“hihi”, it was a simple introduction that soror Nishi had made in her very first blog post, on the 4th of May in 2007. Four years and one thousand and eighty five posts later, she’s had plenty to say on a host of topics, from notes on her creations, to what was on her mind on a particular day and seemingly, all points in between. It had only been a few weeks prior to that post, that she’d rezzed in Second Life for the first time. While her introduction was brief it wasn’t long before she began exploring that medium, sharing her insight on topic after topic and … Oh, and lest I forget … her fantastical builds … the colors and forms used to create the most delightful objects. Her trees are easily distinguishable and the hallmark of her landscapes … all of which she combines into scenes that dazzle the eye, defy description and produce an imagery that transports the viewer to places they can only dream about. It is one that cannot be experienced outside of a virtual world.
I’d seen over the course of my travels in Second Life and in InWorldz several of her builds. The most recent opportunity had been “Transubstantiation”, which had exhibited at UWA. We’d been introduced by a mutual friend some time ago and we’d exchanged pleasantries several times as our paths had crossed. It had been shortly after seeing the UWA build that we’d talked about my doing a piece on her. She agreed and we set a date and time.
"Everything is going well in your world I hope?" I asked as soon as she'd arrived at my place on Magna Carta. We stood on the third floor of the structure, it is open to the sky as I'm in process of re-building and hadn't raised the walls of third floor yet.
"Yes, I had a bit of brain lag for a week or two … but it's all cool again." She replied.
"That's good to hear." I said with a smile. "Are you ready to start?"
"How and when did you discover virtual worlds?"
"In April 2007 … I was at a house in Cornwall where two of the guys there were in SL. I was just starting an exhibition of paintings (RL) and they said how I should try and sell them in SL. So ... talking with them I soon realized that actually I could BE the paintings, or be in them anyway. So ... sculpties were just being introduced … it took me ages to unRuth. I had an old Mac lappy ... well ... and so it went ... I sat in this exhibition in RL for 4 weeks with my lappy and tried to get Blender to work, there were no tutorials and I eventually made a prim … sculptie and I painted loads of textures and ... the rest is history." She replied and then added with a smile; "I only sold one painting."
"I saw that you'd started your blog right around then as well. Was that your first experience blogging?" I asked.
"Yes, first it was just a sort of diary … just thoughts and a sort of documenting my time, and then it became more to do with my work and eventually a mix of all sorts of stuff." She said in reply.
"It has a very good following and interaction with your readers. Is that interaction important to you?" I asked her.
"Well ... I think its a pain to send out information to all my friends list all the time, so I wanted it as a place where people could find out what I was up to, but more recently it has been great to exchange ideas with people. It's also corrective, because if I go off at a tangent, my readers will tell me ... I like that."
"Shifting back to virtual worlds ... What is it about them that you find so interesting?" I asked.
"It is pure heaven for a sculptor. I have always been a 3D designer since I was small, but it wasn't called that. I have ... like some people hear music all the time ... I have always seen shapes, form and composition and color. It's a continual experience for me. Everyday I see how things sit in 3D alongside each other. I always have. I think there's a sort of set of rules of harmony … how volumes interact in space. It's like music must be for some people ... there's harmony and disharmony. I was probably around 4 or 5 when I started arranging things." She said in reply and then added; "Soo ... virtual worlds are heaven."
"Has the creativity you've experienced here helped you in your real life?" I asked.
"I think the recognition. The fact that people 'get' what I do, that has helped with my confidence as a creator, but I haven't really turned that into any visible change in my real life … my confidence has increased and my computer skills."
"And that's a good thing." I commented.
"Indeed. I actually have a problem with RL art because it entails manufacturing a product, which I am good at ... but that leads you to a life of sales … I hate sales." She said and then laughed before she added; "And ... then there's storage too … so digital art is perfect for me. I was asked if I have an aim with my art and really, as far as RL goes, the answer is not really".
"Creation for the sake of doing so?" I asked.
"Yes ... and I am really the only person I need to satisfy. I am my strongest critic, so if I am happy ... life is sweet." She said in reply and then added, "Well, it is important as I said above that other people get it."
