Second Life in China

Our Internet project ‘Celebration!’ along with interview by Video Channel are featured by JavaMuseum’s 10th anniversary New Media Art Festival –

netart by Lily & Hong Lei (China)

Fireworks at 'Water Cube' - Beijing Olympic Celebration


Medium: Online 3D virtual world platform, Oil on paper, soundtrack

Video running time: 2 minutes. Size: varied. Completion year: 2009

The work is in memory of the student victims of Sichuan Earthquake in 2008, in context of that Investigation on the death toll of students has become a taboo in Chinese official media. Ironically, this virtual merry-go-around is built inside Water Cube, the swimming pool of Beijng Olympic Game held three months after the historic disaster. In the video document of the virtual environment constructed in online 3D world, the scene of collapsed schools in Sichuan is inundated by grandiose national celebration.

More Information, please go to

Watch Video/Machinima of “Celebration!”:

Second Life Performance Night :: October 9, 2009; 6:30 – 8:30 pm :: Eyebeam, 540 W. 21st St., NYC.

This evening will feature three different artists/groups (including Eyebeam resident Scott Kidall), which use the online virtual world of Second Life as a medium for performance art. Alan Sondheim will present a performance using the aesthetics of the Second Life environment to create an experimental choreography; Lily & Honglei will present The Merry-go-around, a virtual installation addressing a series of environmental issues in today’s China; and Second Front has discovered a virtual crypt within Second Life and are inviting the public to witness its opening.

Together, these performances will sample some of the contemporary trends in Second Life performance art…


Lily & Honglei's presentation at Eyebeam Art & Technology Center, NYC

Lily & Honglei's presentation at Eyebeam Art & Technology Center, NYC


project link to virtual environment in Second Life:

Project Team Members:

Director: Lily & Honglei

Virtual Environment Developing: Lily & Honglei

Assistant Director/Performance Organizer: Daniel Shanks

Underwater City Performers:

Daniel Shanks (SL name: Nightingale Xuanzang)

Jade Sharkfin

Jolene Sabetha

Kai Serapis

Merry-go-around participants:

Ti Mosienko

Lili Avindar

Our gratitude to all performance participants!!

Artist Talk  – Lily & Honglei

Our works addresses a series of on-going socio-cultural issues in China, particularly those caused by globalization and social transformation. The online muti-user virtual environment in Second Life allows us to visualize those issues and share our point of view with a large audience through internet, also it creates a lot of opportunities for collaborations with artists from different cultural backgrounds through real-time interaction online. Following, we’d like to share with you our virtual installations and online performances in SL.

Installation I: Merry-go-around


We’ve been developing Second Life project since 2007. Today we just present a very small version of the work, as we’ve got limited time to clarify the implication of each part, so we are not giving a complex and lengthy statement here. First, we follow our avatar to experience a virtual installation, the merry-go-around.  We’d like to add a little background information. The piece “merry go around” is about 2008 Sichuan Earthquake in China, particularly in memory of thousands of
students died in the devastating disaster. In fact, research and investigation indicate this tragedy is not a merely natural disaster –  the poorly constructed school buildings have contributed to student death as a major factor. You can see the background image reveals the collapsed schools. Chinese netizens call them “tofu-dregs schoolhouses”, to mock both the quality and the quantity of these inferior constructions that killed so many school children. This a terribile consequence of local corruptions. Besides, experts argue the nearby hydropower dams might have triggered the earthquake. Since these inquiries are considered “politically sensitive,” the student’s death in Sichuan earthquake has become a taboo subject in Chinese media recently. We think it’s important to make artwork reflecting on the historical tragedy, and share our memory with others through Internet, so we build this piece in Second Life. You can see in the foreground, the students wearing red scarf, in typical school uniform are riding merry-go-around, in fact, they’re victims lost their lives in the earthquake. The background with school rubbles is composed with Honglei’s oil paintings based on pictures of the earthquake ruins. Ironically, if you look at the space from outside, you’ll see a structure with totally different appearance, which mimics 2008 Beijing Olympic swimming pool, called water cube. The spectacular surface works as a disguise covering huge internal problems.

