The Possible and the Impossible

tool theme for publishingpioneer
Investigating the potential of virtual reality is irresistible to the creative communicator. (As a method for prototyping real world ideas and test marketing, it cant be beat!) It is the most intriguing when ideas are explored to enhance perception, but are not possible to do in the real world. An example is my in-world investigation of 1957. Discovering a phenomenal sim that recreates an American city circa 50’s, I couldn’t resist looking around. Phenomenally done, the buildings, cars, citizens (who’s avatars rent the many houses and apartments), the shops, the music, and the entertainment, are all committed to authenticity.Getting to know people by attending events and contributing to sim publications, I picked up on an idea that I did as my senior college thesis. At the time, I was about to receive a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with an Art History minor. My final paper was an examination of art created in the year 1900. Cezanne was an old man. The younger impressionists were revolutionizing the images and the business of art, and Chicago was on the incline having just hosted the Columbian Exhibition. It was as if I took a slice from the river of change and exposed it’s cross section.

But truth be told, I really admire the art created in the 1950’s much more. It is my favorite era because it challenged the conformist trends in society. At that time, pure abstraction came into its own, legitimized by new perceptions of color theory, figure/ground relationships, expressive compositions, and a reaction to the realism perpetuated by photography. No longer must art be documentary in a journalistic sense. Art became freed from its utilitarian functions of news, religious expressions, or even portraiture. (This splitting continues today, but through digital media, the merging of photography and art is finding new levels of relevance.)

Though this era of the 1950s is before my time, it influenced my teachers, and their teachers. Traditions began after WWII that continue to influence now as much as then. Wandering around in the 1950’s virtual setting made me wish i could have visited some of the galleries of the time, particularly in New York. What would I most want to see? And I realized that such an exhibit would not have happened then.

Rather, to examine a cross section of a single year reveals more about the era than isolating single galleries and shows that did occur. Virtual reality allows an exhibition to take place that never did and never will. It can gather masterpieces from those contributing during that specific year and compare/contrast their works. Simultaneity expresses the climate, aesthetics, philosophies, and beliefs of the time.

Gallery Medier Vintage

The virtual gallery presents masterpieces together not possible in reality.

By combining the project as a gallery show and as a catalog, each medium can support the other. Wandering through the virtual gallery that I created, visitors can view six artists work as they it would be shown in 1957. Second Life is a fast-paced environment that needs continual change to retain an audience. So the gallery is designed to rotate the show monthly—with a stable of 30 artists, it is easy to modularly break into the first five exhibits with potential to add. The focus of this first collection is American, but other regional collections can add to the visual exploration.

Gallery Medier first show

Six artists at a time are shown in the virtual gallery.

The book brings in a more human element into the virtual reality. Avatars of these artists have the potential for role play, but artists generally are not present when visitors come to a gallery. The book provides historic photos of visits to the artists in their studios, profile-style. A larger collection of artists, but showing less work, makes this book a non-duplicative companion to the exhibit.

Experimenting with exhibition and publication design in Second Life is an extension of my real life work. The book portraying 1957 artistic developments has applications in traditional publishing. Available also as a PDF, it could easily expand into a coffee-table style print book that could be even more comprehensive.

book presented virtually

Books are sold at Book Island in Second Life.

Publishing in virtual reality is in its infancy and blurs the lines of traditional categories. Most have blog tie-ins, online viewers, and print book applications. The real charm is to create a virtual environment to test ideas that can then expand relevance to a real world audience.


Liane Sebastian, illustrator, designer, writer, and publishing pioneer


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One Response to “The Possible and the Impossible”

  1. Betty Butler Says:

    Beautiful work!

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