"To what extent would two people from the same community agree about the meaning?"When I think about "abstract" in the context of art, I usually thing of the information covered by the Tate's section on Abstract Art or the images and artists at The Art Story. This is a broader question, though - how do you know if you are in the same community? How can you know what can be known between us through the medium of art? Second Life in general trends toward representation perhaps because there is so much left open. In a world where the abstract can be created accidentally, can even be created inadvertently through lack of skill with the medium, what role does abstraction play within art and creation in Second Life?
"Don't" by Miles Cantelou
Finding abstract images within Second Life was itself a challenge, as photography ends up being almost overwhelmingly portraiture with a little bit of landscaping thrown in, and while many artistic creations embrace abstraction through their use of textures, the creations themselves also tend to be representative. Some in world photographers start with an image and then shift and distort it into something else, adding texture, layers, and thinning out the representative elements, like in the image above by Miles Cantelou. Cantelou started with a simple portrait, but framing and texturing layered over it have abstracted both the subject and what the image could be trying to convey. The blue shades and dark edges imply something melancholy which is belied by the slight smile of the subject, and the title and tattoo being "don't" adds a whole other layer. Don't what? Based on what representation remains, the topic could be on voicelessness or the difficulty of communicating, but it's difficult to say.
Inspired by Alia Baroque
Sometimes abstraction comes not in the treatment of the art after the fact, but rather as part of the environment or how the avatar and environment interact. One artistic display which stands out to me was Gracie Kendal's Ce n'est pas une peinture which had been made up from images of Kendal's offline abstract artwork layered over each other on individual prims and even over the mesh of the Second Life body itself. Another shows up above, where textures and particles combine to make abstract forms even around the avatars which move through it, like in Alia Baroque's image above. The display itself is long gone, but the captured image lives on to mark it's presence. I think Second Life introduces additional levels to abstraction that doesn't exist in a world where there are canvases and paint, and additional levels to the topics of community, similarity, and meaning.
[I live in the gut] by Abigale Heron
What effect does the fact that everything involved in art within Second Life is virtual? Even things which once existed concretely within the outside world have to be translated into an online world. I was struck by soror Nishi's style of tree in Second Life and how two years ago she translated it offline using resin and fishing line. Inworld her style is expansive, textured, brightly colored, and expansive - often covering an entire sim or even layers over layers of a sim. It takes the shapes of plants and places and overlays them with riotous colors and textures which often make use of transparency, adding confusion about distance and direction into her work. Outside of this world, what she creates is pared down, subtler unless being created in paint. It is flat, or square, it's qualities difficult to capture with the equivalent photography, and without the sometimes overwhelming aspects of her creations as something one moves within.
Silhouette by Kalyca McCallen
In addition, it is often these limitations and qualities of the materials we work with which shape the final creation; if stone or wood can have statues hiding within them, what happens when empty space is what is available to carve into? Without paint which will splatter, fall, dribble, and move how does the randomness of art play out? One way that Second Life artists end a build is setting all of the prims associated with it to "physical" and seeing what happens - there is a way in which this transforms the art from static to the event mindset closer to conceptual art, even if the initial creation was meant to be representative.
Art is Geometry: Bangles by Tizzy Canucci
So far I've brought up several artists and their disparate work - but what about their shared community or lack thereof? Soror Nishi and Gracie Kendal, at least, operate within similar circles even if they haven't personally intersected, but so far as I know Miles Cantelou, Abigail Heron, Kalyca McCallen, and the other 2D artists I've included only share where they locate their art, and Alia Baroque's focus is on building skins and communities through his store in Second Life. In a world where peoples' timezones can literally not intersect, where the possibility of even casual meetings is slight, and where multiple cultures may come into effect on peoples' reasons and means of making art, what can "community" possibly mean?
112115 by Kalyca McCallen
Without centralized facilitation of communication in order to establish and communicate norms, art even on a platform like Flickr is less a conversation and more a cacophony, thousands of different people trying to be heard. I've rarely seen artists discuss their relationships with other artists - though collaborations occasionally occur which highlight the profound differences between different artists, their styles, and what they want to express. Sharing a platform like the LEA Artist in Residence sims or sharing space with other artists at different galleries can offer up opportunities for community, as can events like Art In Hats or Second Life's Birthday Celebrations, but while I'll often run across many of the same people time and time again - sometimes enough that we friend each other and chat now and then - despite my attempts to cover one small corner of art in Second Life through LEA I don't feel connected to any sort of community. There are a few individuals who deride or troll art in Second Life, but by and large they seem to be mocking that people take it seriously or people attempt to organize it, not anything more culturally specific.
Twinkle star party by rica Andel
Given the broadness and unknowability of this community of artists and art appreciators, what conclusions can we make about art's meaning and how that meaning is communicated? Is it as simple as bright things being happy and dark things being upset, or are there more subtle things being created in the simpler, faded, color-based images in Second Life? When I look at each of the images on this page, I feel a different thing - unease, ecstasy, anxiety, fatalism, confusion, grief, bliss, and flow. When you look at them, what do you feel? Are we experiencing the same meaning from each, or is this community too broad for those sorts of things?
RAINBOW BUMPS WITH SUN by ▓▒░ TORLEY ░▒▓