The New New Wave of SL Art

by Alphaville Herald on 13/08/08 at 9:29 pm

Work that is more than just being clever

by Aurel Miles


It begins in a Wheatfield. I contemplate the land. A man sits down and says:

“Hello Miss Miles. You are a very meticulous woman, I can see it in your work on your avi”
(Long pause – during which MAN remains seated and I wake up.)

Me: Oh
Me: Hello. Sorry – I was talking to my editor

MAN: she is perfect
Me: my editor?

MAN: no your avi

…and we’re off. Seems to me two-thirds of the population of SL, at any given moment, are looking for love, sex or some form of romantic connection. That’s why I chose to spend the first year of my time here writing about sex. That’s why Stroker is rich, it’s why people can make a real living selling virtual shoes, clothes, nipples, hair, skin and anything else that makes a peacock out of the paper bag avatar we all start out with. It’s why we have houses

I’m not going to pretend to know why forming relationships is so much easier and so much more intense in SL – there are a few theories about meeting someone on equal ground and learning about their heart and soul before you start looking at their limitations and I think those theories are pretty sound. Google it – they’re out there. (And before anyone starts blathering about how fake these relationships are, of the 100 people I know, eight of them are now married to their SL partners in RL. It’s not a huge percentage but when you consider none of them, nobody I know, came here expecting to fall in love much less move halfway across the world to marry their SL partner – it’s significant.)

These days, things have changed. There are plenty of newbies out there buying their first set of genitals and that will go on for as long as SL exists but there are an equal number of us who have moved on. So, what I am interested in these days is what comes next? What happens when you have made that match and have that deep connection? And not what happens to your relationship either, I want to talk about what happens to you.


In even in the most intense SL relationships, there are going to be times when you might like to be together but can’t. Not all of those times will be when you’re both offline. Maybe there’s work to be done and you commit to doing it but slack off by sneaking into SL. Maybe you just don’t feel like going out in RL even though you know there’s no chance your partner will be online and in those moments maybe you realize you’re secure enough not to have to prove yourself to anybody, secure enough to return to the state of being a noob and go exploring alone amongst strangers in geekdom except that this time, you really are off the market. Whatever it takes, you don’t need to be surrounded by your friends all the time. These moments are an opportunity to open your eyes to the rest of the SL world.

I started my latest Saturday night with a pile of work to be done and only the weekend to do it but soon found myself fighting off a sense of longing. My SL partner is far away and was out for the evening in RL. I was not. I didn’t want to watch a movie, didn’t want to finish my work, didn’t want to visit with friends or talk on the phone, couldn’t seem to settle into reading and so decided to open the computer and wander. I wasn’t being secure or smart about opportunities, I was being lazy. But even lazy can turn into something good, if you let it.


SL relationships set a person up to be good at longing. It’s amazing to me how deeply connected we can feel to each other when the barrier of real flesh and air and bone and body are stripped away. Standing on my balcony, looking into the starry sky, I could imagine my partner far away, looking, maybe for a moment into that same night sky and knew we were connected by our thoughts. But there is a time to put those things aside and just be by yourself and Saturday was my night – in that wistful but not unsettled mood, I stepped into AM Radio’s build; The Far Away.

I had walked through The Far Away before but never spent any time exploring it; big mistake. AM Radio has built a haunting landscape that makes me more optimistic about the future of SL art than I have been since early noobdom.

For those of you who don’t get out to many arts events – there have been six basic schools of SL visual art since time began (around 2005) the Hyperformalists (as Artworld Market calls them) have had coverage in major art mags. Their work is scripted, interactive and pretty. The idea is to create visually stunning works that can be moved through, sat on, and generally can envelope the avatar. A few major artists in this genre are Juria Yoshikawa, Sabine Stonebender, Elros Tuminen and Dancoyote Antonelli – who may have coined the term.


Performance artists like Second Front, and the Metaverse Orchestra create scenes, interventions or performances and engage the community through direct actions with their avatars. (Some people see these as a kind of griefing but they are never malicious, usually streamed into a RL gallery space and unlike griefers, they have a point)

The third group (sometimes unfairly maligned) is what I think of as flatart practitioners and flatart importers who create works that look like canvases in RL or bring 2-d art from the Round World into SL and mount it, either in shows or more commonly in commercial galleries.

The fourth group consists of the SL sculptors like Starax who use a Round World idiom in SL – that is to say, their sculpture looks and acts like sculpture; it’s just set in Flatland.

Machinimists are group five, they make SL film, their work is available on Youtube but it is not yet widely seen – maybe someday that will change, machinima is still very new and requires very good hardware to create.

