Gone are the days when the artist was integral and versatile such as Leonardo Da Vinci or Vincent Van Gogh. The new times impose their value systems, and several times the artist is prevented from exercises their freedom and will. However, those limits have not stopped Maximillian Merlin. He is a beautiful bouquet of creative qualities: poet, inventor, digital artist, scripter, builder, mentor, also is promoter of cultural and artistic events. He excels in each project.
Maximillian Merlin transcends all limited forms as builder of imaginary 3d virtual worlds. He started “Buildwerk group”. It is a collection of trustworthy and very creative designers in Second Life acting together on a common vision: providing the best service to customers.
He also writes impressive codes, giving a breathe of life and motion into all types of objects. Similarly he founded “CYXXUS Creators Network”. The role of CYXXYS is supporting innovative and new technology projects which are warmly received in virtual worlds.
Thanks to the digital age we live in, the line between real poets and robot poets is becoming progressively difficult to separate. Max also developed an artistic robot called Quasimodo. He writes three poems and one painting per day without losing his inspiration along the way.
New technologies are having a revolutionary and fundamental impact in the world. What is most precious today is how Max’s work is adapted to new times efficiently.
Become part of Maximillian Merlin´s world. He is a real wizard possessing an overwhelming personal power.
I am sure this interview is going to pleasantly surprise you.
Bimala: Can you tell SLE about you? What brought you to Second Life and your experiences such as becoming a scripter?
Maximillian Merlin: In 2007 I read an article about SL in a German “Spiegel” magazine. I could not believe that people would pay real money for a pair of digital shoes and wanted to see that. On my first day in SL I met a woman who was riding a very nice animated horse. As I had already worked with other 3D software like Poser at that time, I could really imagine how much work someone had to put into this horse to make it work. And so I could also understand immediately why people would pay for such beautiful work.
From this moment on I was fascinated by the creative possibilities of this virtual world.
I remember that still on my first day I downloaded clothing templates from somewhere and created a shirt. Then I discovered that I had to pay for the upload. Luckily at that time there were a lot of camping chairs und Linden trees where you could get some money. While I was picking money from such a tree, I met a very nice person who gave me 100 Linden Dollar after a long chat about creativity and art. Unfortunately we forgot to add each others to our friendlists, so I never met him again. But I had the money for 10 Uploads now and started to make the first shirts for my avatar.
After hanging out in my favorite Sandbox Mauve for a while, I discovered that LSL scripting is a powerful tool to bring your creations to live. So I started to look out for other scripters. If I got stuck with a script that did not work, I asked them to explain my mistakes, so i could learn. I also learned by writing scripts for friends. That is how I became a scripter.
What amazing experience…With respect to explore virtual building. What is the biggest challenge building Sims in SL?
Maximillian Merlin: Developing a completely new Sim in SL is always a like dancing on a rope. Usually you have a fixed budget to pay the builders and scripters and a customer who wants you create a whole universe. First thing is to get a reliable team that can stand the critique of a person who is responsible to make the project fit into the financial and technical limitations. Unfortunately some people in digital worlds tend to be pretty unreliable. That is why I founded the Buildwerk group (www.buildwerk.com). It is a group of reliable creators. We often collaborate on creating new things. I met the most of them in RL already and some became also good RL friends. My job in this projects is usually to create a conception together with the customer. Then find way to realize it together with the creation team. This is what I call “dance on the rope” part: If you have ever tried to tell a designer that his 2500 prim house is nice but he has to get rid of at least 800 prims to lower the land impact, then you can imagine how it feels to manage such a thing. If want the good designers and scripters you have to deal with highly creative people, that gain their creativity by not following strict rules. My philosophy is: Form follows function. Depending on the purpose of the Sims and in permanent close communication with the customer during the creation process, we finally create the things the customer needs within the given limitations.
Bimala: Your team and you do a great job…What do you like the most about what you do?
Maximillian Merlin: In SL I love the wide variety of people from different cultures and countries. I also found the most SL Residents are very open minded people. The most fun part is that your age, your skin color, or your nationality does not matter. My eldest SL friend just celebrated her 80th birthday. I would probably not have met her in RL. Someone I met said: “In SL you meet the people from inside to outside. You see their soul before you see the body. In RL it’s the other way round.” People in virtual world often reveal some hidden parts of their personality and their desires. It is exciting for me to help on projects that are the visualizations of my customer’s dreams. Often these “customers” turn into friends later. Last not least I met a lot of people from SL in real life and some of them became close friends.
Bimala: You are the founder of “CYXXUS Creators Network” Established in 2007, how has your organization evolved all this time?
The CYXXUS Network was founded by some artist friends and me in 2002 in Germany. The SL group was founded in 2007. The name was created for an RL art Installation named “Inside Alien Lab” It was an Art Labyrinth created by several artists involving sounds, interactive computer installations, and some other really creepy installations. The name CYXXUS is an artificial word. it’s made from the words Cyber and Plexus. A plexus (from the Latin for "braid") is a branching network of vessels or nerves. In SL CYXXUS is mostly used to share information about SL events and other interesting projects. Beside CYXXUS I am moderating the Orange22 group and my own store group with around 500 members.
Bimala Tagore: You are the spirit behind your artistic bot. Can your bot be as creative as human artists?
Maximillian Merlin: That depends how we define creativity. If we define creativity as “artistic productivity” (the amount out artistic output) and the “newishness” (no one did it before that way), bots can be way more productive. They can handle a larger amount of data in shorter time than humans. A simple example: “In his collected writings, Shakespeare used 31,534 different words. Using statistical techniques, it's possible to estimate how many words he knew but didn't use. This means that in addition the 31,534 words that Shakespeare knew and used, there were approximately 35,000 words that he knew but didn't use. Thus, we can estimate that Shakespeare knew approximately 66,534 words.
