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Real time virtual art

Three artists from Melbourne get grant in Second Life

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Real time virtual art

By Diana Simmonds

Mockup of the 3D tower of lettersBy Erika Gelinard

Australian 3-D real-time arts have simultaneously gained exposure and respectability as the Australia Council for the Arts announced on September 5 the first national arts residency in the online virtual world Second Life.

A group of three Melbourne-based artists: visual designer Christopher Dodds, sound and 3-D real-time artist Adam Nash and writer Justin Clemens, received a $20,000 grant - the most generous in Second Life so far - to create an interdisciplinary installation both in the virtual world and the real one.

By March 2008, these artists will erect a virtual tower of letters - inspired by the Tower of Babel - using Second Life construction software, voice recognition and visual effects. In the real world, exhibition visitors to the as yet unknown site in Melbourne will see a re-projection of the work and its Second Life environment, and be able to interact with it.

"The exhibition will be an interface with Second life, an intuitive experience where people will speak and letters will literally fall from the sky into the Tower of Babel", explains 3-D modeller Adam Nash.

As for Second Life users, the artist thinks that the majority is interested in interaction between the real world and the virtual one. "For our last 3-D interactive sound sculpture Cantata Park, Chris Dodds and myself recreated the physical quality of reality and people find it compelling," says Nash.

Nash sees this new Tower of Babel as a way to explore the evolution of words and language. "Languages have visual and sonic nuances, and as a Japanese speaker I'm particularly aware of the visual aspect of ideograms," says Nash.

Though the tower of words project is still in its early stages, Adam Nash expects that his fellow group writer Justin Clemens will explore the nature of language and a large spectrum of literature. One of the texts he's going to incorporate in the tower will be Paradise Lost by John Milton.

The literary and linguistic component of the artwork was one of the criteria the Australia Council was looking for. "We are keen on the originality of the idea - a tower of words is only possible in the virtual world - but also on the inter-disciplinary aspect and group collaboration of this project", says OzCo inter-arts director Andrew Donovan.

"We have residencies all around the world and we wanted to allow a group of artists to immerse themselves in the Second Life environment as more and more artists are engaging with it and it has a definitive impact", explains Donovan.

"Chris Dodds and myself have been working on 3-D arts for quite some time and we're happy that it is now recognised as a viable form for the arts", says Adam Nash.

As hundreds of galleries and countless artists flourish in Second Life, Australia's commitment to virtual artists has become real.

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