Water Cube & Great Fire Wall

Water Cube & Great Fire Wall

Installation II: Great Fire Wall

Now we’re leaving the merry go around and visiting other spots following our avatar. Stepping down the ladder, we’re on the great wall. we built the great wall on fire to mock the Great Fire Wall of China, the notorious Internet censorship. Using a device called ‘teleporter’, our avatar is transporting to another spot, Underwater City.

Installation III: Underwater City

The virtual construction of Underwater City is a recreation of a historical site in Three Gorges Dam. A little bit background about the this – It becomes flooded as a result of development of Three Gorges Dam hydro-power project, which is the world’s largest hydro-power station and most controversial dam, because it results 1.2 million people displaced, many historical sites flooded or entirely submerged in Yangtze river. Since Three Gorges area is central in Chinese culture and history, the loss of cultural heritage is inestimable. Here, we look around and see several ancient Chinese characters performing here, they are actually played by our team members. Designs of these characters are inspired by Chinese folk stories and historic legends. Those individuals are very significant in terms of cultural spirit. We don’t have time to tell each individual story, but overall these characters represent individualism in Chinese culture. Their performances in underwater city convey a message about loss of cultural identity during process of development and globalization. It’s worth to mention our team members conducting the performance are not only from eastern cultural background, in fact, they are from US, Australia, UK.etc. Their engagement with reinterpretation of Chinese culture have brought the dialog between east and west to a new level.


Meng Jiang Nu

Mi Heng

Mi Heng

Ji Kang

Ji Kang

Qu Yuan

Qu Yuan

Now, we’re leaving the ghostly place, and get ready for the last part of the performance – the fireworks – just mimic the routine of major celebrations in China.



Artistic practice in virtual world

1. Speaking of artistic practice in Second Life, I think it’s important to highlight the characteristics of this type of art. As Second Life art is based on the Internet, it shares the same natures of Internet art – it’s highly accessible, one can experience SL art from computers with broadband connection; it allows real-time interaction between artworks and audience; it creates a lot opportunities for artist collaborations. We have been working in painting, installation and video for years, never seriously considered collaborating with others until we started working in Second Life. This because the nature of virtual world art demands you work together with people to carry out certain tasks. Compared with other media, virtual world art has reached a new level in term of interactions, either between artists or with audience.

2. Virtual world art becomes a solution for nostalgia, diaspora. As we have left China for years, and the conditions don’t allow us to going back quite often. We found it’s necessary to use art to deal with this kind of cultural displacement, to reconnect with our cultural origin. In 2007, we began to build a Chinese garden in Second Life, which was quite similar to our living environment in Beijing. Then we met some new friends in Second Life and invited them to visit the garden. We had quite inspirational conversations and discussions in the virtual space, and started planning a series of performance reinterpreting Chinese folkloric traditions. Those activities effectively reconnect ourselves with Chinese culture. The virtual garden became another home in where we can visually and mentally immerse in it, meditate and develop new perspectives regarding cultural traditions and current society. In this sense, the virtual world art helps to overcome geographic barriers, and therefore we can reach a more integral life.

3. Second Life is good art recreating real social, cultural or environmental situations, so that arouse further intellectual inquires on these issues. In the multi-user virtual environment, the virtual architectures and performance work together to enable the non-linear narrative, which may comprehensively uncover the meanings of certain social situations and their relationships.

Cyber MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Arts) was born!
This is the final announcement about the development of the online museum on this blog.
Upcoming opening of the first event in DSL Cyber MOCA during Boston Cyberarts Festival will be reported on the dedicated website  –
A dream has come true!


DSL Cyber MOCA Logo

DSL Cyber MOCA Logo

DSL Cyber MOCA Entrance

DSL Cyber MOCA Entrance

Cyber Museum of Contemporary Art (CMOCA)

Project Outline

based on “Land of Illusion” Art Space in Second Life

by Lily & Honglei


Promoting and developing highly interactive online exhibition for contemporary art, presenting varied types of artworks in “Land of Illusion” in Second Life, therefore challenging existing formats of art exhibitions.

