Dieu aima les oiseaux et inventa les arbres.
L’homme aima les oiseaux et inventa les cages.
Jaques Deval, Afin de vivre bel et bien
First there is orange. This orange is not the fruit, nor is it not the only fruit. It is alive, slightly fevered; a cartoon dune, treeless, bright. A baked beach. This is the art of Ruben Haan on his sim Kliederaar in OpenSim. You get there via Hypergrid, here are some hints on how all that works.
Ruben Haan: Running an opensim attached to 2 grids, OSgrid and hypergrid server is pretty easy. I chose not to add any artwork to the Linden Lab servers anymore because they restrict freedom. Hopla hehe, let’s go…
We came in to Kleideraar from Craft grid, where we had been looking at the MdM. It was night in Craft, and night in OS too. A hen lay sprawled across our path. Haan’s hen. A hen with a key, like canned ham, or an open hand; primary, piecemeal, on a bed of parched clay that not even the metaversal sea seems capable of quenching.
Ruben was smoke, when we got there. Not that unusual in OSgrid, to find yourself or your bits suddenly disappearing. I thought of the peacocks of Second Life, with their precise primskirts and impeccable attachments. This place is not like that. But you only miss it sometimes.
Ruben’s sculptures are littered around the shallow lagoon. Oil and acrylic paint make the prims look weighty, flexible, rubbery. No wonder they call Ruben a clayworker. Their names are mostly in Dutch, except for Bleu Bird, ranging above us like a sumo wrestler. There are a lot of birds here.
Ruben Haan: Yep they are easy to paint, just start with an eye, then some weird things around that, and it’s a bird.
Birds teetering on the edge between horror and humour. Bold colours mirror your mood, find you anxious or ready to laugh, and throw the feeling back at you. Both paintings and sculptures frequently include a speech bubble spouting symbols, an urgent message: is it hostile or having fun?
He led me over to a round island ringed with canvasses.
Ruben Haan: These are some of my ‘rl’ paintings and collages and more. I use my paintings in opensim but I also use work from opensim in my paintings. I don’t really distinguish between ‘real’ and ‘virtual’. Take the Bleu Bird. I don’t call this virtual. It is not more or less virtual then my paintings and sculptures. Ruben’s 2010 project ‘Ava’ illustrates this well. The acrylic painting spans both realities, both bodies.
Ruben Haan: I started an irc channel on freenode so you can have contact even when you are not on the same grid or when the sim is crashed or if you feel like trying some ascii art in an irc place.
He’s not a fan of Skype and its ilk – but itsn’t Skype just a way to say things like “I’ll see you in Jokaydia“?
Ruben Haan: And a painting is just a thing to look at. If you are creative things are never “just things”, they are always modifiable. My objection is both technical and philosophical. You can’t be creative and are technically limited. The sourcecode of IRC you can download from the net – you can’t do that with Skype. If you use something that you don’t know what it’s doing and you are not allowed to learn what it’s doing and you are not allowed to be creative with it.
On the other hand, which of us really knows what 99% of the things that surround us are made of. That fork you put in your mouth has a design and chemical composition that you neither know about nor agonize over.
Ruben Haan: If I buy a fork I want to know what its made of, and if I want to study it I am free to do so. There is a fundamental difference between hardware and software. If I buy a fork they don’t make me sign a contract that I will only use it to eat, and that I will not share the fork with my friends, or make my own fork after I have looked how its made.
Well, OK, but if you copy the fork and sell it a little thing called patent law is going to catch up with you, isn’t it?
Ruben Haan: There are thousands of people dying because of patent laws. Protection is something you should do for humans, not for things.
Well, what about the whole Egg of Columbus argument?
Ruben Haan: if the first developers of opensim would have patented a lot of stuff there would not have been Craft. If van Gogh would have patented expressive painting I would not have called him a good artist. If the inventer of the wheel would have had used a stupid patent law, he would not have been able to get help from friends. I dont give away things I make, I sell them, but the people that buy my work are free to do what they want, they also have to live. Do you know that internet which is the biggest invention of this age and the place where most money gets made is for 90% run on FREE software? We are artists, we need to know how things work and we need to be free to change it.
All this implies give and take in a world rather more fond of taking than giving, caging rather than letting ideas fly free. If you work, then give away the things you make, how do you live? Trust that other people will give you things so you can eat? Ruben says Yes.
I hope he’s right.