Monday, February 27, 2012

The Order of Perception

   Are we alone in the universe? While we have no proof that life exists beyond the confines of our small planet, logic states that the universe is too massive for us to be alone. What if a celestial being made contact with us tomorrow, landing on the lawn of the White House, or in front of the steps of Parliament? Would they come in peace, or prepared for war?

   The premise behind Harter Fall's interactive art exhibit "The Order of Perception" is that aliens have landed on our world, and have successfully transported one of their cathedrals with them. This cathedral allows visitors to travel across space and time, giving them the ability to visit alien universes.

   When you first transport to the exhibit, you are overwhelmed by your surroundings. Every way you look you are bombarded by intricately produced art installations. In front of you lies the cathedral, housing the portals to different universes. Only two portals are open at the moment, with new ones being opened every week, but the two that are open are incredible nonetheless.

   Walking into the cathedral, a scene is set up of different alien species either studying, conversing with each other, or working on the construction of the next portal. While the aliens are essentially just models, and don't actually interact with each other or you for that matter, they are important in showing the imagination and sense of humor of the artist.

   The first portal warps you to Universe Q-937X1, also known as "The Upend." This portal drops you into the inside of a hollow star. When you arrive a message pops up instructing you to walk through the "infinite home world of Wandungus." You make your way through a long expanse, surrounded by stars, ending up at a floating platform where you warp back to the cathedral. It is a short walk, but it is masterfully put together.

   The second universe, Universe F-008M4, "The Cube", is even better. Once you go through the warp you are transported to a 20 million years old abandoned observatory of the species Uf Mak Ir. The observatory is a maze-like, optical illusion, and walking through feels very disorienting. Though you are walking on a path (an invisible one), you get the feeling that you are suspended in mid-air by some unknown force, and able to move through out the observatory unimpeded, able to gaze into every window that houses a new galaxy.

   The observatory is a prism made up of triangles and squares with repeating patterns carved into them. Windows into other universes are positioned around the prism in a distinct pattern that adds to the illusion. Some of the windows you are able to venture deeper into as they bring you to a new part of the observatory, which can make navigating difficult at times, as you are never quite sure which windows lead to new areas.


   "The Order of Perception" is such a great example of the creativity that Second Life has to offer to artists with the imagination to use it. Second Life allows artists to create these amazing interactive art exhibits on a scale that would be impossible to do in the real world. "The Order of Perception" takes the tools that Second Life has to offer and runs with it, giving us a uniquely surreal experience that can only be truly appreciated in person.

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