Creating new art vocabulary in “Land of Illusion” in virtual world, which utilizes digital multimedia, online performances, virtual sculptures and traditional fine arts language.

Contributing to artist community building with communication technology in the Internet age, enhancing global artist collaborations, stressing on audience/artist or artwork interactions, meanwhile emphasizing education and cultural exchange functions.

Development Timeline

1st month: Adjusting “Land of Illusion” in Second Life for future presentations of contemporary arts, set up Website, blog and launch “Contemporary Art Center” project.

2nd – 9th month:Hosting a series of contemporary art exhibitions,including inviting the most active artist groups in Second Life  for virtual world performances and installation, sculpture and multimedia presentations.

Collaborate on publications and reviews with major global new media art organizations.

10th – 12th month:Hosting Cyberart & Education Festival, that aims to encourage younger generations to explore cyberspace as a creative and collaborative place, meanwhile highlighting educators’ innovative project using virtual world applications for teaching art & design. Collaborating with new media art institutions on publications.


CMOCA – Cyber Museum of Contemporary Arts


* 倡导与发展高度互动的网上当代艺术展览,在“太虚幻境”虚拟空间中展示各类当代艺术品,挑战传统画廊展览形式。

* 进一步发展“太虚幻境”第二人生艺术空间,创造新的视觉艺术经验和语汇。

* “太虚幻境”将增强网络艺术社区功能,促进全球范畴内艺术家合作,注重与观众互动,强调文化交流与教育作用。


主体创意:虚拟现实空间或赛博空间是一个蓬勃发展的艺术创作空间,也是全球艺术家交流合作的新社区,更是多代人探讨、观察与摸索当代艺术语言的前沿。三年前, 北京艺术家Lily & Honglei 开始发展“太虚幻境”第二人生虚拟环境,自然地综合了多种艺术语汇,例如影像、动画、互动音响等数码多媒体,绘画、工艺等传统手法,也有网络表演等新的艺 术形式。利用发达的数码与网络技术提供的快捷的视觉传送与通讯手段, “Land of Illusion” 实现着当代艺术家建立“意念国度”的梦想 – 反思历史、文化遗产与传统的价值,尤其是在全球化以及变换的当代社会环境中,群体或自我获得了什么,失落了什么,而真正的答案又在哪里……

宗旨: “太虚幻境”倡导在数码时代与网络环境中发展新的当代艺术语言, 包括利用先进的数字成像技术来诠释历史文化价值的延续与流失。 这将是一种新鲜的,日常生活中的,童年游戏般活泼的表达方式, 是对多种文化并存的肯定性宣言。 提示中国当代艺术家对变幻中的二十一世纪人文环境的审识,发展中国当代艺术对信息时代作出文化贡献的巨大潜力。利用高度互动、互联的网络技术发展新的观众与作者的关系,艺术家的合作关系,从而在激发创作力的同时达到丰富个体文化经历。

“太虚幻境”虚拟空间现有工程: 目前,“太虚幻境”有如下组成部分:



“长城”: 位于西部,这到长墙隔绝了这个梦中花园与外界。表演与装置空间。


“天宫”: 位于高空中,造型模拟“水立方”,内部设有“蟠桃宴”等互动装置。

网上艺术社区:联合主要新媒体艺术组织,如, Intelligent Agent Magazine, Boston Cyberarts Festival等, 联展、发表评论、期刊以扩大网上当代艺展览的影响力。


第一月:调整“太虚幻境”虚拟空间,相关网页、博客等,起动“Land of Illusion” Contemporary Art  “太虚幻境”当代艺术 (名称待定)

第二、三月:举办“太虚幻境”邀请展 – “TransForm”,包括最活跃的“第二人生”艺术组合如 Second Front, Upbar Media Culture, 与, Intelligent Agent New Media Magazine,Boston Cyberarts  等媒体合作, 出版专题评论。

