Sunday, October 22, 2006

Skin / NoSkin

Update: The Skins are now available at Chinhae 212, 5, 32 - my little parcel of land.

I've been messing around in Second Life recently; along with half of the rest of the world, it seems. There's a constant stream of wobbly-legged newbies wandering around wondering what there is 'to do'. The last week has been eventful; I made my first thousand Linden Dollars, got randomly shot at in the American Apparel shop, and bought some very pretty shoes. Aaah, shoes.

I've been in for a month or so already, and... it's interesting. It reminds me of the web back in 1996; all flashy banner ads and people making stuff just for the sake of it, because it's fun.

At the moment, I don't want to link my two selves together; my regular old internet identity and my second life. My avatar felt very strongly embodied very quickly; much more so than Kuya, my Warcraft alt. I'm slightly alarmed at the fact that, given control over my appearance, I have given myself a very tall, very thin body; no surprises about the body issues there, then. On the plus side, I can wear heels without the attendant agony, and even walk in them, so swings and roundabouts. I didn't really want to post about SecondLife here, but Alice persuaded me.

The physicality of controlling an avatar is interesting. Ages ago I did a lot of academic research into the way that medical programmes create interesting psychological relationships to the physical body. If you're at all interested in reading ten thousand odd words of impenetrable post modern theorising, I've popped my old dissertation on my site: New Romances of the Body: Television and the Somatics of Technology. Frankly, I can't quite be bothered to go back and read it myself; the essential argument was that representations of the body on screen lead to an odd state where we idealise and fetishise the body, whilst never quite being able to get away from the fact it is little more than a puny bag of fallible flesh.

There is an argument to be made about the popularity of cybersex in Second Life being a reflection of the desire to be physically embodied in the world. By sitting at your computer screen and engaging your virtual self in mutually improvised pornography, you produce real physical effect in your body. (Look, I'm so not going in to detail here. You're grown ups. Use your imagination.) It's more or less the only way to get real physical sensation from a virtual existence.

So, you should have some idea by now that actually I'm a body theory geek. I was lucky enough to study gross anatomy as part of my art degree (yes - with real dead bodies. I'll post my drawings some time); I made a short documentary about art and anatomy that I really must get round to posting on YouTube one day. And now, my first SecondLife build is an Ecorché - a flayed skin, designed to present the gross musculature of the human body. Interestingly, there's no good mention of the Ecorché in its art historical context on Wikipedia; I must get to work.

I'm in discussion at the moment to make the skins available for sale; I'll post again with an SLURL as soon as the deal is finalised. If you're interested in a copy, do leave a comment; I'll get in touch.

The skin was entirely hand drawn in Photoshop, based on my old anatomy sketchbook; i used Chip Midnight's reference PSDs to help with the allignments.

Oh; I made that garden, too, if you're in the market for a bit of Inigo Jones...

(edit: BoingBoinged! Thanks Cory!)


Anonymous said...

With random flesh growing back it will look straight out of Hellraiser. I'm Frank, its your Uncle Frank......

kim said...

Yes; funnily, I'm not into this kind of thing because of horror films at all - I can't watch them at all, they freak me out *much* more than real actual cut up dead people.

I know the scene you mean though, and it is very well visualised.

One of the things I was impressed by is that despite the SL avatar's simplicity, the 'muscle masses' on the body are pretty accurately modelled.

Anonymous said...

So where can I get one?

kahuna said...

I want one too!!!!

Anonymous said...

Beautifully done. I was in a bookstore just today, looking at a history of anatomical drawings, thinking how great some of that would be for the Day of the Dead opening of my spot, Xibalba. Not the usual skeleton stuff. Dead but alive. Can I get one, too? Signing my avatar name. Thanks! And great original work for your first build!

Nick Noakes said...

Kim, would it also be possible to have a copy? My SL name is Corwin Carillon.

Thx :)

Anonymous said...

Hello Kim! Came across your blog after reading Boing Boing and then thinking "hang on a sec I know that person" ... Anyway we haven't really met properly but you did a good bbc 2.0 talk a couple of months back to the BBC TWO web team (which I'm on)

... anyway have added your feed to the ol' newsreader!

Anonymous said...

Awsome, Let me know when they're for sale please.

IM Cybster Curtis

kim said...

Hey Ben; nice to meet you, again, virtually!

kim said...

OK - The Skins are now available at Chinhae 212, 5, 32 - my little parcel of land.

I'm hoping to do a proper deal with a big store, but it's taking a while to finalise. So here you go.

Anonymous said...

EW! Gross!...I'd totally buy one, though. Be sure to IM me in world and let me know when it DOES go up for sale. What a great skin! I'd love to see a set- one muscles, one bones, another organs, and maybe one with everything the way it would look with the top layer of skin removed. What are you doing sitting there? You'd better get working on this! :D

digicmb said...

Hi Kim,
I am Namro Orman of the SL Medical Library. I would be very interested in displaying this anatomical model/skin IN our Medical Library, for educational purposes. I am also thinking about a kind a 3d Holodek to display all kinds of medical images. If needed i can pay of course, but i also offer to make your name visible on our SponsorShip Wall. Do you allow me to make pictures of the model visible in the Library?
kind regards,

kim said...

Hi Namro;

I'll get in touch in world and we can talk about it? I'll pop over and see the library!