Symmetry, asymmetry and the fluidity of expression: Alpha or Xia?

So, yes. That did turn out to be a bit of a shock to the old system last night, didn’t it? Putting myself and Xia side by side I mean? And I suppose she does have a point about the scrawny thing, although the tail would be the very least of all the worries, I would say.

Xia was rezzed out of necessity. I really did have to get out of SL for a while, in fact it was a matter of some urgency that I did so. At first I decided to not go in at all; but in the actual event I only managed to hold out for about 3 days. So, I decided I would create an alt and a blog. Keep busy that way. And as for her looks: I have been thinking a great deal about facial expression and especially the lack thereof on some faces and how utterly scary that is. Since there cannot be a void, obviously every face has to have at least one default expression. However, it is the multitude and the fluidity of expression, of how expressions melt into one another, how through these very subtle shifts in musculature there is a constant flow, a mobility on the truly expressive primate face – that this is precisely where all of the mystery resides. And then, for me the obvious place to go from there would be the avatar’s face and its entrapment in a single expression, the lack of facial mobility. And what to do about it – which has brought me to think that the trick would be to create an avatar face that holds within it the clues for a potential of mobility. OK, so the expression is fixed – at least for the time being we are going to have to live with that. But what if the avatar’s face looks like as if it could momentarily break out in a smile, or a frown, and even yet more importantly, an ever so subtle shift into some other state of emotion? So not direct mobility maybe, but the promise of it. Perpetually present.

Julie Christie, whom I have always thought to be one of the most beautiful women ever, has also been on my mind lately, in that so much (if not indeed all) of her beauty actually lies in the mobility of her face. And then, that her face is also quite asymmetrical. So, she has been a loose sort of a model for Xia I suppose. Not that I looked at any photos or anything like that, but more subliminally, especially as far as the conjunction of beauty, mobility and asymmetry are concerned. There is this study in aesthetics or neurology or cognitive science or some other such area, that shows that apparently the more symmetrical a face is the more beautiful it is perceived to be? That somehow we are programmed to associate facial symmetry with health and beauty and asymmetry is perceived as somewhat unhealthy and repulsive? Something like that anyway. Now, I really wonder about this one. Because I have also been toying around with this inkling that asymmetry may actually be a better conduit for facial mobility than symmetry. (I might add that I am actually saying this at some personal risk here: My own face is quite boringly symmetrical).

I guess the challenge that I set myself as a designer was to create a face that would be beautiful through expression. And also to see if I could resolve the issue of asymmetry versus symmetry. Xia’s face is crooked. It is shifted up left by 74%… And one eye pops out at 65%… And the nose shifts and mouth shifts are quite pronounced also… So, is her face expressive or rather does it hold that promise of imminent mobility? Is it a face that is likely to move? Any moment now? Is asymmetry really better for facial mobility?

The thing that surprised me last night is that my face (Alpha that is) is the more expressive of the two. There is in fact that promise of imminent mobility in there that is not present in Xia’s. Xia is a stunner – no doubt about it. But, it doesn’t look like as if she is capable of facial changes. Now, the funny thing is that when Xia is on her own, she does seem to carry that promise, in fact I was quite proud of my achievement there – before I put her side by side with myself. The appearance palette values on my SL face are all quite close to 50%, whereas Xia’s are all in the 60 to 70% range. But in the comparison it is me, with my symmetrical little monkey face, that wins the day when it comes to the promise, the hint of facial mobility. And from this it would follow that symmetry or no symmetry – fluidity of expression has really nothing to do with any of that at all. It is obviously down to something else entirely. Something far more ephemeral, indefinable and something far far far more important also, no doubt.

I do stick to my other assertion though: Mobility is what makes a face a face and not a mask. And it is only a mobile face that carries the potential of beauty.

So onto some matters of practicality: I will obviously be making adjustments on the old appearance palette. I mean, no way am I gonna be prancing around looking like that! Right? This really is funny but I had no idea? That I was that small, that scrawny, that sallow, that pinched looking… And I have been taking a good look in the mirror in RL and in my own defense I have to say that I look better here than there. I mean, if nothing else, I am of perfectly normal height you know. 1.65 or something?…

Oh and… Xia will get taken to the appearance palette as well – kicking and screaming if need be. She will become smaller whether she likes it or not. Jesus! The woman is a bloody giant!



About this entry