Joonie: Hi Tom. Nice to meet you. So you’re doing part of the entertainment at the Avi Choice Awards show! Thank you so much!
Particle Tom(tomflo123): Nice to meet you as well. Really consider it an honor to be asked.
Joonie: How did you get started doing this kind of show?
Particle Tom (tomflo123): I came into SL as a visual artist in RL as an experiment in virtual reality. I had been a part of teams doing that. I attended an LEA project by Mary Wickentower called Cinema about a year ago and there was a fabulous performance by Spectr3 Belfire at the closing of the sim project. He took me on as a “particle mentor” and got me started exploring particles. I began doing independent shows and teamed up with another artist and created Sky Fire.
Joonie: Okay. So you joined and once here you met like-minded people?
Particle Tom (tomflo123): I knew all about virtual reality. Yes.
Joonie: And then you saw a particle show and loved it?
Particle Tom (tomflo123): Yes. The particle community is small and very supportive but it took months as a tourist before I found anyone.
Joonie: That’s awesome. Was it after you saw your first show that you decided “I WANT TO DO THAT!”?
Particle Tom (tomflo123): Yes.
Joonie: And that’s where Spectr3 comes in?
Particle Tom (tomflo123): He was just a guide along the way… his show. Continued friend and pal.
Joonie: Aww that’s very cool.
Particle Tom (tomflo123): Now the international particle community supports me directly.
Joonie: Okay so he taught you in the beginning….
Particle Tom (tomflo123): Kick started more like it. Go forth and become yourself. Glad I had a strong visual sense. I have been creating “themed shows” and they require particles, costume, soundtracks, choreography.
Joonie: What are some of the themes? Does you RL art influence your SL work? Are you working alone?
Particle Tom (tomflo123): I will tell all…
As the artistic director, I have to have some concept of where we are headed so a clue starts it out. Take “Ubuntu” – I am because we are. I was fortunate to work with South African DJ Sunshine. We had African inspiration and the vigil at the time for Nelson Mandela inspiring us. The program emerged with great soundtrack, interesting particles, sculptural objects and came together in a 1 hour program.
Particle Tom (tomflo123): I began working with another artist, Lexi Marshdevil. She became involved in learning particles like I did.
Joonie: How did it feel after doing your first show?
Particle Tom (tomflo123): Relief, overwhelmed. I recall that I was so happy there were tears of joy. I dedicate it all to the Glory of the Light. It’s channeling a community experience. That is the best part of a live performance for me.
Joonie: The community?
Particle Tom (tomflo123): Yes.
Joonie: Are there many of you here in SL?
Particle Tom (tomflo123): Not really, but we seem to hear about each other and meet new people. I know builders in the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, France, Japan, here in the States. Some perform or used to.
Joonie: I can’t wait to see what you have planned for us the Avi Choice Awards. Can you tell me a little bit about what we can expect?
Particle Tom (tomflo123): Since it is a Christmas show we have been given two songs to work with, both classics. For this show, our French Team from Nix Club – Dark Phoenix and his RL Wife, Ticha made wonderful season particles for the opening song.
Particle Tom (tomflo123): The first song is “We Wish you A Merry Christmas.” Lexi wanted to create a particle sense of a Christmas tree, complete with lights, and streamers, so our French particle makers delivered wonderful work.
Joonie: I can’t wait to see it.
Particle Tom (tomflo123): That is the opening for the program. The closing has been a bit more of a challenge. We are using a classic song from TransSiberian Orchestra which is usually seen in venues complete with lasers and huge images. Haha.We have fun doing what we do. So for the closing song, we are tapping our Spanish designer Mario Helstein and his M2D. So we have been creating a particle ornament idea. That of course goes into a rock and roll song. It’s so much fun playing with the energy of rock and roll.
Joonie: Do you paint in RL?
Particle Tom (tomflo123): No, I work with photomanipulation of imagery.
Joonie: Could you explain what you mean by “photomanipulation of imagery?”
Particle Tom (tomflo123): I have been focused on symmetry for a while now – mandalic in form. When I came into SL, I had planned to exhibit my work and a friend educated me that there is way more to the inherent properties of art made in the spirit of SL. In RL an artist making a “print” or canvas is likely to have a static image. So the simplest change I have started to make is movement. Particles are all about movement. There are 39 properties to a particle.
There is a new machinima that was recently made by Mary Wickentower of my work called “Redemption” on YouTube.
Joonie: What would you tell people who might be interested in learning about particles as an art form?
Particle Tom (tomflo123): For people who want to learn the Particle Laboratory is one of the oldest places to get started. I have been shown ideas by friends but the full picture can be found there.
Joonie: Were there obstacles you had to face in the beginning?
Particle Tom (tomflo123): No knowing anyone. That is the worst thing about a social media context. The place that most of us have met each other was at Inspire Space Park, a sim that has been attracting particle folks and new people to the form for a while. There are other people who have more or less time to offer. A lot of them are University people in SL like the University of Western Australia who promote innovation. The machinima community is another venue to see what is going on. Sky Fire has been Lexi & my vehicle to get the word out about shows. If we do an event or hear of one, we let folks know.
Particle Tom (tomflo123): We are proud to be doing the Avi Choice Award Show. We have been following shows that are being promoted via Panorama Art Gallery. Samantha Chester is a great volunteer for causes like Relay for Life.
Joonie: Well we are so excited that you will be doing what you do best! Create magic. What would you like to see in the future for particle shows?
