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The End of Second Life Art As We Know It (2010)

The End of Second Life Art As We Know It (2010)









I spend time in the virtual world Second Life, where I do, well, just about everything I do in real life— usually with the mysterious avatar Sweetie (my fianceé in real life). We wax ridiculous.

What I describe here doesn’t exist in the real world, but it’s real enough in Second Life, where objects can be viewed from any distance and direction, touched, and manipulated.

One of our builds is a sanatorium for mentally ill robots. It’s a huge building in the sky stuffed with celebribots (as we call them) and with every robot joke known to man- or bot-kind.

Of course our sanatorium doesn’t exist in real space—but in Second Life people, as avatars, can walk through it in three dimensions and interact with its inhabitants.

The robot sanatorium has received some great reviews by people who get what it’s all about (all accessible below). My favorite came in a podcast by Amy Freelunch of the Brooklyn is Watching project. I had placed some of our creations from the Robot Sanatorium on their land in Second Life and it had been reviewed by people at an art gallery in Brooklyn, NY, real world. Amy’s review made me proud. She said it “threatens to completely undermine Second Life art as we know it.”

Can’t do better than that!

How and Why a Robot Sanatorium?

Rosie's Big Head

In the sky high above our land we built The Whimsy Kaboom Robot Sanatorium, home to the many mentally malfunctioning mechanoids of the Metaverse. Inside the giant hollow head of Rosie, the Jetsons’ robot maid, we have made real just about every robot joke you can imagine, from an incarcerated HAL 9000 to Gort from the film The Day the Earth Stood Still (he has anger management issues) to the drunken son of Star Wars’ R2D2 (he feels inadequate because of his famous father) to Rosie herself.

It got started when I heard the Museum of Robots in Second Life had a robot-building contest. I chose the homage category and chose Rosie as my subject.

Here’s a photo of Rosie from the tv show. Note the bonus Scooby-Doo:

Rosie from TV

Here’s the Rosie I made:

Sad Rosie, 600 pixels wide

I soon realized Rosie’s mood was all about her eyebrows. Bring them together at the top, and she’s sad. Move them apart, and she’s angry. Before I knew it, I had created this scenario, which I submitted to the Museum of Robots—and I won a prize!

Rosie's in Trouble_003, Crop

Rosie's in Trouble_001

I showed Rosie to Sweetie, and we were soon off in the heights or robot delerium. Before long we were talking about creating a hospital for robots with mental illness.

And that’s how we came to create the robot sanatorium.

A Quick Tour of the Robot Sanatorium

Touring the robot sanatorium is an immersive interactive experience. Visitors can control the machinery in the building, turn themselves into robots, watch videos, or just wander about taking in the scenery and the many jokes. Here’s a brief photo tour. Keep in mind that in world you would be moving fans and machinery, hear industrial and robot sounds and the PA system saying things like “Under no circumstances is Bender to be given alcohol. We don’t want a repeat of last Thursday’s incident” and Please don’t ask the celebribots for their autographs. Some of them have no arms, and we’ve confiscated the pens of the ones that do.”



The Whimsy Kaboom Robot Sanatorium is housed in the giant-sized head of Rosie, the Jetsons’ Robot

Rosie's in Trouble_001, Crop

Inside Rosie’s Head, the Space is Huge. This is one of many levels.

Conveyor from the Admissions Office

View of the Conversion Level

Robot Bouncer 2

A Concierge Bot Welcomes You While Performing a Scan to Determine Your Psychiatric DiagnosisNote the Admission Hours Are in Binary

Reading Materials in Reception Area (Which is Not Shown)

Reading Materials in Reception Area (Which is Not Shown)

Robot Cinema Box Office

This is the Robot Cinema Box Office. Inside, Visitors and Patients Can View Robot-Themed Films While Munchong on Popcorn. This is But One of Dozens of Areas in the Sanatorium.

We Live to Tweak

Sweetie and I Brainstorming. We Created This Huge Space Entirely By Ourselves.

Our First Bot

Visitors Can Turn Themselves Into Robots On Our Art Deco Conversion Machinery


But Must First Get Past a Helpful Bender in the Admissions Office

Robot Sanitorium, 3-2011, 001

This Newly-Created Robot Is Being Transported From a Refeshing Bath in Liquid Nitrogen.

Control Room 2

Visitors Can Operate the Sanatorium’s Machinery From the Control Room

Robot jokes abound.

Robot Sanitorium, 3-2011, 005

Robot Sanitorium_002

Robot Sanitorium_004


Gort Makes a Poor Light Source

Rosie's in Trouble_003

The Abundant Graffiti Are the Result of the Active Robot Insurrection Movement

Robot Escape Attempts

I worked up a series of four fictional escape attempts at the Robot Sanatorium.

The R2Ds Make a Break For It

The First Was Called The R2 Units Make a Break For It

Gort's Anger Management Classes Were Not a Resounding Success 002

The Second Escape Attempt Was By Gort From the 1950s Film The Day the Earth Stood Still


Several Dozens of the Sanatorium’s Roombahs Masqueraded as Human and Tried to Walk Out the Front Door

Organizer Bender, 512 x 512

A Disgruntled Bender Rodriguez Unit Managed to Talk Other Bender Units Into Taking Over the Control Room

I dropped off a display featuring the escape attempts at the Brooklyn is Watching Program for review. It was soon forthcoming.

Undermining Second Life Art As We Know It

Second Life is a wonderful medium for artists. Hundreds of musicians perform in world, playing instruments and singing, airing their songs and compositions. Illustrators and painters can import (and sell) their work in world and create images based upon Second Life’s amazing landscapes and avatars. Photography tools are amazing, and FLICKR has thousands upon thousands of amazing images taken by talented photographers. Anyone can create three-dimensional objects, and many are hauntingly lovely or deliberately ugly—houses, furniture, vehicles, vegetation, spaceships, and clothing and other avatar accessories. Scripters create amazing light shows and interactive objects and scenarios. Thespians collaborate to stage plays, ballets, and operas. And all of these artists work in a world without the usual limitations of space, time, and limitations created by physics.

Not surprisingly, there is an enterprising and vibrant fine art community in Second Life. And just like the fine art community in the real world, it has its share of poseurs and effete types. If  you follow art, you know just what I mean.

White Noise 004

White Noise

Sweetie and I have been to any number of art exhibits filled with ugly objects created by nontalented “artists.” I remember one event in which the artist had piled a bunch of “found” objects, all turned white, while avatars, dressed in white, circulated, saying supposedly profound things. The floor and walls were, of course, white. It was like being in a pretentious snowstorm. The installation was called White Noise, and could have been just as easily done in real life.

Compare to this instllation, in which I am standing in a 3-D recreation of “Bedroom at Arles”…

Van Gogh Museum 009

… or this installation, which is called Danger in Evolution…

2013-03, Danger in Evolution_ 002

… or this production by Ballet Pixelle…

Ballet Pixelle_006 (Cropped)

… all of which required talent and vision.

The field at Brooklyn is watching was open for any artist to drop off his or her work for evaluation. The times I visited I saw a lot of stupid art masquerading as profound. I suppose it was for this reason I left my robot escape attempts. I was delighted to hear Amy Freelunch say it turned Second Life art on its ear.


Here’s Amy Freeluch’s Review of Our Robot Escape Attempts (MP3)


Review by Chioma Namiboo-Jinn (PDF)

Crap Mariner’s Review (PDF)

Kathy & Rhianon Jameson’s Review (PDF)

Robot 790’s Review (PDF)

Three Laws of Robotic Fun (PDF)