On April 19th, an exhibition titled “The COSMOSIS Experience” opened at the Coliseum West (NMC Campus) in Second Life. The exhibit features the work of Thoth Jantzen, builder and artist who is well known for his previous exhibit "Kaleidoscopium" in which he created an immersive environment that delivered to viewers a highly pleasurable visual and musical experience. Given the opportunity by his NMC sponsors, Mr. Jantzen has filled six floors of the current exhibit space with works that will enthrall visitors similarly. The exhibit runs through the end of May.
Through a mutual friend I had arranged for a meeting with Thoth. We met at the exhibit, talked and toured and as we did where I took the opportunity to ask him several questions.
Nazz: You've been in SL now for two and half years ... what has kept you here?
Thoth: A lot of things. First and foremost, I see SL as a really robust medium in which people from different places can interact very effectively … and I do like to meet new people, especially those who share interests I have. I’ve met a lot of interesting people I’d never have had a chance to meet in RL, and been involved in events that I couldn't be involved in RL. Also, I like being able to express myself in ways I can’t otherwise ... and I do think VR environments like SL will be more and more important over time … for communicating, interacting, business, education ... and I want to be involved and adept at using it.
Nazz: Do you draw inspiration from SL in creating your art?
Thoth: Uh oh ... an artsy question ... I just knew it. Well… yes, in a sense… I don’t see why people feel a need to recreate what can be done better in RL here in SL … there are so many other possibilities ... something new that can't be replicated in RL things that can be done better here than in RL, or that cannot be done at all, or not easily. Also, I have a hard time seeing myself as an artist. I see myself more as a builder. There are people WAY more talented than I am here … I just happen to look at things a bit differently ... and as it happens, sometimes do things differently with interesting results. And in the case of the media-active art, really, it's a partnership, in many ways, between me, SL, and the videos ... the 'art' sort of emerges from the pieces I put together and how I do it. I work within or around SL's restrictions to do what I do.
Nazz: What sorts of things in SL are restrictive to meeting your artistic vision?
Thoth: Some restrictions could be, for example, texturing ... not being able to orient the different image repeats on a prim face in interesting ways, for example ... and some of the ways you can or can't manipulate prims … and the side effects of certain manipulations.
Nazz: Do you create your own textures?
Thoth: Sometimes, but here ... I use a transparent alpha texture...so when the video isn't playing, they are invisible. The images you see are created by the video and the structure of the object and the way the textures are aligned.
Nazz: Do they react to the music?
Thoth: Well, in the sense that the video is coordinated with the music they do. the patterns made are create by 'rules' or 'parameters' enforced by the structure and texturing of the objects, and the video itself … it's sort of an example of emergent complexity and how things change with time as well.
Nazz: How long have you been working to pull this exhibit together?
Thoth: Well the pieces in the exhibit are the result of work I’ve been doing the past year or so ... some made specifically for it. In fact, that was originally going to be 'it'. But Larry and Tayzia from NMC came to my other place once… it's quite large and varied and gave me permission to 'go nuts' here. So I did. The last exhibit area has a lot of my first and oldest things … some are still favorites.
Nazz: You choose the music specifically for each?
Thoth: No, I have a selection of videos I like to show … but almost any good video looks great. Also, there's a controller here where visitors can play their own videos.
Nazz: So the video's play and the prims are arranged for a kaleidoscope effect?
Thoth: Yes ... both the structure and texture orientation.
Nazz: Do you use a math model for that?
Thoth: Nope. I just work by eye, mostly ... and some understanding of geometry.
Nazz: What do you see on the horizon for yourself in SL?
Thoth: That's hard to say, Nazz. We have a lot of projects in the works ... what I really want to do is see VR's like SL used creatively and effectively. Projects like Open Habitat I see as more important than this in some ways, but this sort of also points to ways to do things differently. I have a couple of objectives. Sometimes I hit with all of them ... sometimes I miss. It depends on the person.
Nazz: What are your objectives?
Thoth: Well, three, basically … one, to show that with looking at things a little bit differently, you can do really interesting/beautiful things that haven't been done before. Two, to illustrate a principle I think is very important , e.g. how emergent complexity and structure creates so much of the beauty in this world, with the laws of nature themselves emerging from the qualities and relationships of the things that make it up at a fundamental level … and three, to make people go, 'whoa!' once in a while. The third and first seem to be fairly easy people to get. The second takes a bit more time ... but it is apparent to some who look long enough … like RL, I guess, in that sense.