Particle Tom (tomflo123): More advance promotion.The work is amazing that folks create. But the lead time to plan to attend is often short. Sky Fire is planning a few new shows for the year. Lexi is directing a new program called “Magic”. I am developing a concert with Jen Waddington called “Frozen”. She is a talented vocalist in SL.
Joonie: Is there a group or way that people can stay informed about upcoming shows?
Particle Tom (tomflo123): Joining Sky Fire. It’s open to anyone. We love our fans. Star Fire means an iridescent phenomenon that is created by solar or magnetic particles striking the earth’s upper atmosphere in RL. In SL it’s a live performance using particles and music to entertain and build community. I didn’t invent it all but the gist is that what we do, we do live. We are a performance group.
Joonie: You mentioned rock and roll music being fun to work with. Music is an important part of what you do?
Particle Tom (tomflo123): Sure. I think of particles and music the same way I think of dance. The choreography of the particles, is driven by the music the same way that the dancers move with the music.
Joonie: Like how the beat and rhythm move us?
Particle Tom (tomflo123): Very much so and rock and roll has expected rhythms. Our themed shows may not always fit the rock soundtrack, so we play with artistic compositions, also. We love driving music.
Joonie: And the particles respond to the music?
Particle Tom (tomflo123): Yes. We have to burst each particle. Nothing is automated.
Joonie: Awesome! That sounds like fun!
Particle Tom (tomflo123): During a Sky Fire performance like for the Avi Choice Awards, Lexi and I will be coordinating our efforts via Skype. We want coordination for timing and layering.
Joonie: So not only are the particles responding to sound/music, but you are too?
Particle Tom (tomflo123): Yes. There’s a lot going on for each of us to make the magic that you see.
Joonie: Do you and Lexi do the same things during the performance or do you each have your own part to play?
Particle Tom (tomflo123): We each play our own part. Some are synchronized and some aren’t. So one of us might be working on some small detail of construction and the other is working on the next scene… similar to the dance. Scenes change, solo duets, etc.
Joonie: It sounds like you two are doing a dance together, too.
Particle Tom (tomflo123): Yes. We have to plan for surprises, too. Sometimes SL brings the unexpected.
Joonie: What are some of the things surprises?
Particle Tom (tomflo123): The worst of course is reboot, but sometimes it’s just timing. So we have to make up time or slow down. It’s how a duet is danced.
We understand that the show is sold out. It’s going to an overflow sim. So we are now aware of our camera operators as audience. And the stream is reaching fans we don’t know yet.
Joonie: That’s great, Tom. I’m sure Lexi is excited, too.
Particle Tom (tomflo123): It’s really rewarding to take on a new partner and see her really come into her own. No one knows how to do all of this in one day. She has really been important to the development of Sky Fire.
Joonie: How did you find each other?
Particle Tom (tomflo123): She says it was Inspire and I said it was a rock festival called Woodstock. We were dancing and bursting particles. She’s very photogenic so we did a series of photo shoots that got exhibited at Starfall and the Blue Moon Gallery. We are both fans of dramatic outfits.
Joonie: Who took the photos?
Particle Tom (tomflo123): I did. She’s taking on documenting a lot of our work now. I’m usually too busy.
Joonie: What does the future hold?
Particle Tom (tomflo123): Our Spanish particle master, from M2D has moved into Mesh Particles. We will be using a few in the final show. At this point I think of them as kinetic sculptures. They are very bright, defined shapes.They remind me of my first experience with LED Christmas lights, almost too bright.
Joonie: I love what you’re wearing. Is that your particle outfit?
Particle Tom (tomflo123): I’ve been wearing it to make sure it will work if I wear it Sunday. You can only add so many particles to an outfit. Some outfits have too many attachments, so it’s a compromise. Or worse, you lose an item of clothing in a show. Very embarrassing! Haha! Maybe more of a problem for Lexi than I. We are not planning any wardrobe malfunctions for the Avi Choice Awards show. Nikki said this is a family show. We think she is doing an amazing job herding all of the folks in this event as seamlessly as it has been going.
Joonie : She is amazing. The entire team is amazing. What’s new for Tom?
Particle Tom (tomflo123): I have been in Research and Development for about a year. I have plans for a RL exhibition in 2014 to start to show off my work… some prints, machinima. And I’m going to keep doing SL art shows for now. I’m excited. I put a lot of love into what I do. SL is like a dream come true.
My Virtual Reality friends put in years and had scientific teams and spent tons of money. I have been a part of the computer community for a long time in RL. I’ve watched it all change.
Joonie : Where did you start?
Particle Tom (tomflo123): Television, TV production, video art. At the beginning, before computers. Very old school. That’s why I like it, so many new things to relearn, repurpose.
Joonie: Has it changed a lot?
Particle Tom (tomflo123): Yes. More than I could have ever imagined. First desktops, pcs, apples, games, cable, satellite, smart phones, internet. It never quits.
Joonie: What would you like to see next?
Particle Tom (tomflo123): I’m focused on augmented humans, using smart phones as extensions of ourselves with really fast processors. Medical. Recreational. Metaphysical. SL on smartphones. Voice activated. That would be something. It probably already exists.
Joonie: That would be something. I’d never get anything done! Tom, thank you so much for spending time with me! I look forward to seeing the particle show!
Particle Tom (tomflo123): Pleasure chatting. See you Sunday.