Scattered amongst these regularly practicing artists are members of the sixth group, the SL artists who work with the whole concept of SL as their medium. Tree Kyamoon has done some interesting work that would have been called installation art in the Round World. Angrybeth Shortbread has worked with Brian Eno in SL and has created the Artport as a doorway between Sl and RL. The Rezzable Sims are environments created as novelty sims – cartoon lands like the Greenies. And of course there are fantasy landscapes like Svarga that have been around practically since SL began. Any sim builder or landscaper falls into this category but most builders, terraformers and landscapers do not typically consider themselves to be artists and, in my experience, most reproduce realities in the same way a gardener would – nothing wrong with that but very few of these artists integrate the whole palette of possibilities, sound, visuals, geography, links, narrative and people of SL into their work.

AM Radio and Chouchou do both.


At first glance, a visit to any of AM Radio’s four regions is like stepping into a landscape painting. One is reminded of American painter, Edward Hopper or the Cohen Brothers film; “Oh Brother Where Art Thou” Radio’s work is spare and clean. It relies on a subdued tonal range of beige, rust, gold, umber, grey and muted primaries but it is multilayered and embedded in the work are sounds, teleports, hidden links, mysteries.

Walking through The Faraway or The Quiet, The Husk or the Refuge and Extension, is a hypnotic experience but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. To the casual observer AM Radio’s work evokes a response of “cool looking but so what?” Slow down. You need to spend time in Radio’s landscapes, you need to touch everything. When you do hints and glimpses of stories begin to reveal themselves. These are areas best explored alone but they’re becoming popular so good luck with that – I recommend going late at night.

Radio’s builds are ideal places to let yourself experience SL but also to let your own inner landscape begin to speak. They are enigmatic, meditative – filled with recurrent symbols; violins, rusted trains, bands of blue fabric, wooden chairs and bare branches – what does any of it mean? Slowly, as you spend your solitary time in Radio’s world, meaning begins to unspool in whatever way is right for you. It’s poetic, elegiac work, worth your time and effort.

Chouchou Region is a little more directed. (pun intended) Creator and Chouchou band member Juliet Heberle says she dreamed one night that she was in a film. From that dream, Chouchou region was born.

The cinematic hud makes Chouchou unique. Don’t explore Chouchou without it, you’re cheating yourself. The sim itself is a haunted, haunting setting straight out of a Japanese art film. It is meant as a setting for the band’s concerts – so far Chouchou only performs in SL but they deserve more exposure and will likely get it.

It is difficult to become accustomed to moving in the Chouchou region because the hud requires you to be in either concert or walking mode. Take off your AO, pay attention to the advice on the notecard (for once it is actually useful) and wander into the landscape.

In Chouchou you become the solitary heroine of a Bergman film, adrift on the tidal flats, or a lonely hero in a dream landscape, thinking about your lover and contemplating the broken remnants of another lover’s life. An empty cage, a grand piano, a solitary tree – Chouchou speaks volumes about love and longing without ever saying a word. (keep trying to get up the ladder – half the region is at the top.)

Juliet Heberle is moving from New York City to Japan because as she puts it “I have something I have to do in Japan and I needed to be close to another Chouchou.” (the composer of the piece you hear in the Chouchou region.) Miya Grut built the Chouchou hud but Miya, like so many other great SL creatives, does not take commissions and anyway Miya only speaks Japanese.

Consider Chouchou an inspiration and an opportunity to fine tune your own building skills. It’s all possible. (Juliet’s move does mean there will be no Chouchou concerts for a while and that is a shame but Chouchou is not gone, just breaking to get closer and that’s a happy thought.)

Rarely, in a love affair, in any world, we are given moments where missing someone is its own reward. To stand in any of these sims and contemplate the symbolism of SL and the communication in a world that is pure communication knowing you will continue on that journey in the company of another is deeply satisfying in a melancholy way. And when the melancholia wears off you have the future of SL art and the prospect of time with your partner to take its place. This is why, after all, some people like salt on their melon. The salty makes the sweet taste sweeter.


AM Radio and Juliet Heberle have brought an earthly/unearthly sense of eternal wonder into SL, the same feeling you get standing on the beach or looking into the night sky. Of course I am not suggesting you replace anything in your real life with the experience they have created but if by chance you find yourself alone one evening missing someone these creations are a good place to let yourself continue the journey into your own inner landscape.

Consider it concrete meditation. A constructed world of wonders. This is what the people who aren’t out there dancing themselves into intimacy or sitting on cuddle poseballs are doing. Nice to know SL goes on even when the 24 hour sex show no longer holds your interest.

Work like this opens up SL wakes it up and moves it forward. The human connection is what it’s all about at heart. I’m no expert but I believe everything in life is really about the human connection. but once you’re connected, it’s time to take a few inner journeys both together and alone. So this is my year two, SL’s year five and we are all still growing.

Welcome to the new era of Second Life art – work that actually might mean something more than just being clever. Breathe deep – look inside, there’s a whole new world in there.

