Friday, October 30, 2015

The Trick of Treats

      Kodinpump is the latest build by Nani Ferguson and Ange Menges. Available contemporaneously on two different grids, Metropolis and OSGrid, it is a Hunt, and celebrates the Autumn season with a Halloween theme.

      Kodinpump is a mesh build, richly embellished with capricious pumpkins that answer you back when you speak to them. Some will give you gifts, some insult you, and some will throw you off the sim.

        The regions will be open for a limited time, just a few weeks, so do not delay your visit or you could very well miss it. The HG Addresses are as always at the bottom of the post.
      The setting is Kodinpump, a care-worn, weatherbeaten port, complete with sailing ships and netshops, and a bridge to nowhere. Or is it?  In the center of town you will find a rowdy tavern, merchants and their goods, and large stone-faced houses fringing a broad square that looks out onto the endless Offsim Sea.

      Venture inland and you will find a maze of dim streets. Strange, gloomy figures stand in dank doorways. Silent windows hide the secrets of the city.

      Alleys and courtyards branch off bewilderingly from the main thoroughfare, many full of hostile pumpkins sheltering in the glow of of dubious old streetlamps.

      What mysteries do these merchant ships hold? What immense journeys have they undergone to get to this dismal dock? We may never know, although we can dream of the possibilities.

 Venture a little further, search a little bit harder, and you will find your way down onto an underwater reef.

        This colorful world, in stark contrast to the muted tones of the city, is inhabited by sea monsters, and less-than-friendly sea pumpkins. But here too there are plenty fo hidden treasures! Among other sights to see in this intricate orgy of gorgeousness are the Fish Theater, a marine Cemetery and a gruesome pile of chum.

       Two environments, and endless opportunities to take photos and stop and enjoy the build, to feel the atmosphere, and to appreciate the builders, Ange and Nani, and to reflect on the message it inevitably transmits to a receptive mind.    

       It's a hunt, sure, the idea is for you to find the freebies, in the case of Ange and Nani, these are always fantastic treats as their standards are very high. This is their art, an interactive 3D opera where the search for gifts is the engine for exploration, not just materialism. In the past, during other Hunts organized by Nani and Ange, they have discovered that some visitors have been passing around Notecards with the location of the free items, so that their friends don't have to waste time on the build, but just get straight to the free stuff.

      This makes the creators a little mad. Why?
Ange and Nani. Don't make them mad.

On the one hand, the creative process can be an end in itself. Think back to childhood, to the hours spent making a puzzle, playing a video game, or building a fort, perhaps. The process of figuring it out, designing, fitting together the pieces, is often the most satisfying part of the game.
      There is, however, a tipping point at which the maker becomes an artist, a shower of  art, a sharer of visions, an individual seeking dialogue with the observer, through provocation and catharsis.

      And here, OpenSim offers a unique dialectic between consumption and production.

      In OpenSim, with so many prims available, the urge to realize grand projects is limited only  by talent, time, and (sometimes) temperamental technology. This has released a phenomenal amount of creative energy in the community denominated as 'non professional' - a rather harsh term that is probably fair, in terms of best practices in 3D construction and design, but makes no allowances for the craft and ability of many self-taught amateur builders who have built up an impressive level of experience over the years.
      Think of them as pioneers shaping a hitherto uninhibited territory of superabundant proportions, an expanding universe of worlds and systems.
Fish food is disgusting, but people who sell free items are worse.

        Art production then - not a problem. But can we say the same of art consumption? Here the pioneering spirit hampers native Opensimmers, often so intent on their own projects they have little time to notice or compliment their fellow workers.

        This is not to say that support and appreciation have been absent from these grids - far from it. But the lines of communication between spots of civilization are often tenuous. There is the hypergrid, of course. A way to connect. But with so many worlds, time zones, language barriers, an air of unknowableness persists.
      Social media helps, but even there, people's preferences and prejudices - and the constant invention of yet another way to connect - can create a climate in which you can't see the wood for the trees.
      Any creator you ask will have stories about being on their sim when some random stranger shows up, doesn't even bother to say hello, and starts raiding the free items. In previous years, when there were fewer creators, this happened so much that some grids simply stopped allowing their content to be exported.
      More recently there have been some notorious cases of people with shops on commercial grids taking free items and then selling them to their fellow residents - essentially ripping off their friends and neighbors, which is inexcusably contemptible behavior. When caught, they usually fall back on the 'everything good here was stolen from SL'  fallacy. That's depressing to content makers, and anyone trying to build a community.
       In Second Life, there is a huge pool of consumers, admirers, attendees, cheerleaders and enablers who have a symbiotic relationship with artists performers and creators modeled largely on the real world economy of money and insincerity. The no-money, share-alike philosophy of the best part of OpenSim is its most attractive and endearing quality, but it also creates tension between the expectations of the artist and the public's reaction.
        How can these artists be paid without regressing to the dull method of money? The goods and services may be 'free' but they are not without cost. That price is... to pay it forward. To show appreciation, in words and deeds; promote, support, contribute, participate, protect, and associate ourselves with the content makers who enrich our lives.
        Don't be a taker. Or the pumpkins will get you.

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