RE: [-empyre-] empyrean's squishy avatars

> Empyrean is a web based, single user and multi-user VRML environment running
> on an Open Source VNet server; which also exists as an online gallery
> installation, an offline installation; as a 13-minute documentary video -
> "soft skinned e_scape"; and as a Real Video streaming from the web site. The
> work showing in Manchester is the MU gallery version, not yet linked from my
> online site but available at

Hi Melinda,

I tried that link but, for some reason, had better success with my Win 98 system at . I remember you told me backchannel that whether it
would work in IE depended on the version of Java one is running; anyway, I found Netscape 4.78
handled it well; my newer IE didn't handle it well. It's well worth the experimentation, Millie.
Given that, as Melinda mentioned, the Cosmo plugin has not had dev on it for some time, it isn't
surprising that Netscape 4.78 might handle it better.

> The work plays with  the concept of the net being a living organic space and
> re-dresses the seemingly prevalent net desire to remake online virtual space
> as a poor imitation of the "real". Empyrean offers an online environment,
> which has no horizon line to anchor oneself against, and no attachment to
> offline "hard" space. It is also a meditation on the form and beauty of
> virtual space, its electronic first nature if you like.. as the low polygon
> modelling makes clear that we are inhabiting computer constructed space and
> exposes its seams..

It's exciting to see you take this approach. I'm a Director developer and yag there's a lot of
"poor imitation of the "real"" (already behind two sets of quotation marks) in Director 3D. Also
a lot of simple polyhedral platonism or something--how many spinning dodecahedrons have I seen?
You create a metaphysical space rather than a poor imitation of a physical one, yes? This is
what made me think of Donne, as well as the 'empyrean'. And certainly, given contemporary
homestyle computers (mine is a 400 MHz pentium II) a relatively low polygon count is important
to a relatively large audience, for them to be able to experience the work with some fluidity,
which i find an important factor in the experience. Then it can have an experiential 'reality'
that is harder won when software runs at a snail's pace.

> The world consists of  7 interconnected scapes  each  with  a different
> aesthetic and theoretical reference. The influences coming form popular
> physics, the scapes are mostly named  after quarks, which are small
> sub-atomic strange, charm, beauty , truth, etc, (Brian Eno
> listeners will know this)  ideas of spirituality (empyrean is named from the
> medieval term for the final and encompassing sphere of the heavens in an
> earth-centred universe.  The Empyrean was the place where god and the angels
> lived, outside of which nothing was seen to exist; the final frontier of
> being; the edge of reality)

Or, in the work of Plato, say, Ur, the realm of the forms, possibly? In The Timaeus by Plato, Ur
is the realm of the forms, of 'the good' and, also, since Plato was a Pythagorean, the
mathematical forms.

It also deals with ideas of the postHuman in a
> quiet visually crude way with a transparent but bloody and beating heart
> penetrate by information threads in the "truth" scape; with the colonisation
> of the web,  the isolation of virtual space, and of course  the ideas of the
> tactility and sensory embodiment in networks  ..the touch of connectedness..

I was really struck with the piece in which the past, present, and future are represented as an
entity or shape that one can navigate around and through, and these three "breathe as one".

> I am completely drawn to Virtual Reality Modeling Language, a self
> reflective, invocational (to refernce Chris Chesher) language.. It has the
> great advantage of operating within low enough bandwidth to network
> relatively complex environments containing multiple users, and radically
> diverts Virtual Reality from its early ideals of seamless sensory immersion
> into a duplication of hardspace made possible only to a few by
> supercomputing technology; into an easily accessible application which
> allows mass participation and interactions in mixed reality. Meanwhile it
> retains just that right balance of transparency and clunkyness to remind us
> that we are the creators of our own simultaneously subjective and objective
> viewpoints.

I have heard at least one pronouncement of the "failure" and "death" of VRML, but it seemed
rather premature to me. I have seen some fine work in VRML. I haven't seen any good VRML work
that tried to create an imitation of a "real" space--it seems important to explore metaphysical
spaces, or as in some work I've seen, literary spaces etc.

Also, just because a technology has a relatively limited audience doesn't mean it's dead. If one
wants to see the Mona Lisa or whatever work in a gallery one cares to name, you have to travel
there, so the viewership is, again, limited. Which of course doesn't make it a failure.

> Users interact via avatars that have no human characteristics whatsoever,
> rather being cellular or electronic constructions. This addresses the trend
> to homogenize avatar representation to a tall western silicone enhanced
> stereotype. Although users can communicate with each other through a Open
> Source V-net text interface, in the gallery space text options are removed
> and users primarily interact through sound and gesture. Avatars are very
> cute may squeak, squawk, blink, swell up and go opaque, gurgle, giggle,
> blush. By using means other than text for communication the multiuser VRML
> domain is not tied to a dominant language group, age category or educational
> factors, and it makes immersion in the space a fun activity. One of the
> outcomes for me doing the is work has been the delight of engaging with
> avatars as a new hybrid life form - a soft skinned species.
> Sound is erlaly important to immersion here.. and its design by Mitchell
> Whitelaw is spatialized and attached to the etheric objects, which are
> mostly moving and often set at different pitches, so once inside the world
> the soundscape is constantly shifting around the viewer's avatar. In a sense
> you could navigate by sound alone as each zone has a distinctive soundscape,
> like the glassy crunching and grinding spheres of "chaos", or the frenetic
> cellular skating rink in "charm", or the tinkling birdsong of the delicately
> choreographed neurons in "void."

Yes, the sound is important here, isn't it. And I note it is spatialized. Sound has a way of
being real before we know it.

I'm looking forward to reading the discussion this month. As you may have noted, last month I
put in a link to Squid Soup at -- is it Adam Nash
who made that piece?


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