2 Suggestions to Maximize the Value of SLEA (Second Life Endowment for the Arts)

Congratulations

Congratulations and thank you to Tansee and Hannington Xeltentat for achieving what so many have longed for since the demise of The Linden Endowment for the Arts (LEA)

Linden Lab is pleased to announce the Second Life Endowment for the Arts (SLEA), a new community arts initiative developed in partnership with Tansee and Hannington Xeltentat.

Second Life Community

Details

The new SLEA is planned to consist of 7 SL Regions (1 Region = 256x256m = 6.5 hectares of virtual land, plus 15,000 prims/land impact). The old LEA consisted of 20 Artist-in-Residence Land Grant regions plus another 10 regions for a variety of other uses.

What Tansee and Xeltentat have accomplished here is, in my judgement, brilliant. With only 1/4 of the resource donation of LEA from Linden Lab, they will be able to present the same number of artists per year in a more nimble, faster rotating, more vibrant SLEA archipelago.

The plan is for a 1-region Landing HUB with teleport stations, offices, educational and public relations facilities, a theater and other central facilities. A second region will be an SLEA Sandbox. The remaining 5 regions will be Artist Land Grants

map of the seven-region SLEA experience including central hub and related art regions and sandbox. Image: Second Life Community / Tansee and Hannington Xeltentat

20+10 vs 7 Regions

While LEA’s 30 (20+10) regions were glorious, I believe they were too many. It was a large donation from Linden Lab and it was a lot to administer for the LEA committee. The burden of managing such a massive land holding may have played a role in the eventual end of LEA.

Seven is a much more modest donation from Linden Lab. And a land base that will allow for extensive creation and exhibition without the strain of managing an overwhelming 30 regions.

Shorter Residencies

While some of the 10 LEA regions were used in different ways, the showcase 20 LEA regions were all for 6 month land grants. While generous, I think this was tremendously inefficient.

Based on all the LEA projects I was able to view over the years, I am convinced of 2 things:

  1. No one needs 6 months
  2. While some artists make magnificent use of a full 6.5 hectares, many can create wonderful installations in a still generous 1.625 hectares of virtual land and 3,750 prims/land impact.

Doing the Math

LEA:

  • 20 Regions @ 6-month residencies = 40 artists/year
  • Plus indeterminate number of artists served at the other 10 regions

SLEA:

  • 1 Region @ 1-month residency = 12 artists/year
  • 1 Region @ 2-month residency = 6 artists/year
  • 1 Region @ 3-month residency = 4 artists/year
  • 1 Region @ 6-month residency = 2 artists/year
  • 4 1/4-Region @ 3-month residency = 16 artists/year

Total = 40 artists/year = same number of artists as old LEA AiR 20 Land Grant Regions.

Using different lengths of time and different size grants, SLEA presents about the same number of artists with 1/4 of the regions. Beyond being more efficient I believe this structure will be much more alive and vibrant.

The old LEA presented many magnificent installations by compelling artists from across the grid. But none of them took anywhere near 6 months to build. Even the best work sat largely static for long stretches of time. It was a slow paced place and a staggering continent of virtual land for visitors to take in.

The new SLEA presents an excellent number of artists per year in a much more fast paced and vibrant calendar. The more compact archipelago will be more easily appreciated by visitors.

While it may seem that SLEA is a smaller, more modest project than the grandiose 30 regions of LEA, I see it as just the opposite. SLEA is a more efficient and ultimately more compelling presentation of SL creativity to the larger community. LEA was a giant, room-filling IBM 360 mainframe. SLEA is a Ryzen-9 CPU talking to an RTX 3090 GPU in a small box sitting on your desk.

Two Modest Suggestions

What Tansee and Xeltentat have agreed upon with Linden Lab is truly magnificent. I am beyond optimistic that the spirit of LEA will be kept alive. I believe that SLEA has the potential to reach beyond the scope and achievements of its predecessor.

I would respectfully like to offer 2 suggestions to the organizers:

  1. Even more short residencies
  2. Embrace community
My proposal to replace the 3 & 6 month residencies with additional 1 & 2 month residencies, and to have all 7 regions be contiguous (touching, or walkable)

1. Shorter Residencies

To me, much of the power of SLEA comes from its bold move to have smaller and shorter residencies than LEA did. I cannot overestimate the dynamism I believe this will introduce. LEA was at times brilliant, but always slow moving. SLEA has the potential to be a vibrant hub for the arts grid-wide.