第四至六月:举办Cyber Contemporary Art 赛博当代艺术展,扩大网络展览与新媒体艺术的影响力。 展品可涵盖DSL Collection部分收藏, 同时在主要媒体艺术网络上征集作品。 展品与展出实况将被发表、记载在网站、博客上,并有专刊评论。

第七至九月:举办“iContemporary Art”, 鼓励各种形式的当代艺术与论文投稿, 目的在于评价与审视当代艺术与网络文化的深刻联系。出版网络专刊最为展览记录与评论。

第十至十二月:Cyberart & Education Festival 鼓励学生与教育家参与。

work in progress –

whose banquets?

whose fruits and who can enjoy?

folk tales

Heavenly Peach Banquet [1]

Monkey travels to heaven to demand recognition of his new found power. There he finds seven fairies preparing a banquet for the birthday of the Queen Mother of Heaven. Incensed that he has not been invited, he begins to eat the Queen Mother’s magical heavenly peaches, and fights off each of her divine guests who try to prevent this. The Queen Mother then calls upon Buddha to deal with Monkey.

Rebellion Against Heaven

Rebellion Against Heaven

Monkey King’s (Sun Wukong 孙悟空)profile [2]

also called – Great Sage Equal of Heaven (Qi Tian Da Sheng 齐天大圣)

When he returned to Flower Fruit Mountain after leaving his post as Bi Ma Wen, two single-horned demon kings came to him and suggested that he take the title of Great Sage Equal of Heaven. Wu Kong was very receptive of this idea and called himself by that title from then on. Afterwards, when he defeated all the Heavenly generals sent to capture him, the Jade Emperor (ruler of Heaven) gave him the post of Great Sage Equal of Heaven to placate. It was, of course, an empty post with no work for Wu Kong to do.

About “As-one-wishes” Rod 如意金箍棒 [3]

如意金箍棒 is pronounced as Ruyi Jingu Bang, literally meaning “As-you-will Golden-bound Cudgel”, is the poetic name of a magical weapon wielded by the Monkey King in the classic Chinese novel Journey to the West.

Monkey King's "as-ones-wishes" rod

Monkey King's magical weapon - "As-one-wishes" Rod

rather than changing sizes, varied patterns are emitted from the rod - as my wish!

rather than changing sizes, varied patterns are emitted from the rod - as I wish!

It is an iron rod whose size changes “as-one-wishes”, once used by Da Yu to measure the depth of the flood waters destroying ancient China, which Wukong obtains from the undersea palace of Ao Guang, the Dragon King of the East Sea. It is immensely heavy; in modern measurements, it is slightly weightier than 7.5 metric tons. When it is not in use, Wukong shrinks it to the size of a sewing needle and keeps it behind his ear. It is often depicted as red and having gold bands near the ends. In other depictions, it is shown as a silver staff with golden ends, or as a solid gold or copper staff. In some forms of the legend Journey to the West, Ao Guang is shown to have believed that the cudgel was hardly worth anything, until Wukong commanded it to both shrink and grow, showing its extreme worth to his dismay, because he did not particularly like Wukong.

a new project about “utopias’ realities”

Rebellion against Heaven is one of the most popular animated films when I was a kid. It was adopted from Journey to the West as a propaganda program convincing people that “rebelling is reasonable.” It’s a beautiful film with visual style mimicking colorful Chinese woodcut print, and the exciting narrative based on the Chinese classical. All children love Monkey King, and admire his power with “72 transformations” that defeated generals and army from heaven, especially  the unbeatable “as-one-wishes” rod, which perhaps symbolizes his “revolutionary spirit.” I guess all of these have moved me deeply, that I decide to make a new machinima covering “climbing cloud ladder to reach heaven” and “rebellion at heavenly Peach banquet.” Former was completed on  Jan. 31.2009. As for the latter, I built a “water cube” (the swimming stadium in 2008 Beijing Olympic Game) suspending right over the “cloud ladder” with a banquet inside; then myself has been transformed to Monkey King, the owner of “as-one-wishes” rod, which starts the stories.

