[ISEA2011] Workshop: Mechthild Schmidt – Mirror Garden 3: Twist, Turns and the Myth of Flying: Sculpting and Building in Second Life

Workshop Statement

Second Life has often been misinterpreted as a game. I prefer the metaphor of an empty stage, suggesting open-ended creativity. This virtual stage lets me take advantage of working independent of gravity or real-world physical laws to create experiences impossible in the real world. In Mirror Garden3: Twist, Turns and the Myth of Flying, I use several ancient myths of Flying to connect digital culture to  analog roots. It is an attempt to use global, virtual tools to remind us of our shared humanity and human desire beyond differences in media, culture and religion. For the workshop we meet in-world on the NYU Island in Second Life inside the installation. You may contribute your associations about flying on an interactive notecard or a parallel blog before learning to build. Building is done using real-time tools included in Second Life. The interactive tools do not require a 3D modeling background. Simple objects become complex with the use of textures, alpha channels and attached physical or interactive behavior. The immersive experience is intensified through voice chat and (remote) collaboration. The workshop has 4 segments: Introduction, Model/Texture, Sculpt/Behavior, Explore: After a 1-hour introduction and a demonstration using installation objects we form small teams to build a simple structure and apply texture maps for detail. In the third hour we use more intricate transformations and modify physical properties for sculptural work. In addition, I will demonstrate how to add scripts and links. The last hour is used for an individual project or to fine-tune the two earlier models. Participants will walk  away with a small library of digital objects, textures, scripts, and landmarks to places with exemplary architecture, art and instruction to return any time for further exploration. To shorten the introductory phase, participants have to register their own avatar prior to starting the workshop. Links: download Second Life (SL) software and install prior to the workshop http://secondlife.com  > “Download Second Life”. Then register your avatar at http://secondlife.com > “Join Now”. Note: Second Life use is free. For this workshop you do not need to register a credit card number. Each participant will be given a small stipend in Linden$ (SL currency) at the workshop introduction.

  • Mechthild Schmidt, building on a fine arts and history background (Universität der Künste and Freie Universität, Berlin, Germany), has worked in digital media since her DAAD (German Academic Exchange Program) grant to New York in the mid-eighties. She designed for major post houses and networks in Munich and New York where she realized her computer-based art video and stage projects. Her holistic approach often looks for interdisciplinary connectivity with theatre (Amphitryon, Macbeth machinima) or dance (Rush Dance). Among her awards and commissions are the design of the ‘Deutscher Filmpreis’ Statue ‘Lola’, an International Monitor Award for ‘Interactive Multimedia’, an IBM grant for a multimedia theatre ‘Amphitryon’ (Munich), a Fellowship for the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program, NYC and the mentioned DAAD grant. She has exhibited and spoken internationally about her work and interest in media convergence and digital aesthetics (Siggraph, BDA, MIT/CAVS, NMC at Princeton, Bauhaus Dessau, KHM Cologne). Mechthild Schmidt is currently associate professor at New York University where she teaches Digital Communications and Media (DCoM). She produces the DCoM CrossRoads panel series with the current theme of ‘Engaged Media’ – talks on media ethics and sustainability. She has worked and taught in the virtual platform of Second Life since 2006. Responding to the ecological crisis, she has directed her teaching towards awareness-building use of participatory media and initiated the student-centered interactive Second Life plastic bottle maze. Her own latest projects in Second Life are Mirror Garden 1 + 2 (2008/10) and Mirror Garden 3 (in progress).