I love the proposed 7-region structure of Central Hub, Sandbox, 1/4 Region Grants, 1-month, and 2-month grants. The 2 regions I am troubled by are the 3-month grant and the LEA-style 6-month grant. I urge the organizers to let go of LEA baggage and convert these sleepy and inefficient regions into additional 1-month and 2-month regions. All the LEA installations I ever saw did not require 6 months or anything close to it. Let’s be more efficient with the land, serve more artists, and share more work with residents on a faster, more engaging pace.

My Math:

  • 2 Regions @ 1-month residency = 24 artists/year
  • 2 Regions @ 2-month residency = 12 artists/year
  • 4 1/4-Region @ 2-month residency = 24 artists/year

Total = 60 artists/year = 50% more than current SLEA plan = at least as many artists as all 30 of the old LEA regions

2. Embrace Community

SL or RL, artists are often loners. Often narcissists. Artists love the “white cube” of the art museum for the purity of it’s detachment from daily life. The problem is, human beings, avatar or fleshvatar, don’t live in detached, white voids. We live in the real worlds of messy, patchwork RL cities and messy, patchwork SL mainland regions.

Artists love the elegant remove of the white cube. But no white cube will ever have the impact of a street artist who presents their work not in isolation but in public space for everyone to love, hate, consider, and interact with.

LEA regions were notorious for their isolation. 20+ full regions that, except for me, I’m not sure if anyone ever physically walked between all of them. Isolated, teleport-in, teleport-out, spaces made even more separate by improbable vertical terraforming and ugly curtain walls.

I’m not certain if we are to interpret the proposed map of the 7 SLEA regions as being all isolated islands, but I hope not. I hope SLEA will encourage artists to consider their work not as isolated genius, but as a chance to be in dialog with other artists and SL residents.

I hope the 7 Regions of SLEA will be contiguous.
A community.
A city.

The city is a kind of brain.

An incubator of new ideas.

Ann Druyan, Cosmos: Possible Worlds

Cities, and SL Art Regions should, I believe, be walkable. The walkability of RL cities across the globe has been largely lost due to COVID-19. Rather than repeat the isolation of RL, I hope SLEA can be a chance to rediscover the joy of walking. I hope SLEA can create the opportunity for SL residents to go for a walk and experience a range of art. The avatar-sized 7 regions of SLEA is perfect for this. Even if LEA had wanted to cultivate community, I fear the gargantuan 30 regions would always have been prohibitive.

The never-built Lower Manhattan Expressway in New York City is the perfect example of this dichotomy. Robert Moses, the most powerful builder America had ever seen, wanted to cut Manhattan in half to service car traffic. Jane Jacobs, a secretary, argued that serving cars was not the beginning and end of cities and neighborhoods. That less sexy, less heroic areas of mixed use provided the safest and most vibrant spaces for children, families, and communities.

I hope SLEA will take inspiration from Street Artists, Jane Jacobs, and every pedestrian who has ever walked the streets of an RL city or the SL Mainland. Don’t make SLEA 7 isolated islands of artistic ego. Make it a contiguous, walkable community where residents can meet, interact, and share their creativity, their lives, their hopes, and their dreams.

References

Articles on The Second Life Endowment for the Arts (SLEA)

8 Comments

  1. The Lindens have probably dictated the layout of islands so a continuous grid sort of like Burning Life in the olden days is unlikely. I know at LEA, there were very occasional issues with neighboring sims. (OMG, they’re overlapping .01 meter into my space.) More often, artists looked for some way to connect their spaces.

    1. Hiya, Corcosman! Apparently you’re right. I’ve been informed that SLEA will indeed be 7 isolated islands. For me, walkability is at the heart of the embodied experience. Apparently I’m in the minority. I will console myself with 5 km Parades across connected mainland regions. I’m actually working on several parades now and I’m confident we will be marching ebulliently in October and November! 😀

  2. Hi Vanessa, Thank you for your that great blog article, those are great ideas and I agree with your idea that regions should be walkable. Walking from an art area to another is always a great pleasure, so apparently I am part of the minority too! cheers.

    1. Thanks, Janelle!

      In his reply post Dividni talked about visual clutter and I can’t exactly disagree with him. The SL mainland is not a carefully constructed art installation, it, like a city, is a random patchwork of many people coming and going and doing many different things. Still, I’ll take even that clutter if it means that my no-longer-webbed-together but newly mesh-bento individual toes can sink into the moisture of the virtual grass or feel the warmth of the virtual pavement as I walk around.

      BTW, I’m working on a number of “Avatar Parades” that will feature plenty of walking in October & November. If you’ve got a group slot available, you might join the VB Friends group and come along!

      http://world.secondlife.com/group/1d298c4b-50bb-7003-146f-5f5b8ec68449

    1. Hiya, Dividni!

      Well, first, it’s been ages! So great to “see” (hear from) you!!

