I returned today to Bryn Oh’s The Gathering for a third time. I had visited yesterday twice, each time with a different person. The individuals with whom I had visited were both unusually knowledgeable about art, SL art included, and I hold both of their opinions in high regard. Each of them provided a different perspective of the exhibit, one quite favorable and the other more critical. After having seen the installation again by myself today, I realize I fall somewhere in between these two positions completely.
As is usually the case with the installations by Bryn Oh, there is much instruction and several settings to change and things to click. I generally find myself being fairly resistant to all this, but realized it was ultimately crucial to a full experience of this work and worth my while doing it. So make sure to spend some time at the landing area to familiarize yourself with these details. Once all settings have been adjusted, click the white ball on the ground in the landing area for avatar animation. This will result in your avatar looking like he or she is doing a funny dance and walking is an odd experience too, in fact, while doing so the world seems turned completely upside down. The purpose of the avatar animation is partially to avoid being hit and pushed back to the landing area by large and small rolling balls (named after angels, Bryn told me) while walking towards the beginning of the installation space itself.
Arriving at the first area of this large installation, somewhat dizzy and disoriented after having walked sideways on walls and edges for a few minutes, there is a great sense of relief when finally deactivating the avatar animation. In this area then, one stands in front of a house in which rain comes pouring down, gathering into little puddles on a checkered beat-up floor. A few objects, a pink octobot and a girl with a red umbrella amongst them, are positioned on the floor. Avatars linger together here, not much is said really and I understand why; the space is poetic. The walls of the one large room in the house extend high up into the sky and it is hard to see if they ever really come to an end.
The main part, and remainder of the exhibit, consists of different sizes of large geometrical prims, some of them collapse upon touch or when walked upon. There are also stairs taking the visitor to different levels. Most of the prims are in a pale, bland whitish color. Placed on different levels are nine little scenes consisting of white figures covered in pen and ink drawings (the drawings had originally apparently been part of a RL commission). I found these quite beautiful standing solely in their spotlights. I thought however that the text on the boards next to these scenes was distracting. Shadows enveloped the constellation of prims throughout and provided a great sense of depth.
This work is less dark than previous installations by Bryn, but not less beautiful or less poetic. The collapsing of large prims has been seen before in Second Life, for instance, by the talented Selavy Oh. Bryn herself also not too long ago showed a small exhibit of collapsing white prims as a part of larger multi-artist project put together by MetaLES. Familiar to Bryn followers are also the “poems,” which seem to have become an integral part of most of her work at this point. New to us by Bryn are the little scenes consisting of beautiful white figures covered with the ink drawings. All in all, this is an intriguing experimental installation, large in size and great in attention to detail and immersive experience. For more detailed information, check out Bryn Oh’s own blog post about this work here.
Photographs by Kate Bergdorf