Monkey King in Water Cube

Monkey King in Water Cube

Last week I was in half way building “drifting inspirations”(adopt Qu-Shui-Liu-Shang drink game in ancient China) disseminating recluse culture of China. Peach Blossom Shangri-la was the title by then. I thought it’s important to use “Shangri-la” because the work is interpreting independence and solitude. Things went smoothly with filming on Winter Blossom Dance and Monument ’08 – climbing and falling.

Then I started worrying a little that the theme appears too aloft to be understood by audience. At this point, Honglei came to talk about his research on folk opera about Monkey King, and how this could be a perfect theme discussing religion and values lost during globalization and economic development of China. What a backward since ’89! Does the openness only mean being slaves for the global market, or showing off their vanity? and their belief and confidence resulted by the economic success have led them to extend ambitions in some dangerous directions… Yet we don’t want to see riot, “I just hope the country is alright, not too good neither too bad, so others will leave it alone.” Honglei said. I agree. And I signed 08 Charter. It’s alright. The shoe missed the goal again. It’s not a bad thing to know that many “(con)temporary Chinese artists” are thinking of new occupations under the stress of financial crisis.

Water Cube susbanding in Land of Illusion - reach it with cloud ladder

Water Cube suspending in Land of Illusion - reach it with cloud ladder

Yes, things are changing. One of my blogs needs to be closed, because I don’t care a “public service;” then it’ll be merged into my personal blog, for making voices in a more real and enjoyable way. Same to my teaching – I declined an offer in Boston, simply consider it’s worth nothing to my creative self. We’re moving to NYC, where I will be a recluse again. People come to suggest, hey Lily let’s collaborate on something about new media, it’ll be exciting… no, it’s in fact boring. We all get a point that technology has become so sophisticated that any artist can use computer to produce work, and not bothered by much coding. When technology is advancing, it becomes more unnoticeable, naturally taking part of artistic creativity. “Science and art” likely begin breaking apart again, relatively I mean. They’ll walk on their own track as usual. I don’t believe most scientists can be artists as well, vise versa. And I promise you academia will pull you back as an artist – you think anyone can teach you to be creative? Coding won’t help. It’s simply not the way resulting great art. It was an exciting concept or motivation barely fruiting, mainly because science is dominant in this trend which results conservative work in terms of getting in touch with our innermost feelings. Ha! Clearly I’m out of the cage already, saying something that I believe – learn from the real life rather in lab or studio! And if you are a real artist, nothing can stop you.  If you are driven by profit, it’s a bad time. Don’t show me your project only with empty big names and work with big budget, that proves you can’t see anything through your own eyes. Have you seen Rikoko’s dairy? The Japanese girl’s journey in Second Life is admirable for its freedom, beauty, independence and loneliness! You may argue it’s something else than contemporary art. Who cares.

Lily Jun checking Man's Dream Umbrella at RMB city's People's worksite

Lily Jun checking Man's Dream Umbrella at RMB city's People's worksite

the realities of utopias - this could be the theme for upcoming SL presentation in Boston Cyberarts 2009

the realities of utopias - this could be the theme for upcoming SL presentation in Boston Cyberarts 2009

Dream Umbrella and “As-one-wishes”

Taking Honglei’s suggestion about Monkey King distroying “heavenly peach banquet” instead of yinshi (recluse) in Peach Blossom Shangri-la this time, I set the background at Water Cube of Olympics 2008, and truly feel the rebelling Monkey is waking in my soul.

It’s in fact the point we are going to organize a SL presentation for Boston Cyberarts. UMass design gallery provides professional setting up for new media work. I’ll need to test the Internet speed for live SL performance. If impossible, still we can show machinimas based on a few sites with intriguing inputs. I’m adding a map directing visitors to these stops: Land of Illusion (lily & honglei), Arena (upbar), a place for “dream umbrella”(patrick). Those sites/artists alway have some new work to show. Their latest experiments are exciting.

dream umbrella by Man Machinaga - in Land of Illusion

dream umbrella by Man Michinaga (Patrick) - in Land of Illusion

After a conversation with Patrick, I paid a visit in RMB city People’s Worksite, as I first saw “dream umbrella” there. Luckily Patrick was online and responded my request with a cutely designed lady’s umbrella. I like the whole idea that once you type in “/7show”, the list of  available items appear, then type /7xxxx, one expects image or object to be emitted, while the umbrella tells the dream related to the item….

