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summing up 2008

Not that I believe in these types of summations all that much. However I still want to do one today, since this year has been an important one in my life I think.
I suffered two big losses this year. The first was my mother, who passed away on October 24th, after a prolonged illness. As a young girl she had gotten tuberculosis and apparently once you get that it never ever goes away but only goes into remission to strike back as soon as the organism is at a weak point. Until 7 years ago she was an active, vital, great looking, young/old woman who amongst much else took care of a huge garden single handedly. Then the illness came back with a vengeance and what used to be a strong, willful life gradually faded away in front of our very eyes. The massive quantities of antibiotics she had to take to combat the TB completely deteriorated her liver, causing a cirrhosis from which she died very painfully at the age of 82.

My relationship with my mother has always been very complex. She was a Professor of Law, an academic. Highly intelligent as well as headstrong. She was also very introverted, a recluse who much preferred the company of animals and plants to that of humans. Thus her passing has caused a lot of introspection and coming to terms with much unresolved matter from our past - all of it still very much an ongoing process.

While I have very close friends in far away places, I had two best friends located in close proximity right here in Istanbul, with whom I hung out with all the time, had hour long phone conversations with on a daily basis. Nukhet, a brilliant woman, a jazz singer, I lost to Leukemia almost 2 years ago . And this year the other member of this close-knit triad of 37 years, a wonderfully funny, warm, talented man named Ragip, passed away from a very rare illness which was wrought upon him as the result of careless/cavalier habits in his professional life as a very successful industrial designer working in metals - a total horror called Miner's Disease which completely devastated his lungs. Ragip died exactly one month after my mother on November 24th. Nukhet, Ragip and I: We met on the first day of art college in 1971. Three little opinionated, fledgling, wanna-be designers. Ultra big mouths, little to show in the way of knowledge. Very very very naughty, living somewhat dangerously... Need I elaborate?
During the whole year Second Life was very much in the foreground.

Until July I was busy building Syncretia. Syncretia seems to have become something of a success - which startles me quite a bit since it is so very private. I built the place as a playground and not really as an artistic environment -  or rather I have come to re-examine what artistic activity means to me and built it by these new playful/narrative tenets. I met Hack, Mossy and wolfie in 2007 and it is their joint influence that has changed my perception of creative activity throughout 2008. The outcome is Syncretia.

Due to exhibition commitments coming up in the Fall I had to stop building Syncretia and leave it exactly as it was after July. Compounding this was the worsening condition of my mother's and Ragip's health in Real Life. But not to beat any further about the bush or to come up with more excuses, the bottomline is that I have been suffering from quite a substantial creative block over the past 6 months or so. However, although I have not built anything as such, I have become engaged in another kind of creative activity which seems to me to have considerable implications when it comes to self discovery - the creation of alts in Second Life. Through them I have begun to realize that my holistic self-perception simply does not hold water, that there is far more than meets the eye in the composition of my psyche. That I am made up of many personalities, many selves - and often not even very harmoniously at that. Again, I would not have embarked upon this road had it not been for the example that MosMax has set me.

I have always played dress-up games in Second Life, however the second half of this past year has been practically one prolonged dress-up game. I freely acknowledge that I am very superficial in that way: I love clothes to excess in both lives. Not expensive clothes, certainly not designer labels, but just quirky eccentric clothes. These days I seem to be slowly coming out of my creative block and have started to design my own line of apparel which I intend to sell. I should probably mention that I had designed some clothes in my very early SL days, however in the interim not only has my perception of creativity changed but also my self-perception; thus these old clothes are not going to be part of any of this. They belong to another life, another self. There is as yet very little that is completed from the ones that I am putting together now, however when I get to the point I will be displaying them on my little plot at Klein, which I have already re-built as a shop. Whether it will be for money or as give-aways in the way that four Yip does, I am not yet entirely sure...