15 Responses to “The New New Wave of SL Art”

  1. Viajero

    Aug 13th, 2008

    I never read SL Herald anymore (it’s been two years) since it’s so full of shite and garbage, but I did catch your article on

    It’s a very nice overview of SL art, and useful descriptions of some sims which I’ll be checking out now. Thank you.

    The stuff on relationships is quite psychotic, though. SL is *not* real life, and relationships here are partial at best. There’s a heluva a lot of pathetic wish-fulfillment there, and a massive agreed-upon suspension of disbelief there in the cartoon world. As if there wasn’t a surplus in the real world. SL simplifies complexities, and that is not a good thing.

    SL is for geeky kicks and casual conversation. It does some other things well, but “relationships” here are, by definition, pixels deep. As in so completely limited that to believe they have substance is fairly delusional.

    G’head, have a good dream. I recommend you not confuse it with the more sustainable reality of the world of human skin.

  2. Razrcut Brooks

    Aug 13th, 2008

    Thank you Aurel Miles. I think we have found a suitable writer to replace Prokofy on the masthead…

  3. Prokofy Neva

    Aug 14th, 2008

    So…the Herald is trying to burnish its image after that atrocious abortion article and prove that it can “write about decent art”?


    Picked a terrible example. First of all, all the papers wrote about this ages ago. Second of all, the Far Away is a major fraud. I’ve been to it. It achieves its effects by a decidedly non-SL, and very Flatland gimmick — putting giant pictures up on giant board prims to make “the far away” sky. I find that fake, and not about art, or even about stage-setting. With all the beauty inherent in SL, especially if Windlight is jiggered if you have a big-ass computer graphics card, you wouldn’t need boards and pictures like that, it’s lame.

    To then fluff around this ineffectual piece some bullshit about your SL partner (showing off, are you?) then pulls the article down of course to the level the Herald likes it — in the dregs. It’s like a college newspaper, long meandering personal narratives mixed up with pretentions of an art review.

    There’s also no reason to malign “flat artists” who merely bring in renditions of their real-world flat art to SL. First of all, it gives them a bigger audience, and there are plenty of people who want flat art for their SL homes, they love it. This isn’t mass and crass; it’s often very, very good stuff. Think of Filthy Fluno’s works, for example. Having a flat piece in the 3-D world does transform it, as you can talk about it, meet the artist so much more easily, resize it, etc.

    “Hyperformalists” is one of those arty terms that Dante coined to try to make a school out of a one-man band, and I don’t think you can really say it has a good definition or a good following.

    I’m all for celebrating the pushing of SL beyond its seeming capacities, and for in fact using the capacities not used much by artists to make installations. But let’s not call an Andrew Wyeth retread with badly leaking stageset boards some triumph of art now, shall we?

    And yes, it’s Christina’s World, Andrew Wyeth, not Hopper, it doesn’t have the bright edges of abstraction of Hopper.

  4. Just Some Guy

    Aug 14th, 2008

    Interesting, but sorry this is /not/ the new wave of SL art. And certainly not the new new wave. It’s not even the new wave of ordinary contemporary art. You need to get out more.

  5. Valentina Kendal

    Aug 14th, 2008

    Just when you stop reading the Herald regularly, something comes along to make you rethink the decision. Nice well-written summary article Aurel. Sure many of us have already been to all or most of these places, but there are many new people to SL who have not, and will read this article, and are in for a treat thanks to you.

    ” secure enough to return to the state of being a noob and go exploring alone amongst strangers in geekdom” Sl is huge – it is not just a noob characteristic to want to explore it. Every two or three months or so I put on my walking shoes, leave my beach and go exploring. I have walked (yes walked) most of one of the continents already and am itching to start another. Relationships are wonderful, but they can also be constricting and limiting – same people, same places, night after night – enjoy your freedom!

  6. BJ Tabor

    Aug 14th, 2008

    Did someone hack the SL Herald?

  7. Prokofy Neva

    Aug 14th, 2008

    Good Lord, aurel is trying to harangue me inworld now for my opinion expressed about her badly-done review and this badly-done over-hyped sim. I’ve been to check it out, several times, and taken my own photos and studied it, long ago. It is Wyeth, all the way, anyone can see it. The grass over-dominates — that is pure Wyeth. To be comparing it to Hopper just seems ignorant to me, but of course, there’s no accounting for taste. Even the selection of farms and windmills — it’s all derivative. There’s nothing new to see here, such as to be crowing about it as the metarati are. I could be in a collectivist socialist realism farm painting, sitting on a tractor.