      And thanks for your thoughtful responses. Side note: what you wrote, the “reply post” is a great way to go. Comments are great for discussion and shorter ideas, but reply posts, new posts, new works, are a fantastic form of dialog in our time. A bit of Picasso and Matisse with their long-running riposte paintings. Or John Berger and John Christie mailing swatches of Cadmium Red to each other.

      To your points – honestly – I think all your arguments are strong. On the lack of 3D artists, I’m not the best judge. My last LEA installation was College of Avatar Architecture & Virtual Urban Planning in 2017. After that I was gone from SL until my return in the last week of May 2020. So, to be fair, I don’t really know the pulse of SL. Have things, as you suggest, really changed? What happened?

      What I can say, is that your point about too many openings for not enough artists is very likely correct. As I was making sketches for my “alternate layout” for the 7 SLEA regions, my first plan dedicated 2 regions to the 1/4-region grants. I liked that plan a lot. The reason I didn’t ultimately present it is in keeping with your observations, it’s too much curating/artist selecting to go through in a year. With that layout the 7 regions would absolutely have more artists/year than the LEA 30 did. That could be great. But, as you say, there may or may not be enough good proposals. And even if there are, it’s so much work for the organizers.

      On community/walkability/contiguous regions, that’s so fundamental to the art I believe in that it’s very difficult for me to let that one go. But, you’re probably right. Slapping artists next to each other and saying “play nice” when they want to build their own, isolated, Rothko Chapels, probably isn’t a magic solution.

      I do prefer walking to teleporting. What I love — in any time, but even more dramatically so in a time of Coronavirus isolation — is the embodied sense of place that a world like SL gives us. Having a persistent, virtual, real place where my avatar body can walk is a world apart from any experience afforded by Zoom or Instagram.

      Nonetheless, it seems that the mistake of LEA (in my, probably not so humble opinion) is to be the destiny of SLEA. Instead of protesting for walkable/contiguous regions that aren’t coming, I think everyone’s interests are better served by pushing forward your idea of a persistent, omnipresent SLEA TP system that connects every artist and installation to every other artist and installation. Great thinking on that one, Dividni.

      Contiguous regions, or TP system, I think we both feel that 30 regions was oppressively large. 7 is more nimble and I hope more vibrant. It’s worth remembering that the crew of the Titanic saw the iceberg a couple hours before they hit it. It just wasn’t possible to turn that large a ship in the time they had. If the Titanic had been a speedboat, avoiding the impending doom and sailing into clear waters would have been trivial.

      One thing I think you, I, and everyone who cares about the arts can agree on is that Tansee and Xeltentat have achieved something wonderful. I wish them the best success!

      1. Hey Vaneeeeeeeessa!

        Did I ever tell you about my fondness for the extra E’s in your SL name? Well it’s true! (For them’s wots don’t know, Vanessa is a pseudonym, her real name is Vaneeesa.)

        Re too few artists: I closed Split Screen a couple years ago in part because I wasn’t finding new artists who fit my aims; as a result, I was faced with circulating the same artists over and over. Now, that has a couple uncertainties: Was I not making enough effort to find them? Was the problem just that the aesthetic I had in mind for Split Screen was too narrow? My sense though was that few artists were interested in 3D anymore, let alone BIG 3D, let alone big 3D that exploits SL’s technical capabilities. I chatted with a few friends about it, and they said the same. Why that happened might be partly that a whole lot of 3D artists moved on, either leaving or stopping (Oberon, Selavy, Claudia222, Glyph, Maya, Alpha, Doug & Desde, Jo, Scotty, the list goes on) and some bloggers stopped or left too (Quan, Ziki, and Bettina, who for some fucking reason closed the ImpIRL group as well as her blog). So a LOT of community has evaporated. Fiona Fei is the first new artist I’ve seen in ages who is into large builds. So personally, I’d make every artist interested in SLEA land to read the old NPIRL blog, which IS STILL UP: http://npirl.blogspot.com. So is Ziki Questi’s: https://zikiquesti.blogspot.com. And mine. There are also YouTubes of this stuff. Folks seem to have no idea what wild things they can do in SL!

        Incidentally, at Split Screen I had TPs with photos to help make sure people knew there were two installations. Also greeter notecards, even though I hate them. Anyway the TPs seemed to help, but I think the photos made a difference.

        Re contiguous sims, actually there’s an additional option, if LL is willing: put Openspace sims between the art sims. They allow 1000 prims, more than enough to put up a walkway or bridge or whatever, and a fair number of small 3D works.

        For the moment, though, Tansee and Hannington should pursue their present plans, and consider playing with options once they’ve got their sealegs.

        And oh yeah: welcome back!!

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