One new thing that has come into my life in 2008 is blogging. This has led me to blogging on the NPIRL blog, which in it's turn has led me to give quite a bit of thought as to what the the distinctive attributes of metaverse creative content might be; how best to define it and what would set it apart from Real Life creative output. The conclusion that I have been coming to is that the uniqueness of metaverse creativity lies in its ability to induce behavioral change and the consequent re-examination of the self, the definition of new persona and selves, the assuming of ever new characters and roles which carry the potential of leading us into convoluted journeys of self-discovery.
Bettina Tizzy has been massively supportive during the emotionally very difficult period of the past 2 - 3 months, particularly just around the times of the deaths of my mother and Ragip - so, many thanks are due to her for that alone. Added to which should be huge thanks for all of her wonderful efforts at getting the name of Syncretia out and about - at which juncture I would definitely need to mention Hamlet Au and Aleister Kronos as well...

And finally... There are other things. Confusing, hard to define states and emotions, still appearing to be unresolved; the nature and details of which I have no inclination to discuss here. However, they do need to be mentioned in this summation since they have been hugely important, if not indeed paramount, in how this entire year progressed and how it is now seemingly transitioning into a new one.

So hello, 2009.

Makes one think...

I have followed the recommendation of a colleague and bought Filter Forge. And so, here I am wondering about quite a few little things:

I have been sitting in front of this for the whole weekend now and I am still finding it hard to tear myself away. Not that I don't know my photoshop plugins backwards and forwards but this one is really something else. What differentiates it from others is that these people have created a procedural interface through which you can create your own filters, which has generated a community of filter developers who upload their output onto an online library. Obviously I am nowhere near figuring out how this procedural thingy works yet, so I am containing my enthusiasm to creating new presets based upon the existing filters which I have been downloading from the site.

The computer is creating its own particular kind of craftsmanship. So, what are the new criteria? How do we assess competency for God's sakes? Sorry, scrap that thought - how do we even assess ownership?

I decided that I would save some of these as jpegs and keep them handy to look at later, since I tend to forget what something looks like in action just by its name or that little thumbnail - and there are literally hundreds and hundreds of these things over there, and it would be really easy to become confused... So, here I used a modest little photo which Xia took for her famous photosphere tutorial. Just applied filters from the "Creative" category of the library. With some I did create presets of my own by sliding back and forth some sliders and tweaking a color here and there. However, some I really didn't even bother modifiying - the original is so drop dead gorgeous to begin with - "if it ain't broke don't fix it", being as good a motto as any, if you ask me. There are a few here, but there are others on Flickr as well, if you want to take look there.

The original image
Plastikono by Dragan Stiglic
Generate Grunge by ronviers
Perspective Blend by Voldemort
Acid Flux by Sphinxmorpher

So, if I were to apply these to some silly assed photograph or other, got me some nice large sized printouts from that and sold them as my "artwork" - what kind of a jerk would I end up being? Would that not be plagiarism par excellence? But then again, one could say that I was the one who decided on the photo here (the filters tend to work better on things with big empty areas I found) and I was also the one who decided which filter to apply? But really... Is that enough to make me the creative agent here?

Other important question: What kind of a generous human being is it that "creates" one of these beauties and then just puts it there for all and sundry to plunder?

I am just totally totally gobsmacked! Totally...

(Oh and, this is just the creative category, mind you. There are all these textures that people put in there - simply to die for!)
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My Alts

From an old blog of Alpha's:

"I did not use to have them - alts I mean. I was way too engrossed with my life and all of the countless events that would make everyday hilarious. I was having a riot and there really was not much time for introspection. And in the end, I think that alts are all about introspection, an inward journey. At least that is what they are to me. Something changed over the summer. I still do not know why, it is not something that I can understand or change. And at that point the alts started to materialize. In the end an utter manifestation of my loneliness.

First came Xia, or rather Xia came first in the sense that she started to live in the metaverse, started to develop an independent identity before the other two did. However, technically she is actually the last one to have been rezzed. Grapho and Furry Incognita actually came before her. But Xia has spent some considerable time as the only active avatar and consequently she is the only one of the three who has managed to acquire a more or less tangible personality. As of yet the others are far more ephemeral.

