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Bronzeville Etudes & Riffs Moves from Second Life® to Unity3 Platform


Etudes & Riffs

In a major expansion of concept, artist Philip Mallory Jones has moved the development of Bronzeville Etudes &: Riffs onto the Unity 3 game development platform, which will make it available on web browsers and on portable devices that use the iOS and Android operating systems. He now calls this work an immersive graphic novel. Open it and you step into the Chicago South Side and experience life there as a Black American from the turn of the 20th century to the 1950s.

Jacque Quijote is the avatar of artist Philip Mallory Jones in the Second Life® virtual world. We selected the work of Jacque Quijote In the Sweet Bye & Bye as a "Pick of the Week" in May, 2007, and featured this work in our 2007 print monograph, The Second Life Art World

Five years later I asked the artist about these developments:
AWM: What made you change platforms from the Second Life virtual world to the Unity 3 game development platform?
PMJ: Hit the wall of prim count. No empty full sim available, so development goes in different direction. I've always been developing the piece more or less simultaneously on both platforms.
AWM: Has the change from a massively multiplayer online system to a single player platform changed the way you script this work?
PMJ: Entirely, but I've always been thinking in that direction. Now I'm getting serious about it. The Unity environment, in several significant ways, simplifies some concept and design problems. As someone raised to me some time ago, what does it do to the illusion of the piece when an 8 ft leather-clad dominatrix is walking around? Or a Dragon? I'm enjoying thinking about narrative and navigation in this more controlled, yet open, environment.
AWM: In SL you could meet people from all over the world inside your virtual environment. This changes it from performance art, where you would be immersed in it with the "players" in real time, to being more like a multimedia installation. What do you lose or gain from this as an artist?
PMJ: That aspect to the transformation is accurate. The performance component to the SL installation was always a troubling aspect to me, as herding/rehearsing multiple avatars poses numerous challenges. On the other hand, I do see an approach that is feasible in SL, which is deeply impacted by experiencing Bryn Oh's extraordinary Rabicorn epic. Part of the delicious challenge of the Unity3D space is to make it alive for the visitor. I gain a sense of control in terms of the experience, and a precision tool set that also includes DAZ3D Studio, Carrara 3D, and Poser. The current development toward web browser app opens a different mode of accessibility.


AWM: Had you always visualized it as an "immersive graphic novel"? or when did that concept hit you?
PMJ: The concept was always immersive graphic novel. That was born in the In the Sweet Bye & Bye installation, envisioning those narratives as immersive scenes, into which one could step. SL was an indispensable sketchbook for Bronzeville Etudes & Riffs, whereas it was the raison d'?tre for In the Sweet Bye & Bye. The SL piece had evolved to the point where it was either going to get a lot bigger and more functionally complex, or stop in place.

First Life to Second Life

Mr. Jones has also written an extensive illustrated essay on his development of immersive technology art, beginning with his first Heathkit quartz crystal radio receiver as a youth in the 1950s. It is required reading for anyone interested in the creative process.

The essay, "First Life to Second Life: Notes on the Design and Development of a Synthetic World Installation, In The Sweet Bye & Bye: An Immersive Memoir:" can be read online.  Philip Mallory Jones  was Artist in Residence at Ohio University's Aesthetic Technologies Lab when he created In The Sweet Bye & Bye.
In April, 2011 he created a series of Mind Maps that visualize his current research and development for Bronzeville Etudes & Riffs. There are two kinds, one charts the narrative threads and navigation paths, the other is an accurate street map (in four parts) 1925-1955.

His current work-in-progress advances the development of narrative immersive space, and is a quintessential example of the artistic exploration of virtual technology. Click on the image above and read all about it. Then immerse yourself in it. 


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