Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The World of Baron Grayson

Unlike many artists who come to SL initially without any particular purpose or goal apart from exploration, Baron Grayson was an accomplished builder ab initio. He moved from There.com to Second Life when he found that the virtual reality of There.com no longer could satisfy his artistic aspirations. He refers to himself in fact as a 'refugee from There.com, another virtual world where I was known for building skills and pushing the system.'

Baron Grayson, however, was more than a builder. He was a Gamemaster from the days when 'virtual reality' as we know it today did not exist. As a Gamemaster, he is a natural world builder. He reshapes reality. Exploration of his builds is a quest of sorts, with hidden rewards for those who take the time to persevere.

He was greatly influenced by Myst and Riven and always had a fascination with virtual worlds. He discovered that, as a gamer, he was more interested in textures and models than the actual quests. Moreover, he always felt that he wished to be the one pulling the strings, the creator of the puzzles rather than the player solving the quest.

Unlike many other builders, Baron Grayson declares, 'I have never finished a build to date'. His Sims always are 'under construction.' The world in Second Life changes constantly, but it is unusual for a builder to operate consciously in a state of flux.

Baron Grayson told me that he always has a very detailed, complete vision in his mind before he begins to build but that it is a vision with an emotional or visceral quality rather than simply being a matter of form and shape. His ambition always is to create a build that captures that spiritual vision. He describes his imagination as 'organised chaos without much of a linear destination.'

For his inspiration, he 'reflects on anything I found magical growing up. It's almost therapeutic. Revisiting the past, it always come to life in a way that celebrates the memory of that experience and not perhaps the reality of it. Everything therefore does tend to come across as surreal. The visual inspires the mind and the mind doesn't really differentiate between what is real and what is not.'

This is one of my own interests in Second Life in fact. People who 'live' in a virtual reality create real memories there. Those memories sometimes can be as intense and significant as anything experienced in this world. Baron Grayson agrees with this, declariing that he has 'particular memories that originate form this reality.' He considers them a form of 'subreality' rather than 'unreal'.

He describes his first build in Second Life as a 'fantastical fortress style dbuild in darker colours with Riven influence'. In his quest to recreate memory and vision in virtual reality, he is master of the 'mixture of ancient and modern.' He is attracted to anything mystical, anything with 'darker aesthetics' and anything 'that can travel from era to era.'

He considers visitors to his sims to be 'time travelers'.

His favourite architect is Antoni Gaudi and he considers the most influential visual artists to be the brothers who created Myst. He admires what he calls the 'renaissance' aspect of the brothers' creativity in their control of every detail of that world from the modelling and textures to the gameplay and the music, which they wrote themselves.

Of Antoni, he remarked that: 'Antoni thought outside the box. When every one was doing linear, he did organic. He loved the shapes that were unconventional and would build his things with the faith that beauty ultimately would win.'

Although, as a Gamemaster, he gives the public access to his Sims, his primary reason for building is 'to provide myself a place to reflect.' He considers virtual reality a powerful tool in a journey of self-discovery, one that possibly can transcend time and space.

There is a dark quality to his builds and they are fascinating and complex. As the artist himself declares, 'I want to provide a quest for people who want to visit with me. I want to play a wizard and create a maze, not wanting to confuse sadistically but I always want to run the game.

A social recluse, like many builders, most of his time is spent in the pursuit of bringing his visions to life. He actually is not interested in bringing the public in general to his builds for events or large social gatherings. He appeals to those who are interested in exploring by themselves or with a special companion. His builds capture a mood that encourages self-exploration, a sort of interactive meditation.

Of his sims, Baron Grayson declared that: 'I think people come here and recognise it is a hidden spot and they then become guardians of the sims themselves.' He added that: 'the ones that promote it for traffic as if they are doing me a favour don't understand what is done here.'

His driving motivation when he creates a build to share with others is that: 'I want to reward the explorers.'

He continues: 'I open up a build to the public then hide facets of it. I like hidden things: secret rooms, levels that are not obvious, entrances that use camera tricks,
levels that have to be found.'

Baron Grayson made a statement that defines his attitude about Second Life and in fact defines my own attitude as well.

He said, 'I want to force people to stop flying and rushing from landmark to landmark
What a waste to have a place that can be anything you want and then not truly explore it.'

Many visitors and residents in Second Life do spend their time teleporting from destination to destination in the same way that cruise ships dock for a few hours in a dozen ports in a dozen days, failing every to do more than brush the surface of any culture or civilisation in their brief encounters.

Second Life is an incredibly enormous world, filled with countless sub-worlds created by imaginations that represent all the diversity of human nature. One could spend every day in Second Life and never be able to explore every Sim definitively. Apart from anything else, Second Life is not static. It is a world constantly changing, evolving according to the whims and visions of its residents.

Baron Grayson is a builder who recognises the amazing potential of virtual reality to explore a thousand visions, to try to explore his own imagination and memory to the fullest. In doing this, he offers a rich landscape for others to explore.

The photographs I have included here feature a display of Christmas trees. The trees are artificial and yet have an organic quality. The texture is 'satin' and in fact, the owner of the tree can choose between 52 different textures, changing the colour of the tree, of the ornamentation and of the star at the top. As you can see, the display is integral to the landscape rather than commercial, although the trees are for sale.

Baron Grayson's builds are huge, and visitors are dwarfed by the landscape. Sheer cliffs, ruins perched on the crest of mountain ranges... all this serves to isolate the visitor and make him or her conscious of solitude and a sense of a journey towards the unknown and the unseen.

I found the Irish Cottage after traversing the steep mountain trail shown in one of the photographs here. It was a rather arduous journey, but the reward at the end of it was the discovery of this little jewel nestled in the mountains, far from any other human habitation. The Cottage can be purchased and one could teleport directly to its location I daresay, but my own experience of exploring the area and discovering it entirely by accident made it far more magical. It reminded me of my discovery of Baron Grayson's magnificent pirate ship long ago.

To further explore the world of Baron Grayson and 'Tryst', please visit:

Relic and Serendipity Studios on the Web

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