Tuna Oddfellow: How Odd Can It Get?

By Traci Nubalo

How odd, indeed? It was a Monday night - early at that. I’d been in Second Life for just a short time. I was still walking into walls and entering chat into the wrong window. But I was on a mission. I was exploring this new virtual world to see what forms of musical and entertainment species lived and thrived here. And one person I spoke to told me that I had to - HAD to - see a show by this Tuna Oddfellow character.

At that point I didn’t know that Tuna (who has been called the “Peter Max of Second Life”) was already a longstanding inworld favorite.

I hadn’t heard that Tuna had won a million lindens in a popular NBC television series “America Has Talent”.

And I really didn’t know that Tuna (and his “Beautiful Assistant” Shava Suntzu, also his rl significant other) were busily working at the very cutting edge of the science of performance art.

So, armed with such a pathetic base of knowledge (and with no warning that one day I would be called upon to write this article!) I appeared in Tuna and Shava’s theatre standing nervously under a huge magician’s hat along with a couple dozen other avatars. Then, in an instant, as Shava admonished us to keep our hands inside the car, off we went into my first experience of the Tunaverse.

The printed word could never do justice to what is to be experienced at the Odd Ball, other to say this: you are totally immersed in - drenched in! a 3D visual imagery experience heretofore unknown to even the most ardent dance club fans. The music - primarily streaming trance/dance/techno, first rate - provides the sonic impetus while Tuna, manning a coliseum-sized control console, deftly improvises the imagery to fit the musical changes. It’s truly art in it’s most creative and intense form!

Let’s let Tuna and Shava fill us in a bit more:

Shava Suntzu: We call it the Cathedral Effect in our documents. There are elements of sacred architecture that use some of the same geometric tricks we use - statically, of course - to get that hushed awe when you walk into a cathedral or a mosque. It's also the feeling you get looking out over a valley from the top of a mountain.

What we are working on is a set of neurotransmitters that are all based around vision, proportion, the internal model of the body (proprioception) and those are also the systems that hallucinogens work on.

Tuna Oddfellow: I'm a performer in my first life and when I came to SL, I thought, how can I connect to people? How can I get that "WOW!" that I get from a crowd with my magic in a world where people learn to fly the first day?
Traci Nubalo: *smile*
TO: I mean, cutting a lady in half doesn't do much for folks here. So one of the things that dazzles people, virtual/real space, is fireworks. It started with fireworks and effects
and then Shava came into the picture. We got the award from NBC, and people started hiring us for sim openings and such. It made it worthwhile for me to learn to make my own effects, and commission what I couldn't make.
And for the first time, it really started to feel more like, you know, my art.

TN: So - when someone shows up at your theatre what will they experience?
TO: Oh, that's hard.
TN: Sorry *smile*
TO: Well, I like to say, "I blow minds for a living."
I'll create a texture, and then find 20 ways to reinterpret that texture, and get new filters and twists, and there's a lot that get thrown out. In order to generate these textures I use a variety of tools, like TextureMaker, GIMP, FilterForge, BluffTitler (makes animations) - we're doing more of those into the future. Various little toys and gadgets.

TN: Very often there is a sort of tubular X-shape that appears.
SS: Yes, those are toruses.
TO: I've been trying to find similar processed textures and do the animation by hand, because that's easier on everyone's computer than doing actual animations a lot. I have a few animated PNGs I use, with a script that makes them come to life as people watch them.
TN: The immersion aspect is important.
SS: There's a sense of immersion that's intense. LOL! We said it at the same time.
TO: But it gets to you. I'm the artist, Shava's the science geek, but I know what grabs people. So I do things intuitively and then she spends library time figuring out what we just did.

Back in the studio, avatars were blissfully whirling about the sim, making utterances in Open Chat that seemed to be taken directly from an arcane Hindu spiritual text. Clearly, all of this torus-manipulation (or whatever they were talking about LOL) was having a deep and positive effect on those present, including me. I felt a great sense of ease and an almost giddy style of happiness such that I couldn’t tell what was causing it, the music, the images, or the combination of the two? And you know what - I really didn’t care and I still don’t.

TO: Sometimes it'll be an entirely different style of texture that just grabs me, and sometimes new shapes and ways to manipulate things.
One of my behind the scenes projects is to double the amount of hypercubes (rezzing devices) we use in the show.
Currently I'm using 9 channels of rezzing devices, and I want to use 18. It'll take a few tricks to make it work but some of the visuals will blend and pop and go together more easily for me
TN: In the madness of the show it can be easy to miss the fact that this is absolutely cutting edge art. There's also a very evident "here/now" component to your work
TO: While it's all happening, the music is always there, and the music moves me to keep effects slow, or speed things up, color, mood. People give me textures and I've manipulated the texture on the fly and thrown it up into the balls. I'll look for images relating to conversations and manipulate it, mash it up, and put it in the show, just right then. It's like graphical jazz, juggling, and magic all together. It's crazy!
TN: Yes - wonderfully crazy. wonderfully crazy

By the end of the evening I was exhausted! I mean seriously physically spent! I had only pixel-danced but my body felt like I had been grooving and whirling for the entire two hours. I’ve since experienced dozens of Odd Balls - each wonderfully different from the others. I’ve probably taken more than 100 friends to the Tunaverse and not one has ever been less than enthusiastically complimentary.

Like my new friend tried to tell me early on - this is an event that simply HAS to be seen!


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