According to one estimate, the average speaker of English knows between 10,000-20,000 words.” (Source : http://kottke.org/10/04/how-many-words-did-shakespeare-know)
My bot Quasimodo knows more than 100,000 English words in his rhyme engine. This does not make him a better poet than Shakespeare but indeed he can find more and sometimes really surprising rhymes. He uses the BBC newsfeed to find words to rhyme on and blogs 2 to 3 poems of vogon poetry and a newly created picture per day. I know personally some musicians in the Hiphop business who love Quasimodos attitude to words: They have no meanings for him, so he uses them phonetically like a child.
But finally I think, the day when bots will replace lawyers will come before the day when bots replace poets and painters.
Bimala Tagore: “Like father, like son”. Good legacy. On the other hand, what comes to mind when you hear the word “magic” and what role does magic play in your buildings?
Maximillian Merlin: I started to perform magic tricks when I was 12. My RL work is as a magic entertainer for over 25 years. Please understand that I prefer my digital work separated from my RL work and I will not provide links to my website. In my buildings I love to surprise people with some “magic” functions. I think the fact that scripting makes your creations alive has a lot in common with magic. Indeed programming in general has a lot in common with what people understand as “magic”: Someone is writing words (code) that normal people do not understand to make something “magically” happen. As Arthur C. Clarke stated in the third law of "Clarke's Three Laws": Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
Bimala Tagore: Giving your formal opinion. For those who may want to learn more about mesh, what are the advantages and disadvantages of mesh versus prims?
Maximillian Merlin: Let’s leave the wonderful rigged (wearable) meshes out because I do not create them. But I can tell you that one of the biggest advantages of meshes can be a lower Land impact if they are used intelligently. If you just want to replace your prims by mesh, you should always consider that the displaying of Meshes depends on the viewer’s LOD factor and the number of vertices in the mesh used for Low display. If you raise the LOD the Land impact raises too. I have some very nice builds in my inventory that I cannot use, because they “break way” too much when look you at them from a long distance. I love to create “sim” with several viewpoints that allow nice photos. They simply spoil the “view”. Another advantage of mesh is, that they can be really “sculpted” in a software like Blender. I like to use mesh for low Land impact in world displays that show information’s or pictures in stores or at community places. It’s also nice to use them for details inside buildings that are mostly sighted from a short distance. For this purpose I can recommend the in world tools like Mesh studio from The Black Box and (for in world sculpting also) and all the tools from Naonao Watanabe.
Bimala Tagore: Besides building what other things do you do to keep busy in SL?
Maximillian Merlin: I am still administrating one of our creations from 2009: The Orange22 Sim and manage the event planning and access options there. I also support several NGOs in SL as a scripting and security advisor. When I am bored I work on my AI Quasimodo Merlin. He is the “bot” that writes poetry and stories.
Bimala: You are so versatile. Do you have an eye for talent or an ear for music?
Maximillian Merlin: I hope that I have an eye for talent. Whenever I meet a creative person, I connect. The Buildwerk group grew exactly this way. We are collecting talented people and synergize. I love music of nearly all kinds. I listen to everything from techno over jazz to opera or classical music. At the moment my favorite singer is the Julia Lezhneva (google her). I love her voice. I do hear a wrong tone when others play it, but somehow I have no talent to make music. When I was child I had a private guitar teacher for 6 years. It did not help. :-( When my RL partner and me moved together many years ago, we found her old flute in one of the cartons. I tried to play it. My cat nearly scratched himself through the front door to get out. I bought a nice second hand keyboard. My RL partner does not allow me to play it any more on speakers. I have to wear an earphones...
Bimala: How do you balance everything you do?
Maximillian Merlin: I eat when I am hungry. I sleep when I am tired. I listen to my friends. I meditate.
Bimala: You are an experienced SL resident. Do you have any advice to new members looking to be productive in Second life?
Maximillian Merlin: For really new people I would recommend to start off at NEW RESIDENT ISLAND with one of their awesome volunteer mentors. (Link: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Lawst%20Paradise/135/26/22) They help newbies to learn how the viewer works and prevent them from wasting money for scams. Before you open up a “whatever” business, I would strongly recommend to explore SL, meet intelligent people that are already doing something like want to do. Join groups that meet your interests. Do not be shy to leave them again if they are dorming or too spammy. Stay away from any kind of drama. Just do not get involved. Do not go for just the money, go for your interests. If you are good at what you do, create a little project. Finish it! Pack it. Before you sell it, give it to some experienced friends. Let them test it. Ask them for an honest critique. Listen to their words. If you are not out to create freebies, let them also check the permissions they have got on this items. Be nice! Help other new residents.
Bimala: You give good advice. With the New Year beginning, what new things would you like to do and what can your fans expect from you?
Maximillian Merlin: We are preparing a gamelike sim, opening later this year. We also still work on the Actor in a box project (www.faq.actorinabox.com). It is a real time animation and camera system for Machinima creators.
Bimala: Good news…Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
Maximillian Merlin: Yes, it’s a quote: “There exists only the present instant... a Now which always and without end is itself new. There is no yesterday nor any tomorrow, but only Now, as it was a thousand years ago and as it will be a thousand years hence.” Meister Eckhart (1260 – 1327)
Thank you for giving us this interview. It has been really interesting and stimulating.
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