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seventeen unsung songs

Seventeen Unsung Songs

A major solo installation for Second Life by Adam Nash (Adam Ramona) presented by the Odyssey Art Simulator, curated by Sugar Seville. Shortlisted for the National Art Award in New Media, at the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art.

One monumental immersive, interactive columnunar audiovisual sculpture, accompanied by sixteen smaller, intimate immersive audiovisual interactives. This was a major show of post-convergent interactive audiovisual 3D art.

Press launch September 1, 2007, public launch September 8, 2007. Closed February 2009.

seventeen unsung songs

Adam Ramona (Adam Nash) - Seventeen Unsung Songs

by Dr. Lisa Dethridge (Lisa Dapto)

Nash’s exhibition at Odyssey Island in Second Life - Seventeen Unsung Songs – reveals the artist’s mature focus and discipline in a complex audio/visual sculptural form he has helped to pioneer.

Nash has installed seventeen sculptures - Unsong Songs – in the Odyssey Island landscape, inviting avatars to be collaborators and explorers of the virtual unknown.

These fascinating kinetic devices invite us to linger and play while probing the role of the avatar within the complex 3D space.

Each Unsong Song is like the product of an ethereal instrument, fresh from another planet where synaesthesia is the dominant mode.

Nash explores the formal qualities of color and rendering; of texture and sound which extend and expand our understanding of physics in the virtual world. He veers from an almost reverential approach to modernist abstraction toward tongue-in-cheek po-po-mod irony, where form is formless; sound becomes silence and colour ranges from deep intensity to transparency depending on the lifecycle of the piece and the mood of the avatar.

Pieces like Carillon and Rarer Air are instruments the avatar “plays” to trigger complex feedback. In Carillon (a 3D version of one of Nash’s 2D Pretty Noise Toys), a ball roams randomly around a 3D maze of tropical and dayglo candy colours. When it hits a cube, we hear sounds friendly and pastoral, like a cowbell.

In Disaccumulator, the avatar can delete and reconfigure shapes and sounds as red gravity balls bounce downward from a mysteriously suspended platform, hitting on red planks or tines which “clang” and “bong” sonorously as the avatar touches the work.

As in all of the Unsung Songs, aural and architectural forms collide in a funky conglomerate of random and rhythmical elements.

The structure of each individual piece is echoed in the larger blockbuster works, like the massive and dynamic multiplatforms of the 80m. Ultramarine Column that towers over the island like a mothership and seems to spawn at least two other blue offspring.

Each is an experiment in visual and sonic polyphony where the avatar is both audience and co-creator of the unearthly forms and music that float in the domain.

In mouselook, the avatar becomes one with the sculpture (or the Unsung Song) and the perspective shifts toward unitary experience where the rules of perspective and time are in constant evolution. In Crescent, the avatar looks up to see a pattern of loops extending into infinity. Sound goes in and out of phase like a musical round, as one strand continues to be joined by others. Both the visual and the audio strands eventually chime together in a satisfying pattern that suddenly “fits” and feels familiar but only for a moment, before they break apart and recycle.

Nash’s works embody the beyond-dimensional layers of perception. Cloud Chamber looks like a huge snowflake whose sharp-edged geometry is reminiscent of origami or the ninth dimensional folds-within-folds of a physics laboratory model.

The music is as pristine and ethereal as the graphics. Like most of the Unsung songs, the sounds of Cloud Chamber are deeply comforting, almost meditational, making it easy to rest in the space. Based on a fundamental tone of 77Hz, the intervals proceed in ratios of seven, one of the artist’s favorite numbers.

A blue cobblestone path of blue tiles leads to The Space Between. This highly experiential work puts a new spin on the term “user generated content.” The avatar literally creates the piece as they explore it. A variety of sounds bubble up in the wake of the avatar’s path; somehow unsettling; sounds from a lost urban dream.

One enters the “courtyard” of The Space Between that is defined by a transparent net. The avatar unwittingly generates entire cubic structures as s/he moves. Shapes grow, flicker and evolve; they accrete around the avatar like the incarnation of virtual kinetic energy; markers of the avatar’s path. Audio and image work in synergy to visually track each movement in this Space Between realities. As in the other Unsung Songs, sound is generated alongside the visual shifts creating a highly responsive and enriched avatar environment.

Nash admits the influence of Yves Klein in the generation of this work. The avatar generates the blue forms through physical movement in a way reminiscent of Klein’s pop “happenings” of the 1960s in which female collaborators rolled their paint-daubed, bikini-clad bodies across the canvas turning it “Yves Klein blue”.

Nash’s love of blue is evident in Ultramarine Column which is a playground for avatars to fly in, through and around, catching bits of “sonic bling” as they do so.

The artist leaves less room for us to negotiate space around his highly interactive work, the Moaning Columns of Longing. This is perhaps the most mysterious and emotive of the works. Here artist toys deliberately with the “hot buttons” of love and pain that drive us all, especially those enmeshed in virtual affairs...

In response to an avatar’s touch, tall, white columns spawn instantly with a phallic upward thrust. These gently swaying prims define themselves as artificial life forms that exist only in relation to a single, specific Avatar. They are exclusive and faithful to a fault.

The columns sway and ooze particles for joy or shrink and pine desperately when rejected. They communicate directly, challenging each owner/lover/user to prove their love and loyalty. In this giggly theatre of cruelty, the Avatar may choose to support and “love”, to ignore or even to abuse the artificial life form that is now virtually “theirs.”

Like real life lovers however, the Moaning Columns make heavy demands on the avatar, challenging us to differentiate between real love and merely dizzy infatuation. Thus we earn what Nash wryly calls “an endless amount of chances to practice emotional responsibility.”

Nash’s work both challenges and soothes the avatar, generating sounds and images of complexity through the interaction of simple patterns. He refers us to the paradoxes and beauties of the Avatar’s world, celebrating the freedoms; the wonders and anxieties in common to both real and virtual entities and habitats.

Nash’s interest lies in the energy of the virtual space and of the avatar playing within it. His visions both fill the space and deny it exists. They refer to the avatar as an active, creative agent of change who may perform and create and delete on the artist’s stage with potent and joyful autonomy. Such exploratory and amusing tactics seem appropriate in the nascent Second Life environment and confirm Nash as a masterful proponent of the 3D space.

Details of Nash’s work are available on his website at http://yamanakanash.net

Lisa Dethridge, Melbourne, Australia, August 2007.