I adopt the script from “Dream Umbrella” (Patrick Lichty or Man Michinaga) to make my “as-one-wishes” rod. It’s fine as long as you’re not selling them. The script image/object emission is actually not new  in SL and can be seen in many locations.





It was a busy night.

“Dancing First”

First we three, Ry (PumpkinWeirdo Keng), Kristy (Victoria Bury) and me (Lily Jun) performed “Winter Blossom” dance, 3Star Tyne designed the flower-like dress, Jimmy composed music. Ry probable designed 20 gestures/animations for dancing, I’m still not sure I followed his instruction, let’s wait to see the outcome in videos.

Winter Blossom Dance

Winter Blossom Dance

On Monument ’08 – Cloud Ladder

Then I shouted to the group, “let’s start climbing the cloud ladder on the Great Fire Wall!” Indeed, I  captured a bunch of footage showing how people were struggling between heaven and ground! Obviously it’s a frustrating and somehow scary experience – when attempting to reach the sky…

"get ready to reach the sky!"

"get ready to reach the sky!"

Sowa Mai is the bravest and most successful one!

Sowa Mai is the bravest and most successful one!

she's hestating, on "cloud-ladder" in Land of Illusion

she's hesitating

"a beautiful struggle"

"a beautiful struggle" - PumpkinWeirdo, the dancer, and 3star Tyne, our fashion designer, are standing on the ladder

Sowa Mai is falling ...

Sowa Mai is falling ...

After Falling , in Crystal Palace


"nice to see you again in Crystal Palace, Banrion Constantine:)"

Sowa Mai in Crystal Palace with "good fortune" symbol for OX year

Sowa Mai in Crystal Palace with "good fortune" symbol for OX year

we need fireworks, for the lost city...

we need fireworks, for the lost city...

visitors in Land of Illusion
visitors in Land of Illusion
We greatly appreciate all participants’ effort! The film production will be presented in several occasions, including in Digital Art@DMAC, East Village NYC, Boston Cyberarts Biennial SL art exhibition at University of Massachusetts. All participants will receive credits for performing. Any questions, please contact:

Report on Boston Cyberart Festival 2009 News Release

Tenth anniversary Festival features
increased focus on art in cyberspace

Boston, MA – Exhibitions and performances by artists who use computer technology as an integral part of their work are once again on display at the sixth Boston Cyberarts Festival, taking place April 24-May 10, 2009. The Festival, a collaboration of visual and performing artists, cultural organizations, educators, and high-technology professionals, takes place at museums, galleries, theatres, schools, and public spaces in and around the Boston area, and online at

The first Boston Cyberarts Festival took place ten years ago, in 1999, and since that time the biennial event has become an eagerly-anticipated part of the Boston-area arts and technology scene. George Fifield, Director of Boston Cyberarts, noted: “The Boston area has been a center of art and technology for decades, since the pioneering work done by institutions like WGBH, Polaroid, and the MIT Media Lab. We’re proud that for the past decade we have been able to shine a spotlight on both the rich history of art and technology, and on the visions for the future.”

One of the key features of this year’s Festival is an increased emphasis on art in cyberspace. Among the events and exhibitions that can be enjoyed on the web are:

* Loops: A Dance & Technology Project: Artists will be repurposing and reinterpreting Merce Cunningham’s “Loops,” using open-source software created from the motion-capture of the Cunningham work. The results will be available to view online, in exhibition at the MIT Museum, and in a live performance.

* HyperArtSpace Gallery: Boston Cyberarts’ own online gallery will be the site of a series of curated exhibitions of web-based artwork.

* Second Life: Boston Cyberarts is planning an array of projects in the virtual environment of Second Life. At least one of these exhibitions, organized by Lily & Honglei, will also be on view in the gallery at U. Mass Dartmouth.

A rich array of events and exhibitions in many art forms are also on tap for the 2009 Festival.

[read more…]

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