Painting Machinima in Second Life: Emerging Aesthetics in Virtual Filmmaking

Painting Machinima in Second Life: Emerging Aesthetics in Virtual Filmmaking

Phylis Johnson (Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, USA)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 31
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8384-6.ch002


This chapter explores the technological and artistic revolution brought forth by machinima, particularly the rise among a community of filmmakers who would begin to express their stories and ideas through virtual worlds. Machinima has led to an emergence of scholarship on its aesthetics and cultural implications for digital society. The case of machinima as art is illustrated through a review of select works of virtual world filmmakers. This discussion also distinguishes the machinima concepts of game, virtual platform and more specifically virtual worlds to their varying degrees and relationships. It is here that one delineates the purpose of machinima within Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPG) to that of virtual worlds such as Second Life (SL). In doing so, the author follows the innovation of machinima through the evolution of gaming and its extension to stand-alone ready-to-wear software to potentialities called forth by British filmmaker Peter Greenaway regarding Second Life.
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Welcome To Virtual Alchemy

In the exciting new arena of immersive Art which offers so much to the future of communications, Bryn Oh is an important, fascinating and innovative pioneer and should definitely be supported. - Peter Greenaway (cited by Au, 2012)

More than 70 years ago, Antonin Artaud's The Theatre and Its Double offered a glimpse of theatrical performance as “virtual art,” a suspension of reality if for a mere moment. He first wrote his text in 1938, and it was first translated from French to English twenty years later. The alchemist, like a wizard, arranges “objects” and “images” to perform “a purely fictitious and illusory world” (Artaud, 1994, pp. 48-49). As in the virtual world, one might envision a parallel to Artaud's understanding of the spectator to that of the avatar: “The spectator is in the center and the spectacle surrounds” those within its midst (p. 81). The audience is as much a part of the experience as the actor, artist or filmmaker. That magic extends now to the virtual world (e.g., Figure 1).

Figure 1.

Enter the magic of Second Life. (© 2014, P. Johnson.).

A musician puppet on strings performs a song playing to a lyrical metaphor (Flimsey Freenote's String Me Up, 2010), a fast moving tale of humanity tied to time (Lainy Voom's Push, 2009), a stunningly provocative experimental video (ColeMarie Soleil's My Friends are Robots, 2009), and Bryn Oh's (2014a) virtual studio Immersiva that serves as an artistic inspiration for machinima, hers and those of others - all of these mediated creations represent stories and visual performances made within Second Life, an online world that has revolutionized cinema and revived theater as virtual alchemy. Immersiva is supported in part by British filmmaker Peter Greenaway and The Ontario Arts Council. As a simulated environment, it illustrates the visual and performative aspects of virtual worlds, of which machinima is a part.

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