    Again, you can’t malign flat art, then boost this derivative piece that in fact puts big boards all around which is, after all, flat art. And yes, aurel *does* malign it as any one can see, as it is treated as a “lesser” form unlike this “innovative and creative” installation. She then tries to back out of doing that, having accomplished the damage.

    aurel then scolds me further — a total ass! — as follows:

    “No blog, no reporter, no paper in the world would savage a fellow writer from the same publication in print. And I don’t air my opinion of you in public for that very reason it’s, rude, childish and it makes us both look bad.”

    Oh, I used to think that, too, in real life, and even in Second Life, when I was more naive. Yeah, tell that to Pixeleen. That’s what I used to say *when I used to work here, which I don’t any longer, for just that reason*. I used to say, why are you allowing other reporters, especially these fake ones you’ve ginned up from griefing groups and parvenus like Jessica Holyoke, to savage me? How can “Ouchquack” get to savage me just because I’ve did a story better than he had? Etc. And the answer is: “because I feel like it, because I’m a bitch”.

    I’m writing a rebuttal to aurel’s ill-conceived piece not “because I feel like it and because I’m a bitch” but because *her act* of immorality and moral blindness in trying to follow the Herald’s atrocious abortion story with a “good art” piece is absolutely unconscionable. An act of bad faith of that magnitude is definitely going to draw criticism on that grounds alone; as it happened, there were other things to criticize.

    I don’t work at the Herald — and for good reason. But even if I did, I could hardly feel any sense of “solidarity” with such a tacky piece, that wanders all over the most cliched landscape about SL partners, then crows about a work that isn’t demonstratively good as the in-crowd claims, and that slams people bring in their RL created works as replicas as somehow “lesser” just because it’s a 3-D world. It’s incompetence.

    I’m suppose to feel “chastized” if aurel tells me that I “only look bad” or “feed the trolls” because I dared to criticize her work — she imagines she’s a RL professional excelling in SL, but it’s all fake, and I’m here to point that out. You can’t shield yourself from legitimate criticism by wielding game-swords like the “troll” meme or MMORPG peer pressure like telling someone they “will look bad”.

    Razrcut, just as every people gets the government it deserves, I suppose every public gets the newspaper it deserves, you sound like a member of that public writ large, and you have the lousy rag you deserve.

  8. Jessica Holyoke

    Aug 14th, 2008


    Seriously? Have we even had a discussion in recent memory? And when did I ever savage you?

  9. zamboni driver

    Aug 14th, 2008

    anything prok didn’t think of sucks


    ear picking greasy haired catlady, this place was a cess pool when you were here too, obsessively harping on anything you felt threatened by. which is, as i said above, pretty much anything YOU didn’t think of

    now we just have “pixeleen” obsessing on certain topics

    same shit, different asshole

  10. Alyx Stoklitsky

    Aug 14th, 2008

    @Prokofy “With all the beauty inherent in SL, especially if Windlight is jiggered if you have a big-ass computer graphics card, you wouldn’t need boards and pictures like that, it’s lame.”

    That’d be great if windlight were even properly implemented yet. You can’t do anything with it right now, as there’s no ablity for landowners to configure the atmosphere seeting for their sims. Windlight, while it generates pretty skys, water and glow effects, is currently living without the use of its limbs.

    I have my graphics settings SL cranked up to the absolute max, and I still have trouble finding the ‘inherent beauty’ – but then again I built this machine to run Crysis, not SL.

  11. Rock Ramona

    Aug 15th, 2008

    ummm..Prok,time to go to the docs to see if your meds need to be increased…i thought this article was a pleasant change from the usual,she doesnt claim to be a famous art crtic,she is just telling us how she felt,bravo!

  12. GreenLantern Excelsior

    Aug 15th, 2008

    Anyone looking for beauty should visit the Bliss sims. I don’t think they are hyped as being “art,” but they don’t have to be. They are pretty without being pretentious.

  13. Cai Pirinha

    Aug 15th, 2008

    Actually, this article is pretty interesting and well written.

    Why somebody is getting so worked up about it that s/he feels the need to write long drawn-out comments full of rancor and venom simply beats me.

    What a pathetic use of life time.

  14. Enderby Burgess

    Aug 21st, 2008

    …I am very pleased to see the return of Aurel to these pages. Although counter to others that have posted here I find her writing to elevate the SL discourse. There is certainly enough blah, blahing about this and that relative to what is right or wrong with SL, Aurel has in this piece, as she has done in past pieces accurately assigned SL’s place in what is currently being called Net 2.0. It is good to reflect, it is good to wonder, it is good to call into question what is really going on here. Aurel does that and I hope she will continue to do so.

  15. Sledge Roffo

    Dec 4th, 2008

    Just thought you might want to know that there is another category of SL Art that you haven’t mentioned. I call it “Primagery”.

    Sachi and I were partners in SL when we wanted to find a way to create something close to painting in SL. Our relationship evolved and then dissolved 6 weeks ago but we are still creating our art in SL.

Leave a Reply