different Thirzas created over the past six years to visit various worlds that all required, back then, a grid-specific avatar, so you can imagine how small and old her inventory is, yet the feeling of difference wasn't just the crazy looking hair. (As a side note, worrying about your avatar appearance has its place, but it's a limited one, and when people start going on about 'honing' or 'inhabiting' their avatar, it's very hard not to be creeped out, often to Lovecraftian proportions, regarding what that suggests about their real life appearance.)  Coming out of open sim, it is also kind of depressing to be on a closed grid again, where you can't just tp from home to home to home on half a dozen wild and woolly grids; it's sad to be in a place where the norm is paying for stuff (gosh, paying tier! remember that?) and where it's considered a semi-big deal to let others use your land rent-free. 
        I know many InWorldz residents consider themselves in 'open sim', which technically maybe it is, though it's a closed world. But it's a bit like when someone says they've 'been abroad a lot' and then you find out they mean they've been to Canada, not Fiji or Istanbul. Not that there is anything wrong with Canada. Nor is there anything wrong with InWorldz being the cheaper, broader, saner northern neighbor of Second Life. Better, quite likely, but not really 'abroad', and hey, that might be exactly what you're looking for.
        A nice thing happened. By sheer lucky chance, Kapi Kinder was in world. This is his build. He said he'd seen me at Pirats years ago, which seemed apposite as this is a very Pirats-reminiscent build. 
        He said the installation was about planet earth, about what we humans are doing to it. The figures flying around prompted to me to ask if they were 'earth angels' . It was a  silly superficial remark, but look at his reply - a poetic explanation not only of his own build, but a picture of what is at the heart of all artistic communities, wherever they may be. 
   kapi kinder: i can tell you what happend to me you will list the angel parts
   kapi kinder: almost a year ago i broke 1 rip 1 leg 1 hand and was half way to heavan
   kapi kinder: some how  i got ability to make a call so they found me and i survive
   kapi kinder: very simple
   kapi kinder: i am still recovering... but  it give new prospective how fragile we are.
Wings, a Dreamz & Visionz Art Festival, starts February 7 in InWorldz.