Grapho has not really even lived yet. Something that needs to change, particularly since he is quite likely to be the most important one, the one who will probably end up leading me furthest down my inward journey. And maybe that is indeed why I keep putting off hanging out with him. I do not yet know who Grapho is. And also Grapho is changing these days.
Furry Incognita has been around more than Grapho and I am beginning to get a glimmering of an understanding about her. She is antisocial. Beyond that, I cannot yet know for sure. I have an instinct that she might be quite cruel. At least sometimes. Or self protective rather. Cruel for self protection.
They are all me. It shocked me when I realized that Xia was me. She is so different to my self perception. Nonetheless she is me. And so are the others."

Teeeee heeeee...

And oh boy, do I have good reason to be in such a gleeful mood:

It is official people, I am now in the Hall of Fame of Data Visualization! Visual Complexity is the one place of all places where a data vis designer dreams of having his/her output posted. And they went and posted mine! And without me even having applied for it! Now is this cool or what?

I made the Bridge Project a few years ago, as part of my PhD work and rising to yet another dare of Roy's. Just before then I had presented this somewhat ill fated paper called entré loup et chien at a conference and Roy told me summarily to stop it with all of the bla bla bla on Freud and all of the other nonsensical theorizing on associative thinking processes and instead to go and put my money where my mouth was by showing him what I meant. And I went "oh sure, that's an easy one Roy..." and found out, much to my horror, that what I thought would be a piece of cake for a kick-ass designer like myself turned out to be a colossal task, the process of which I describe in the dedicated website of the piece.

I then presented the Bridge Project at a number of international conferences, and most notably at Siggraph in 2005, as part of the sketches program. But this add-on at Visual Complexity is truly way more than what I would have expected, more than what it deserves, given that it isn't even a true blue blooded data vis project. Only a hundred or so nodes to the whole construct, whereas any data set has to consist of at least 10 times that before it can even be considered as sufficiently complex material appropriate for righteous data visualization research.

But what the heck! They chose it anyway! And so, again, teeeee heeeee... I am tickled pink!

"This time I am alone. This time I will not leave"

I think they call this low grade depression. It is not fatal, it will resolve itself eventually, I suppose.
I do not sleep very well at night, so I end up sleeping through most of my days. Watch TV. Out of the hundreds of channels available to me, I have the thing tuned to a crime fiction channel and so I end up watching endless re-runs of Cold Case and Silent Witness. Read a lot of crime fiction too. All of these loner detective types with destroyed personal lives. I think that is precisely why the likes of me so totally revel in this pulp...

I am on a sabbatical leave, supposedly writing up my PhD dissertation. Traveling for research related to that - ostensibly... I have conference papers to write, meetings to go to. Things to see, people to do - that would be me. Like, just now someone called me up to invite me to an art opening this evening. Will I go? Of course not. Some handy excuse will come along I am sure.

Sometimes I go and buy clothes though. Stuff I have no need for, that I have no inclination to wear even. Where to anyway, given that I do not even want to go out?

Second Life seems to have become a place of employment these days. I log in to get material for the npirl blog. Or sometimes I log in to clean out my inventory. All these clothes... RL... SL... All dressed up and nowhere to go - that would be me. There is a bit left on the Eastern shore under the water at Syncretia that I could conceivably build, but then I seem to have a real horror of doing so: Once that is done then I am done there. I will have no more prims left. And the place has to stay as it is till the end of January because of this exhibit anyway. Can't really touch it.

So, into this emotional wasteland Truthseeker rezzed the Singularapture this week. While we were busy there today Jedda Zenovka, who was with us, gave me a glorious photo of the view from her RL veranda: A rain forest.

The Singularapture looks so unbelievably beautiful where it is now at Syncretia. And in my inventory I have a snapshot of a rain forest from the other side of the globe.

And then this text floated over my head in Second Life the other day:

"This time I am alone.
This time I will not leave."

Just about sums it up, doesn't it?