While the Second Life community was buzzing about the long awaited (Beta) release of the new Second Life Viewer 2.0, Linden Lab also made another big announcement. On the official Second Life blog, Niko Linden announced the Linden Endowment for the Arts (LEA) program. The LEA program is being created to help support, encourage, and highlight Second Life artists and their work.
In the upcoming months, it is our pleasure to take a more active role in encouraging the arts inside of Second Life. We are excited to announce the creation of a Linden Endowment for the Arts (LEA) program which will help support, encourage, and highlight Second Life artists and their work. We hope that the collaboration between Linden Lab and the wealth of talented Second Life artists will contribute to a vibrant new chapter for the arts in Second Life.
The Linden Endowment for the Arts (LEA) program’s goal is twofold:
- To create an immersive space for artists to share their art, build connections, and prosper in the Second Life community
- To provide a new way for artwork to live on within our ever-changing virtual world.
While still under design, this program will be a partnership between Linden Lab and Second Life artists, with the additional objective of gathering, displaying, and maintaining art at an inworld Arts Hub. We are currently building the LEA organizing committee, which will include members of the Second Life artist community and Linden Lab employees, to guide the program’s management. Under the creative direction, organization and guidance of the LEA committee, we will hold biannual art exhibitions, highlighting the most creative artwork happening inworld.
Niko says that they are currently looking for a “small but dedicated group” of Second Lifers who are willing to make a commitment to the program, which (at least for now) will be headed by CEO Mark Kingdon. Those interested in joining the committee can apply here.
While this extraordinary endeavor is long overdue, it also faces some challenges. Despite the fact that Niko says, “the key to understanding art is not in trying to decide what it is,” that is exactly what Linden Lab will have to do. The announcement is already full of comments arguing this very question… What is Second Life Art?
So far, most of the controversy stems from Crap Mariner’s insistence that Second Life music is art. He argues that the Second Life musicians are not always just “one guy with a guitar playing on a stage.” He says that some SL musicians create immersive experiences as part of their shows, and that they cannot be “pushed to the back burner” anymore. I agree and disagree. Music is absolutely and undoubtedly an art, but just like not every painting is art, not every musical performance is an art either. Having said that, musicians like Grace McDunnough and her full out live music production Musimmersion, most certainly fit the billing of art. But where do we start and end that thin defining line?
I tend to lean towards definitions in which Second Life actually facilitates the experience and/or emotions that the art provokes.
Bryn Oh described this better in her response to the announcement:
We are in the frontier of a new art movement which is unlike others before it. As an oil painter i would not expect a jpeg of my work to be considered for inclusion, as all the element which make up the beauty of a painting are lost when converted to this format. All the brush strokes which convey emotion are no longer seen, the colour is often changed when scanned and they lose the presence which an oil painting can have in real life. I think we have to look at it from an art history point of view. What, in ten years time, would an art historian say defined this new medium? What is unique about SL art over other forms of art we can find in rl. A 2D painting on a wall can be appreciated for its colour theory and composition but we remain passive observers. The ability we have in Second Life is to create paintings that you can enter and explore. Instead of paint we use sound, prims, particles, scripts, narrative, and many other tools which allow us to create a new form of art. Immersive environments allow the viewer to be drawn into the virtual experience and forget rl for a time. That interaction is unique to this medium except for perhaps installation art or earth art. Determining what is unique about this medium should really be the guideline as to determining what should be included.
Wagner James Au also attempted to create his own similar definition of Second Life art on his blog:
Second Life art is art that attempts to essentialize an important aspect of the human experience in a way that’s only feasible in SL, leveraging most or all of Second Life’s unique affordances.
In the end no one can ever truly define art. In my opinion, the keys to the success of this program will be (as Bryn said) determining what is unique about this medium and the art in it and also remembering the distinction between a craft (music is a craft) and actual art (Musimmersion is art).