The Nether Realm

v1.0 by: Michael Takeo Magruder with Drew Baker & Erik Fleming, 2014

A 'living' virtual environment that explores the relationship between virtual reality and the real world.

About the Artwork:

The Nether Realm is a 'living' virtual world inspired by Jennifer Haley’s play, The Nether. The artwork explores the ways in which virtual environments can be the product of our activities in real life and considers the idea that the morality of these online public spaces is ultimately dependent on how we create and interact with them.

The artwork consists of a floating island landscape that has been constructed with the open source 3D application server OpenSimulator and made freely accessible through the public metaverse OSgrid. The native state of the realm is one of lifelessness. However, the environment is linked in real time to the Twitter hashtag #TheNether, and every time the hashtag is used on Twitter, life is infused into the world. Architectural ruins and desiccated flora reform and grow, while new elements appear within the virtual land. Yet, as in real life, these synthetic entities are transient, for if use of the hashtag ceases, the realm will begin to slowly decay and thus return to a barren shell.

In the end, it is up to the public how beautiful or how dark the world becomes.

Virtual Documentation:

Interacting with The Nether Realm:

The realm is linked in real time to the Twitter hashtag #TheNether. Every time the hashtag is used on Twitter, new life is breathed into the world. When the hashtag is not in use the world slowly starts to decay. Tweeting the keyword 'sunlight' (or other similar words) along with #TheNether generates an instant effect and introduces new living elements into the realm.

Visitors to the physical installation can view the artwork through a series of digital portals and can enter the world as an avatar using interactive kiosks. The Nether Realm can also be accessed online. The world is located in the public virtual space OSgrid ( Using a virtual worlds browser such as Firestorm Viewer (, you can explore the world as an avatar.

Physical Documentation:

In Dialogue with:

Sarah Grochala [ curation and dramaturgy ]

In Collaboration with:

Drew Baker [ 3D visualisation and OpenSim programming ] . Erik Fleming [ Java programming ]

With Thanks to:

Headlong & the Royal Court Theatre [ production ] . Jennifer Haley & Jeremy Herrin [ artistic inspiration ] . Niall Black & Chris Sonnex [ Royal Court installation ]

Supported by:

The Nether Realm v1.0 was commissioned and produced in 2014 by Headlong in collaboration with the Royal Court Theatre. The server infrastructure required to host the virtual world was generously supplied by the Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London.

Artwork Requirements:

Virtual: Windows/Mac computer system with Firestorm Viewer virtual worlds browser and stereo audio. A high-specification CPU/GPU, colour display with ≥1024x768 resolution and high-speed Internet connection are recommended.

Physical: Modular virtual/physical installations using: high-specification computer systems capable of real-time high definition 3D rendering; multi/single channel high definition video systems (screen-based and projection); 2.1 audio systems; and HCI devices for user interaction.

Online Resources:

© TAKEO 2014