"A blog post you wrote in June of last year in which you said that 'Art in SL is different … There is no difference between artist and artisan in SL'. Do you still feel the same way?" I asked her.
"Yes, that was inspired a bit by that post by Alpha Auer. She meant that art in previous times had a sort of purpose, a function ... and that losing that had caused art to lose its way a bit. And so now ... these earrings I've been wearing for four years ... that's a very close relationship to one person's creation. That's as important as any painting or other fine art." She replied.
"I would tend to agree with you, seeing how much effort it takes to create a piece of apparel in second life." I commented.
"Yes, I mean really it's the same in RL too, I guess." She said.
"Which of your creations do you think is the most significant to you as an artist and why?" I asked.
"That's a tricky one … my sofa is very good, and mostly unnoticed, but my skin is the one I think affects me most … not this one by the way. When it comes to trees ... it would be quite difficult to pick one … my birch, maybe?" She replied.
"I was thinking that perhaps it might be one that you'd learned the most about yourself." I commented.
"hmmm ...that's a continual process, not sure I could narrow that down to one piece ... though there is a painting which I made before I knew of SL … of soror based on my reading of Jung. That probably led to soror Nishi....so that would be quite important."
"Speaking of soror, how did you come about that name?" I asked.
"It’s from European Alchemical tradition, she is the muse of the alchemist." She replied.
"I couldn't help notice in your picks, second life profile, that most of it seems to have been de-rezzed. “Was that a result of your moving to IWz as a base?" I asked.
"No. Well ... partly … but as you know builds come and go, it's the nature of this medium. The beach, my land on lifstaen I gave up so that I could afford a sim on IWz … the others were just natural wastage."
"Things do change in second life, no doubt there. What are the themes and trends that you think important for the future of your work in virtual worlds?"
"Well, in some ways it's just to continue doing what I do better. I don't have an aim and I'm never really sure what my next build will be. Twisted Isle is quite different because Transubstantiation was a sort of summary of 4 years work … a simplified version of tree of trees. Then Jeri Rahja gave me the opportunity to do something different and it's not got many trees on it at all." She said and then quickly added; "Four trees … one type."
"I'd missed Tree of Trees, but thought transubstantiation was one of the most amazing builds I'd ever seen." I commented.
"Thanks. Well ... in Trans I had started to change direction slightly anyway. I took a bit of a step towards a more abstract version of my previous work and incorporated a slightly urban feel too." She said.
"I'd thought the geometry was different then some of what I'd seen of your work before." I said.
"Yes … well ... I've always had the belief that the geology of virtual worlds is geometrical and it was time to show that. The Lindens wrote the rule book. They decided we would have sea and sun and earth and gravity ... but, really none of those things are a given in virtual worlds. Its possible other grids may arise where these things don't exist, but...the geology will be geometrical there too." She said and then added with a grin; "And the trees will look like mine."
"I saw this in a post that you wrote about a piece that Bettina had written and it caught my attention 'And, so I come back to Bettina’s question ... Why do we have trouble conveying to people what SL has to offer?' You replied 'Well, most of what SL has to offer is a pale imitation of First Life, I can sit by the sea side, I don’t hear the waves or smell the salt. etc.etc. … All the time we attempt to minimalize the 'derangement of the senses' we lessen the potential impact of Second Life, and lessen its appeal'."
"Yes, I think that's one reason why WoW is so popular. Avatar was a popular movie. We crave fantasy rather than replication in my opinion … replication is simply doubling my life. Why would I need that … but...the opposite is interesting … parallel universes...very appealing."
"Have you been to WoW?"
"No, I am not very competitive … it doesn't appeal."
"One last question, have you been able to increase the sales of your real life work?
"No. Well, I haven't really tried. I don't have a product for sale … my work RL is going fine. I do landscaping and gardening … but I don't sell an art product." She replied
We talked briefly after her reply and then she left to log out for the evening. As she did so, I made a note to check out her latest build in InWorldz and soon.