Spencer's Second Life island draws acclaim for 'a Petrovsky Flux'

LAWRENCE — "a Petrovsky flux," the complex virtual artwork currently occupying the Spencer Museum's island in the online, virtual world Second Life, features the work of a talented international team including a script writer (blotto Epsilon) and a designer (Cutea Benelli). Recently, the work has drawn significant attention: SL creator Linde'a Petrovsky flux'n Labs touts the Spencer island as a top destination; Italian Vogue name-checks the Spencer in a recent feature article; and respected SL blogger Bryn Oh, the virtual artist/alter ego of a Toronto, Ontario, oil painter, praises "a Petrovsky flux" as the author’s top 2010 SL art destination.

Steve Goddard, the Spencer’s associate director/senior curator of Prints & Drawings, leads the museum’s initiative in Second Life. He says that as described by its creators, "a Petrovsky flux" is a cluster of devices that grow, assembling themselves from modular units, only to blow apart and rebuild themselves. Each time they rebuild differently so the overall flux is, as the name implies, constantly changing. Visitors to "a Petrovsky flux" can also explore the inside of the organic architecture, and they also receive a free "noggin protector" — a miniature version of the flux that is worn on the head to protect against falling debris. The project takes its name in part from a previous project, the "Bogon flux," and in part from the “Petrovsky lacuna,” named for Russian mathematician Ivan Petrovsky.

If you have a Second Life browser you can visit a Petrovsky flux on the Spencer’s island here. Real-world museum visitors may also check out the island via a dedicated computer in the Spencer’s Teaching Gallery.

More than 6,000 visitors from around the world have explored this iteration of the SMA island, and according to Goddard, they may soon have more to discover.

“Cutea and blotto plan to pursue a new project, or elaborate on the present one, soon,” Goddard says. “The Second Life world is a fluid, exploratory space, and it raises important questions about the future of the museum experience in both the ‘real world’ and the virtual world.”

In September 2008, through a grant from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services, the Spencer purchased an island on Second Life.